James J. Lee, Discovery Channel hostage-taker, coffee shop debater (video)

Almost everyday, Discovery Channel gunman and hostage-taker James J. Lee sat down for coffee and chats with a small group at a Borders Café to discuss world issues.


Even those who say they knew Lee well didn't know where exactly he lived, or what he did -- only that he had money from an inheritance, and passion for environmentalism, that at times, was scary. Lee was known for his strong beliefs on population control and his hatred for the Discovery Channel's programming.

ABC 7 obtained home video of Lee debating with a friend, Yaya Fanusie. "What guarantees do you have? What guarantees do you have?" Lee asked. "Faith," someone replies. "Faith isn't much of a guarantee," Lee said.

Fanusie says he was part of the small group that met almost daily at the coffee shop. He says Lee grew concerned whenever children were discussed..

"When someone would walk in with a baby in a stroller, he'd explode," Fanusie said. "He would say, 'No babies.' And his eyes would roll and that's what was uneasy for me."

On his MySpace page, Lee expressed no desire for children. In a manifesto, he wrote that overpopulation would be the world's downfall.

"That's when I knew this guy is set, and will do something bad," Fanusie recalled.

All of this appears to have led up to that now infamous moment when Lee began throwing money into the air in front of Discovery Channel headquarters in Feb. 2008. Lee said the company didn't do enough to save the environment, and wanted others to spread his message.

"He did seem a little off, a little unstable," said Chris Turner, a former Discovery employee, who worked for Lee during that week-long protest.

"He would make you, like, he would try to teach you, he would give you a topic and have you go research it, he would give you an hour to go look it up and your write an essay," Turner recalled.

The best essay would earn $800. Others were paid to carry signs and hand out fliers. But many say even then, Lee's passion was too intense. Dangerous, even.

Lee, an atheist, allegedly had a heated confrontation with one self-described evangelical man on a city bus just last week. Lee ripped up a picture of Jesus, and began screaming at Christopher Ekakoro.

"On the bus, I was scared he was going to go off and do something because he didn't want anything to do with God and when I gave him this thing, he tore it in pieces and threw it at me," Ekakoro recalled.

Both Fanusie and Ekakoro say they saw Lee on the bus Wednesday with two boxes that may have contained explosives for the attack. They say it seemed suspicious, and while they were leery of him, they say the couldn't have predicted all of this.

No comments