An apparent eco-terrorist stormed Discovery Channel network’s headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., Wednesday afternoon, taking three hostages at gunpoint and sparking a nationally televised standoff that ended when police fatally shot him several hours later.
The three hostages escaped without injury.
The emerging portrait of the gunman - identified by authorities as 43-year-old James L. Lee - is one of an extreme environmentalist who was obsessed with the Discovery Channel and wanted to force the network to air programs that sought solutions for global warming, posited the view that humans should stop reproducing and generally saving nonhuman forms of life.
“Humans are the most destructive, filthy, pollutive creatures around and are wrecking what’s left of the planet with their false morals and breeding culture,” Lee wrote in an 11-point manifesto outlining his demands for the network. “For every human born, ACRES of wildlife forests must be turned into farmland in order to feed that new addition … THIS IS AT THE EXPENSE OF THE FOREST CREATURES!!!!”
The standoff began about 1 p.m. when Lee burst into the building with canisters strapped to his body and waving a gun.
Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger said an explosive device may have detonated, and the gunman may have brought other devices into the building. He said as far as he knows, the 1,900 people who work in the building were able to get out safely.
Lee apparently had a long-standing grudge against the network. He was arrested outside its headquarters and charged with disorderly conduct in February 2008, according to court records.
Police reports indicate he paid homeless people to join his protest and carry signs outside the building. He gave one person $1,000 for what he considered a prize-winning essay.
At one point, a crowd of more than 100 people gathered around Lee, who referred to money as “just trash” and began throwing fistfuls of it into the air.
At the trial for the disorderly conduct charge, the Gazette of Montgomery County reported, Lee said he began working to save the planet after being laid off from his job in San Diego.
After Lee’s arrest, a magistrate ordered a doctor’s evaluation, but court records do not immediately indicate the result. Lee was convicted by a jury and served two weeks in jail. He was also ordered to stay 500 feet away from Discovery headquarters.
He said he was inspired by “Ishmael,” a novel by environmentalist Daniel Quinn and by former Vice President Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”
The manifesto, posted on a website registered to Lee, blasted the Discovery Channel for television programs glorifying the technology used in war and the site also advocated the dismantling of the U.S. economy, but most of its vitriol was aimed at the human race, in general, and reproduction, in particular.
In fact, Lee used his anger at humans as the basis for a demand related to stopping immigration.
“Programs must be developed to find solutions to stopping all immigration pollution and the anchor baby filth that follows that,” he wrote. “Find solutions to stopping it.”
Discovery Communications Inc. operates cable and satellite networks in the U.S., including the Discovery Channel, TLC and Animal Planet.
Programs about the births of babies and families with unusually large numbers of children are featured prominently in the network’s lineup. Those programs include “19 Kids and Counting,” a program about a family with 19 children, and “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant,” a show that recreates the dramatic births of children by mothers who didn’t know they were expecting and “Kate Plus Eight,” a show about a woman raising eight children.
“All programs on Discovery Health-TLC must stop encouraging the birth of any more parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions,” Lee wrote in his manifesto. “In those programs’ places, programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility must be pushed. All former pro-birth programs must now push in the direction of stopping human birth, not encouraging it.”
Animal Planet does air the controversial series “Whale Wars,” about attempts by environmentalists to disrupt the Japanese whaling industry.
But that apparently didn’t sway Lee, who wrote on his website that the network “has been very sneaky and deceptive as to their contributions to planetary problems.” He says the shows are more about making money than solving environmental problems.
“We can’t let them get away with it anymore,” he wrote.
c This story is based in part on wire service reports.