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Pentagon shooter a loner with history of mental illness, officials say

Alease Turner, right, directs people to a bus headed for the Pentagon on Friday after a shooting Thursday temporarily closed the Pentagon City Metro stop in Arlington, Va.

Associated Press

Alease Turner, right, directs people to a bus headed for the Pentagon on Friday after a shooting Thursday temporarily closed the Pentagon City Metro stop in Arlington, Va.

HOLLISTER, Calif. — The man who opened fire in front of the Pentagon had a history of mental illness and had become so erratic that his parents reached out to local authorities weeks ago with a warning that he was unstable and might have a gun, authorities said Friday.

It's still unclear why John Patrick Bedell, 36, opened fire Thursday at the Pentagon entrance, wounding two police officers before he was fatally shot. The two officers were hospitalized briefly with minor injuries.

Bedell, a thin, soft-spoken man, was diagnosed as bipolar, or manic depressive, and had been in and out of treatment programs for years. His psychiatrist, J. Michael Nelson, said Bedell tried to self-medicate with marijuana but made his symptoms more pronounced.

"Without the stabilizing medication, the symptoms of his disinhibition, agitation and fearfullness complicated the lack of treatment," Nelson said.

His parents reported him missing Jan. 4, a day after a Texas Highway Patrol officer stopped him for speeding in Texarkana. Bedell told the Highway Patrol trooper he was heading to the East Coast and began acting strangely, sitting on his knees by the side of the highway and turning off his cell phone when it would ring.

Bedell said it was his mother calling, prompting the trooper to answer the phone and talk briefly with her. Family friend Reb Monaco said Kaye Bedell asked the officer to take him to a mental health facility, but that the son refused.

The trooper let Bedell go after issuing a speeding ticket and a citation for possession of drug paraphernalia, including a pipe and a green plastic box with marijuana residue.

The next day, Kaye Bedell told deputies in California that her son had no reason to travel to the East Coast because he had no friends or family there and that she and her husband were worried about his mental state, San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill said.

Hill also said Bedell's parents found an e-mail from their son that indicated he had made a $600 purchase from a shooting range in the Sacramento area that could have been a gun or ammunition.

Bedell returned to his parent's home Jan. 18, telling them "not to ask any questions" about where he had been. But he left after that, and his parents didn't know where he went.

Little is known about his trip east, but authorities know he spent time in Reno, where Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said he was arrested on Feb. 1 with two ounces of marijuana in his car but no weapons.

The Bedell family put out a statement Friday saying they were devastated by the news.

"We may never know why he made this terrible decision," the statement said. "One thing is clear though — his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character."

Richard Keevill, chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, said, "There are no indications at this point that there are any international or domestic connections to this incident."

The guns allegedly used by Bedell were identified as a Sturm 9mm and a Taurus 9mm. Investigators are tracing the origins of the weapons and checking whether Bedell had permits.

Investigators also were trying to unravel a bizarre series of Internet postings that suggested Bedell was fascinated with conspiracy theories, computer programming, libertarian economics and the science of warfare.

Bedell also proposed in 2004 that the Pentagon fund his own research on smart weapons. The 28-page proposal outlined his idea for DNA nanotechnology research that might "provide significant new capabilities for the Department of Defense and the individual warfighter."

That document is the first tangible link to surface connecting Bedell and the Pentagon.

On Thursday, Bedell left his green, 12-year-old Toyota in a nearby mall parking garage. A cache of ammunition was found in the car.

In an audio address posted on the Internet, Bedell suggested that the United States was infiltrated by a cabal of gangsters called the "coup regime" after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He said he believed the cabal was probably behind such things as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the Iraq war and continued to manipulate the country "up to the present day."

Bedell's mother is director of allied health at Gavilan College in Gilroy, Calif., and his father, John, is a financial planner in Hollister. The couple has two younger sons, Monaco said.

Information from the Washington Post was used in this report.

Other shootings

The Pentagon gunman, who wounded two police officers and was himself shot to death, joins two other men with antigovernment sentiments who have attacked the government since the beginning of the year.

Last month, Joseph Stack flew his small plane into an IRS building in Austin, Texas. In his online postings, Stack had railed about U.S. tax laws.

In January, a Nevada man, Johnny Lee Wicks, fired shots at a Las Vegas courthouse, killing a security guard and being shot to death soon after. Wicks was angry about losing a lawsuit challenging a cut in his Social Security benefits.

All three men appeared to have acted alone, without ties to the militia or patriot groups that gained traction in the early and mid 1990s.

Pentagon shooter a loner with history of mental illness, officials say 03/05/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 5, 2010 10:40pm]
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