March 6, 2010 in Nation/World

Mental illness plagued gunman

Questions linger on how, where Bedell got firearms
Richard A. Serrano, Sam Quinones And Rich Connell Los Angeles Times
 

Bedell
(Full-size photo)

The Northern California man who drove across the country and tried to blast his way into the Pentagon on Thursday was the author of rambling, conspiratorial-minded Internet treatises on politics and had suffered from mental illness, according to people close to his family and court records.

The suspect, John Patrick Bedell, had suffered mental illness for at least 15 years, according to San Benito County Supervisor Reb Monaco, a friend of the Bedells’ for decades.

“He seemed rather paranoid,” Monaco said. “He was a heavy marijuana user and tended to self-medicate with marijuana. I don’t know if he used other drugs.”

Monaco described Bedell, 36, as gentle and intelligent, one of three bright sons and the product of a “very loving, very close” family. The bloody attack outside the Pentagon that left two police officers wounded and Bedell fatally injured was at odds with the man he watched grow from childhood. “His actions do not really fit that,” he said.

Bedell’s past added to questions for federal investigators, notably how a man who police say was a repeated patient in mental facilities got 9 mm pistols and a large cache of ammunition.

Agents, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, were tracking the history of Bedell’s guns.

In Hollister, Calif., where Bedell lived off and on, relatives said they were devastated by the incident and hinted at his mental turmoil. “We may never know why he made this terrible decision,” the family said in a statement. “One thing is clear though – his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character.”

The family expressed hope for the speedy recovery of the injured police officers.

Bedell’s LinkedIn page said he has a degree in physics from University of California-Santa Cruz and had studied biochemistry in the 1990s at San Jose State University. Bedell recently attended San Jose State as a graduate student, studying electrical engineering.

San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill told reporters that family members said Bedell had been a patient in mental facilities three or four times.

A YouTube video shows a thin, clean-cut Bedell calmly talking into the camera about “information currency,” a financial system he was trying to develop. What appear to be his Internet postings go on at length about politics and the misuses of government authority.

Bedell described his distress over the handling of an investigation into the death of a Marine officer, and his suspicions about who was behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon, according to a posting attributed to him on Bazpedia.com.

There were more signs of trouble in recent months. Just after New Year’s, Bedell’s mother received a call on her son’s cell phone from a man identifying himself as a Texas highway patrol officer. Bedell had been speeding and the officer was concerned that Bedell’s vehicle was in disarray, records show.

After Bedell spoke with his mother and she told the officer her son was OK, Bedell was released, according to San Benito County Sheriff’s Department records.

On Jan. 11, Bedell’s parents called sheriff’s deputies, saying he had returned and appeared “impaired, delusional and agitated,” Hill said. Their concern was heightened by his refusal to discuss a recent $600 purchase he made at a shooting range in Sacramento.

Bedell’s father, Oscar, filed a missing person report because the family was unable to reach Patrick later, records show.

The missing person investigation was closed a week later when Patrick returned briefly to the family’s Hollister home. Patrick told his father “not to ask him any questions about where he was,” the sheriff’s department report says. Patrick subsequently left and the father told investigators he didn’t know where he was staying, records show.


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