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Gunman shot as Discovery hostages planned escape
SILVER SPRING, MD. (AP) - As the three hostages at Discovery Channel’s headquarters appeared ready to make a run for it, police said Thursday that a SWAT team officer quickly shot and killed the increasingly agitated gunman who had explosives strapped to himself, ending the four-hour standoff.
After several hours of negotiations, the tactical officers moved in. Authorities saw the hostages begin to move on building security cameras and heard a “pop” they believed to be a gunshot or an explosive device, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said. That’s when an officer shot the gunman, James J. Lee, in the lobby of the building in Silver Spring, just outside the nation’s capital. None of the hostages were hurt.
“For most of the time, the hostages were laying on the ground, and he didn’t engage them much other than saying on the phone, ‘I don’t care about these people,’” Manger said.
Manger said police planned to negotiate as long as necessary, but acted when officers believed the hostages were trying to escape.
“We saw some hand movements from hostages,” Manger said. “We’re watching this and trying to keep the focus of the guy we’re talking to. We didn’t know if they were up to something or what they were doing. We are surmising they were making a break for it.”
Manger called the hostages and the officers heroes.
Lee repeatedly said he was “ready to die,” the police chief said.
“I believe he was not intending to come out of there alive,” Manger said.
It wasn’t the first time Lee, a homeless man who previously lived in Californian, had targeted Discovery’s headquarters. In February 2008, he was charged with disorderly conduct for staging a “Save the Planet Protest.” Lee threw fistfuls of cash in the air and paid homeless people to carry signs condemning the network. Police found his pockets stuffed with more than $20,000, according to court records.
Lee served two weeks in jail after his arrest during which doctors evaluated his competency to stand trial. County State’s Attorney John McCarthy said Lee was ordered to stay 500 feet away from Discovery headquarters as part of his probation, which ended two weeks ago.
In court and on his website, he had demanded an end to Discovery Communications LLC’s shows such as TLC’s “Kate Plus 8” and “19 Kids and Counting.” He said the network should air “programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility.”
“Humans are the most destructive, filthy, pollutive creatures around and are wrecking what’s left of the planet with their false morals and breeding cultures,” Lee wrote in a bitter manifesto on his website.
Police said he burst into the building about 1 p.m. and took hostages in the lobby. He had four crude explosive devices strapped to him. Two of them were green propane cylinders with pipes attached that contained shotgun shells. The other two were pipe bombs.
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