The Pentagon‘s police force on Wednesday identified the officer who was fatally stabbed near the military facility the day before and said he was an Army veteran of the Iraq War.
Officer George Gonzalez was a native of New York, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency said. He died after being stabbed about 10:30 a.m. at the Metro Transit Center, which connects the Pentagon complex with a slew of major commuter bus and rail lines.
According to the FBI, which has taken the lead in the investigation, a man identified as Austin W. Lanz, 27, got off a bus at the transit center and “immediately, without provocation” attacked Officer Gonzalez with a knife.
“A struggle ensued, in which [Lanz] mortally wounded Officer Gonzalez and then shot himself with the officer’s service weapon,” the FBI’s Washington Field said in a statement. “Other [Pentagon Force Protection Agency] officers engaged the subject, who ultimately died at the scene.”
An unidentified bystander was injured during the altercation and taken to an area hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. FBI officials said the bystander was later released.
Lanz was most recently living in Acworth, Georgia. It wasn’t immediately clear why he was in the Washington, D.C. area on Tuesday.
FBI agents did not release any information about a possible motive in the case, but the Marine Corps revealed that the suspect had briefly been in the service for less than a month in late 2012 before being “administratively separated.”
The Associated Press, citing official records, said Lanz was arrested last April for a break-in at a neighbor’s home and drew police attention months earlier for an ongoing harassment campaign involving sexually explicit photos and messages.
Officer Gonzalez joined the Pentagon Force Protection Agency in July 2018. He was promoted twice and attained the rank of senior officer in 2020, officials said.
“As a Pentagon police officer, he took our mission of ‘protecting those who protect our nation’ to heart,” PFPA officials said. “A gregarious officer, he was well-liked and respected by his fellow officers.”
Before joining the Pentagon‘s police force, Officer Gonzalez served with the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the Transportation Security Administration. The former soldier was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was meeting with President Biden at the White House at the time of the attack. Mr. Austin visited the Pentagon police headquarters when he returned to the building.
“This fallen officer died in the line of duty, helping protect the tens of thousands of people who work in — and who visit — the Pentagon on a daily basis,” Mr. Austin said in a statement. “This tragic death … is a stark reminder of the dangers they face and the sacrifices they make. We are forever grateful for that service and the courage with which it is rendered.”
Pentagon officials wouldn’t say if the fatal attack might result in stepped-up security measures at the Pentagon.
Tuesday’s incident wasn’t the first time a Pentagon police officer found himself in the line of fire: In March 2010, John Patrick Bedell shot and wounded two Pentagon officers after they asked him for his identification at a security checkpoint outside the building. The officers, who survived the attack, returned fire. The assailant later died at George Washington University Hospital.