An armed man walked up to an entrance to the Pentagon on Thursday evening, approached two police officers, calmly pulled a gun from his coat pocket and opened fire, wounding the officers before they shot and seriously wounded him.
There was no immediate explanation for the attack at a doorway to the Defense Department headquarters, one of the busiest, most prominent and closely guarded buildings in the Washington area.
The wounds to the two officers did not appear serious. Richard Keevill, chief of the force that guards the Pentagon, described them as grazing wounds.
The officers, members of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, fired their .40-caliber Glock pistols and wounded the man critically, Keevill said at a news conference about two hours after the shooting. A third officer apparently also shot at the suspect.
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"The officers acted very quickly and decisively to neutralize him as a threat," Keevill said. "No one else was injured."
The gunman and the two wounded officers were taken to George Washington University Hospital in the District.
Police declined to identify the shooter, but two federal law enforcement sources identified him as John Patrick Bedell, 36. One of the sources said Bedell was seen on a surveillance video near the Pentagon talking to another man. Police were looking for the second man Thursday night but did not know whether he was involved in any way in the shooting. One federal law enforcement source said the second man was not thought to have been involved.
A man who identified himself as John Bedell answered a call placed to a Hollister, Calif., home and said he had a 36-year-old son named John Patrick Bedell "who is in the Washington area" before saying, "I'm sorry I can't talk about this," and hanging up.
Officials would not speculate about what prompted the gunman's actions. A spokesman for the National Security Council said it was too soon to determine whether the sudden and wordless attack was connected to terrorism.
President Obama was following the case and the FBI was providing updates, said assistant White House press secretary Nicholas Shapiro.
Keevill said that witnesses reported that the gunman "walked up very cool" and displayed "no real emotion on his face."
At a key moment, as he reached into his pocket, "they assumed he was going to get his pass out." A pass is necessary to enter the building. But instead of bringing out a pass, Keevill said, the man "came out with a gun."
Then, Keevill said, he started shooting.
"There wasn't time to say anything to him," Keevill said. "He drew a gun and started shooting almost immediately."
Although the Pentagon is a symbol of the nation's armed forces, there was nothing disclosed immediately that tied the incident to attacks such as the one last year at Fort Hood in Texas.
As pieced together from accounts given Thursday night, the attack occurred at an entrance linking the Pentagon to the Pentagon station on the Metrorail transit system, which runs underground at that point.
The Pentagon's security system worked as it was designed to, officials said. The gunman was prevented from entering the building, did not advance, and was prevented from injuring anyone at work inside.
The number of shots fired by the gunman was not made clear. The number of shots fired by the officers was also not disclosed, but the total number was described as high. The officers wore bullet-resistant vests. It was not clear whether the gunman also wore one.
The Pentagon was briefly locked down after the incident.