Hostages were set to flee gunman
Shooting followed long standoff
SILVER SPRING, Md. — As the three hostages at Discovery Channel’s headquarters appeared ready to make a run for it, police said yesterday, a SWAT team officer 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 watching building security cameras saw the hostages begin to move 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. None of the hostages was 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 Lee was carrying starter pistols, not handguns, as police had previously reported.
Lee had said he hated the company’s shows such as “Kate Plus 8,’’ claiming they promoted population growth. Lee said the environmental programming did little to save the planet.
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.’’
Lee repeatedly said he was “ready to die,’’ the police chief said.
It wasn’t the first time Lee, a homeless man who previously lived in California, 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.’’
Lee, 43, also objected to Discovery’s environmental programming. He wrote in 2008 that a show he called “Planet Green’’ was “about more PRODUCTS to make MONEY, not actual solutions.’’