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Pentagon shooter troubled

Worried parents had warned police

In conversations with friends and in Internet postings, John Patrick Bedell seemed obsessed by what he saw as attacks on personal liberty. In conversations with friends and in Internet postings, John Patrick Bedell seemed obsessed by what he saw as attacks on personal liberty.
By Mary Pat Flaherty and Theresa Vargas
Washington Post / March 6, 2010

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WASHINGTON - In the eight weeks before John Patrick Bedell put on a white shirt and blazer, parked his 1998 Toyota at the suburban Pentagon City mall, and emerged ready to open fire at officers standing outside the Pentagon, he had crisscrossed the country in a frenetic and sometimes doped-up state that had his parents so worried that they alerted police he might be armed.

On Thursday evening outside the Pentagon Metro station, Bedell, a troubled 36-year-old Californian who loved marijuana, computers, and conspiracy theories, shot two Pentagon officers before one of them shot Bedell in the arm and head, killing him. Police records and interviews with those who knew him describe a man who had been slipping into increasingly disturbed thinking for years but whose behavior became uncharacteristically erratic only in recent months.

“We may never know why he made this terrible decision,’’ Bedell’s family said in a statement yesterday. “One thing is clear though - his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character.’’

In early January, a Texas Highway Patrol officer stopped Bedell near Texarkana, Texas, for speeding. Bedell’s car was in “disarray,’’ the officer noted, and the driver was lurching up and down and rocking on his knees, repeatedly hanging up on a series of cellphone calls that Bedell said were from his mother. Concerned about Bedell’s mental state, the officer called his parents and learned that they had filed a missing persons report - one that noted Bedell had been “detained for mental evaluation before.’’

Police records show that Bedell’s mother, Kaye, who works as director of allied health at Gavilan College in Gilroy, Calif., told the Texas police her son was OK, and he was sent on his way. Bedell, according to police, said he was heading to the East Coast but instead drove home.

He wouldn’t stay long. On Feb. 1, Bedell hit the road again and was stopped by an officer in Reno. He had drifted across traffic lanes and stopped yards short of a stoplight, according to a police report. Bedell was charged with possession of marijuana after a pink marijuana pipe was found in his pants pocket.

Bedell made bond. On Thursday, he showed up at the Pentagon, parked in the Pentagon City Fashion Centre garage, and made his way to the Pentagon’s main entrance. There, in an exchange that lasted less than a minute, two officers, Jeffrey Amos and Marvin Carraway, were superficially wounded, one in the shoulder and one in the thigh. They and a third officer returned fire, mortally wounding Bedell.

Federal law enforcement sources said Bedell used a Sturm 9mm and a Taurus 9mm. Officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it could take several days to trace the source of the guns he used and are working with authorities in California.

Richard Keevill, chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, said police and the FBI are examining surveillance video that shows Bedell approaching the Pentagon and have tracked his weeks-long road trip from California to the Washington area.

“There are no indications at this point that there are any international or domestic connections to this incident at all,’’ Keevill said. “At this time, it appears to be a single individual that had issues.’’

Bedell left an electronic trail thick with written, video, and audio manifestos. In an audio address posted on the Internet, he suggested that after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy the United States had been infiltrated by a cabal of gangsters he called the “coup regime.’’ Bedell believed that the group has continued manipulating the country “up to the present day’’ and was probably responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Iraq war.

In recent years, in conversations with friends and in Internet postings, Bedell seemed obsessed by what he saw as attacks on personal liberty. He was especially irked by criminal penalties for marijuana use, said Reb Monaco, a family friend who knew Bedell for most of his life. But Bedell had never expressed hostility toward the military, Monaco said.

Monaco said he and his wife were with Bedell’s parents as they learned how their son’s cross-country trip had ended.

Police and the FBI said that at the Pentagon, Bedell had a full beard and wore slacks and a blazer - a sharp contrast to his appearances on the Internet, in which he appears clean-shaven, speaking softly about his invention of a stock market-like information exchange.

Known to friends as Patrick, Bedell “had gone off the deep end right before he left, his parents told us,’’ Monaco said after spending the night and morning at the family home.