SILVER SPRING, Md. – A man who railed against the Discovery Channel’s environmental programming for years burst into the company’s headquarters with at least one explosive device strapped to his body Wednesday and took three people hostage at gunpoint before police shot him to death, officials said.
The hostages – two Discovery Communications employees and a security guard – were unhurt after the four-hour standoff. Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said tactical officers moved in after officers monitoring the gunman on building security cameras saw him pull out a handgun and point it at a hostage.
An explosive device on the gunman’s body detonated when police shot him, Manger said. Police were trying to determine whether two boxes and two backpacks the gunman had also contained explosives.
A law enforcement official speaking on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing said authorities had identified James J. Lee as the likely suspect.
NBC News reported that after its producers called Discovery’s general number, a man identifying himself as James J. Lee got on the phone and said he had a gun and several bombs.
“I have several bombs strapped to my body ready to go off. I have a device that if I drop it, if I drop it, it will … explode,” the man told NBC.
Lee was convicted of disorderly conduct for a protest he organized outside Discovery’s offices in February 2008. According to court records, he paid homeless people to carry signs and set off a scramble when he threw fistfuls of cash into the air, calling it “just trash.”
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. A magistrate ordered a doctor’s evaluation, but the result was not immediately available Wednesday.