Discovery Channel hostage update: James J. Lee's rented room; 911 calls released (Photos, Audio)
Updated: September 4, 2010 - 01:05 am
UPDATE, SEPT. 3, 6:03 p.m.: Montgomery County police have released eight 911 calls and one audio recording of police communications from the first minutes of the standoff at Discovery Channel headquarters.
James J. Lee walked into One Discovery Place about 1 p.m. Wednesday with two starter pistols and four improvised explosive devices. According to callers, he fired the weapon -- which does not fire bullets -- into the air.
Witnesses dialed 911: "There's a hostage. Discovery building, Discovery. There's someone in the building with guns," one caller said.
"Five gun shots in the main lobby of One Discovery Place. Silver Spring, Maryland. Five gun shots," another caller tersely added.
"Is he in the lobby or is he outside?" one caller asks to another person who is not on the phone. In the background, you can hear someone reply: "He's in the lobby and he says he's got some sort of bomb."
In the police communications, you can hear tactical officers moving into position,
"I am almost directly behind the suspect, a tiny wall, I have visual with his apparatus." an unidentified officer said.
Those in charge that day say not knowing what Lee would do, how he was armed, or if those improvised explosive devices would explode, or be triggered remotely, was their greatest challenge.
"The hardest part was the uncertainty," said Capt. Darryl McSwain, head of the Special Operations Division, which includes the SWAT team. "The longer the situation went on the more uncertainty there was."
Even for experienced officers, like Capt. McSwain, the intensity was top of the charts.
"It was certainly at a 10, without question anytime you have explosives, you're in an urban, you have hostages -- it doesn't get any more tense than that," McSwain said.
ABC 7 News has also obtained a e-mail from Lee, that reveals more about his dislike of children. In the e-mail, which Lee appears to have sent a friend right after the earthquake in Haiti, he says, that if everyone would stop having babies we wouldn't have these problems. He wanted the population to shrink. Telling someone, it would take 44 years of no one having any children to make the world's populations 'normal.'
UPDATE, SEPT. 3, 4:03 p.m. Montgomery County authorities have released police communications and 911 calls from the first moments of the standoff. We're turning them around as soon as we can.
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UPDATE, SEPT. 3, 11:46 a.m.: An empty gas can still sits inside James J. Lee's rented room in Wheaton, one of several bomb making materials police found there after doing a sweep Thursday, ABC 7 News reports.
Lee's housemate, Francisco Valerio, says he never realized there was what he calls a "factory" operating right next door to his room. "It was a big surprise to me. I said, what? This guy? My roommate? That's terrible." Valerio says Lee was a polite and responsible roommate. "He was quiet ... paid every month," though Valerio does note that Lee had a habit of feeding stray animals near the house.
An ABC 7 news crew also spotted a box filled with books inside Lee's room. On top? A book titled "Saving Planet Earth."
UPDATE, SEPT. 3, 7:35 a.m.: ABC 7 News reports James J. Lee was convicted of smuggling an illegal immigrant into the United States in 2003, when he was living San Diego. In a letter to the judge, Lee wrote " I don't know if my life will end with a happy ending, but all I ask is for an ending that is not in prison."
ORIGINAL STORY, SEPT. 2:
James J. Lee walked into One Discovery Place Wednesday afternoon with two non-firing starter pistols and four improvised explosive devices, police said. While it appears the starter pistol is what led police to shoot Lee, the explosive devices were the real danger.
Police Chief Tom Manger said at least one of the devices was capable of killing someone, had it detonated. Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Richie Bowers, whose department contains the bomb squad, declined to describe the devices or their potential capabilities.
Lee's end came when authorities heard a pop. Manger said the SWAT team was inside the building, around the corner from Lee. The team heard a pop that they believed was a pistol shot. The team came around the corner and shot Lee.
According to Special Operations Division commander Capt. Darryl McSwain, "He made a direct effort to harm, in our opinion, one of the hostages, which left us with no other choice."
According to Manger, Lee repeatedly said "I'm ready to die" during the standoff.
"I can't imagine how terrified someone could be to listen to, for the better part of four hours, Lee's end of the conversation," Manger said.
Police said they found one starter pistol -- a gun incapable of firing a bullet -- Wednesday at One Discovery Place and another one was found today.
Manger said multiple officers fired at Lee. They are members of the County's SWAT team, and have been placed on routine administrative leave.
A total of four improvised explosive devices were found inside the Discovery Channel building, including one strapped to Lee. Another four were found Thursday morning at the Wheaton home where Lee rented a room.
Manger said investigators were scanning security camera video to see if Lee had the explosives strapped to him when he walked into the building . Lee was carrying two backpacks and two boxes, and the explosives may have been inside.
UPDATE 5:07 p.m.: The 'gunman' in yesterday's hostage standoff was only armed with starter pistols, which are incapable of firing bullets.
Investigators say there were four explosive devices in the Discovery Channel building and four in his rented room in Wheaton. The devices could have been deadly, Montgomery County police Chief Tom Manger said.
UPDATE 4:50 p.m.: A couple of updates on the investigation from Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Chief Richie Bowers:
Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams searched James J. Lee's rented residence on Thursday and found four additional devices detonated them remotely and safely.
Bowers declined to talk more about the improvised explosive devices found at the Discovery Channel headquarters. Bowers added that investigators are searching for Lee's vehicle.
Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger said there is no indication there was any explosion when Lee was shot by officers.
UPDATE 4:25 p.m.: We are awaiting a news conference from Montgomery County police Chief Tom Manger about yesterday's standoff at Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring. Use the live-streaming box that appears above this post (Requires Flash 10.1)
UPDATE 3:35 p.m.: TBD's Elahe Izadi just filed this report from the scene of yesterday's standoff:
"The sidewalks around the Discovery building on Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road have now cleared for pedestrians to walk by. Police tape still prevents access to the Georgia and Wayne avenues side of the property, and private cleaning crews were busy cleaning up the crime scene.
The sidewalks opened at about 11 a.m., a police official on the scene said.
Discovery employees have slowly been making their way back to their offices to retrieve car keys and other items they left behind. Employees are entering the lobby on the corner of Colesville Road and Georgia Avenue and have to present a photo I.D. to get past the entrance."
UPDATE 2:46 p.m.: ABC 7's Brad Bell writes: The people of Silver Spring and the employees of Discovery Communications reclaimed their turf and headquarters building today. The SWAT teams and snipers are gone but the rattled nerves have clearly not healed. I encountered Natasha Dickson just before noon as she walked out of the Discovery building. She was holding her young daughter’s hand and clutching the purse she’d left behind in her hurry to evacuate yesterday. She told me that many staffers are still emotional. She described people hugging and even shedding a few tears.
I also saw something today that had a few hardened cops and firefighters chuckling about the hidden cost of crime. A Montgomery county fire crew was rigging lines as though they were embarking on a rescue from high-rise window ledge. I asked what was up and the answer was priceless. A police officer who had taken up a high angle position across the street from the bomb wearing gunman had accidentally left his wedding ring in his sniper’s nest! The mission was to retrieve the jewelry. Life goes on.
UPDATE 2:06 p.m.: Montgomery County police plan to hold a news conference about the latest developments in the James J. Lee Discovery Channel gunman case at 4:30 p.m. We're working on live-streaming it. It will also be carried live on ABC 7 News and TBD-TV.
UPDATE 1:27 p.m.: Police and FBI agents have left the Wheaton home where the Discovery Channel gunman rented a room.
One next-door neighbor, Billy, who declined to give his full name, was at home with his grandson Thursday morning when investigators knocked on his door and told him to leave his house for about an hour.
Billy said there has been a lot of turnover at the house where Lee resided.
"He must not have lived there for very long because I would have noticed," Billy said of Lee.
Billy went to a neighbor's house. He saw what appeared to be investigators come out of the Lee residence with boxes.
UPDATE 1:05 p.m.: Police and FBI agents surrounded the Wheaton home Thursday where James J. Lee, the Discovery Channel gunman, rented a room.
Lee's landlord contacted police about 9:30 a.m. Thursday after seeing the news about Lee. Police had the home surrounded by about 10 a.m.
Lee rented a room in a house at 2512 Kimberly Street in Wheaton, Montgomery County police Lt. Bob Bolesta confirmed to TBD's Elahe Izadi.
The home was searched and evidence recovered, " Lt. Bolesta said. Police declined to describe the evidence. The bomb squad was called in the check out the residence, but the area was cleared. Police declined to say whether anything suspicious was found.
Lee had two other roommates at the house. Investigators have spoken to one of them, but don't believe either had anything to do with Lee's plot.
"This individual kept to himself," Lt. Bolesta said. "None of these individuals (roommates) were ever in his room."
TBD was tipped to the police activity by What's Up Wheaton.
UPDATE 12:30 p.m.: Montgomery County police have blocked off a section of Kimberly Street in Wheaton, where Discovery Channel gunman James J. Lee may have resided at some point, the Wheaton Patch reported.
ABC 7 and TBD reporters are en route to the scene.
ABC 7 News has also confirmed that Discovery Communications had a staff meeting on Thursday, where managers praised the actions of police and security. A TwitPic captured the crowd of employees in the lobby.
UPDATE SEPT. 2, 10:40 a.m.: Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley released this statement praising Montgomery County police:
"I want to commend Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger and the members of the Montgomery County Police for their valiant efforts to diffuse the hostage situation at Discovery Channel headquarters in Silver Spring yesterday. Chief Manger and his team's professionalism kept civilians safe and unharmed. Law enforcement officers put their lives at risk everyday and the bravery of these men and women should not be overlooked."
"I also want to commend Discovery CEO David Zaslov and the employees of Discovery for executing their crisis plan flawlessly, and for remaining calm during this crisis."
UPDATE SEPT. 2, 8:05 a.m.: According to Montgomery County police, a makeshift bomb was discovered inside the Discovery Communications building, ABC 7 reports. It consisted of two small propane canisters similar to those used for camping. It was wrapped with piping that contained shot gun pellets. If it had gone off, it would have acted similar to a grenade, sending out shrapnel.
Police also say that suspect James J. Lee fired his gun when he entered the lobby Wednesday. An overnight sweep of the building produced a number of items that were disrupted by the bomb squad, including two backpacks and two boxes. Lee was also seen during the standoff with what appeared to be a remote with an antenna in his hand, which concerned emergency responders. Lee also had on him batteries and two ski masks.
Around 4:45 p.m. Wednesday, the tactical unit that was outside the lobby heard what they believed to be a gun shot or some type of explosive, in addition to seeing Lee waving the gun and appearing to threaten a hostage. At that point they made the decision to go in and a member of the tactical entry team shot and killed Lee.
UPDATE SEPT. 2, 8:00 a.m.: WTOP reports a list of Mebrobus lines affected by the investigation in Silver Spring, including the Q2, Y8, Z8, and J2.
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