WASHINGTON - A gunman coolly drew a weapon from his pocket and opened fire at the teeming subway entrance to the Pentagon complex Thursday evening, wounding two police officers before being shot and critically wounded, officials said.
The two officers suffered grazing wounds and were treated in a hospital, said Richard Keevill, chief of Pentagon police.
The suspect, believed to be a U.S. citizen, walked up to a security checkpoint at the Pentagon in an apparent attempt to get inside the massively fortified Defense Department headquarters, at about 6:40 p.m. "He just reached in his pocket, pulled out a gun and started shooting" at point-blank range, Keevill said. The Pentagon officers returned fire with semiautomatic weapons.
Of the suspect, the chief said, "His injury is pretty critical."
The assault at the very threshold of the Pentagon - the U.S. capital's ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001 - came four months after a deadly attack on the Army's Fort Hood, Texas, post allegedly by a U.S. Army psychiatrist with radical Islamic leanings.
In the immediate aftermath yesterday, investigators did not think terrorism was involved but were not ruling that out.
Law enforcement officials identified the suspect as John Patrick Bedell, 36. They said they were speaking with a second man, who might have accompanied the shooter.
The subway station is immediately adjacent to the Pentagon building, a five-sided northern Virginia colossus across the Potomac River from Washington. Since a redesign following the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Pentagon, riders can no longer disembark directly into the building. Riders take a long escalator ride to the surface, then pass through a security check outside the doors of the building.