James J. Lee: Discovery Channel gunman had history of protesting (Video)

In 2007, James J. Lee often would sit and read in the coffee shop of a Borders bookstore in Northwest. He was a regular, popping in every few days. He was a decent tipper, reportedly cordial with the staff.


Long story short

Hostage-taker had long focused on Discovery


There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about Lee's visits to this Big Box gathering spot, except the stacks of $100 that he kept on his table.

It took about a week or two for Randy Kindle, who at the time worked as a barista at the coffee shop, to ask Lee about the stacks of $1 bills, portioned off in $100 increments. Lee said the cash went to anyone who read a book by Daniel Quinn, author of the "Ishmael," "The Story of B," and "My Ishmael" novels, and discussed it with him.

"Him having people read the book for a hundred bucks kind of struck me as odd. ... But he didn't strike me as weird when I did talk to him," Kindle says.

Kindle was intrigued. He says he read one of Quinn’s books and later sat down to talk with Lee. He wasn't a huge fan of the book, describing it as "Malthusian." The negative review didn't affect his pay day. Lee gave him the $100, Kindle remembers, and asked what "Malthusian" was.

"He didn't seem dumb," Kindle said. "He seemed like he knew what he was talking about in regards to that book, but maybe just misguided."

Misguided is a mild characterization, given what James J. Lee did on Wednesday afternoon. On a hot, sunny day in downtown Silver Spring, Lee stormed the lobby of Discovery Communications, taking three hostages and triggering an hours-long standoff. Just as the workday was ending, he was shot dead by a police officer, and his hostages were freed uninjured. The escapade had accomplished the same goal that Lee had funded in that Borders coffee shop: getting people to pay attention to the work of Daniel Quinn.

Daniel Quinn, by the way, does not know James J. Lee.

"Somebody who was as nutty as this would stand out," says Quinn, who spoke to TBD in a telephone interview.

"I'm certainly surprised and distressed that he had somehow or other taken my book as a model for this kind of behavior," Quinn said.

Here is what we know about James J. Lee: He was middle-aged. He was reportedly armed when he entered the Discovery headquarters on Wednesday. He has at least one sister, according to a Fox News interview with a man who said he was Lee's brother-in-law.

"He has been a very unstable and disagreeable personality," Thomas Leonard told Fox.

Lee also has some documented history in and around Silver Spring. When he was arrested in 2008 for his protest against Discovery, Lee gave the address of 8210 Colonial Lane, Silver Spring. That's a building nestled in an enclave named Progress Place, and it's a refuge for indigent people in this Montgomery County community.

An official with Shepherd's Table, a charity in the area, says that homeless people often cite the 8210 Colonial Lane address when they need to pay a bill or register for various services. The official looked at his records but said he had no documents on Lee.

“One of the services provided by Shepherd’s Table is mail distribution for people who do not have access to postal service or a fixed address,” Shepherd’s Table said in a statement. “We have learned from the police that the armed man who entered the Discovery headquarters earlier this afternoon has 8210 Colonial Lane listed on his ID.

"While records show that he signed up for mail service over two years ago, we do not have record of him ever utilizing it. He has no other connections or utilized any other services provided by our programs in the recent past or present.”

However, a visitor at Community Vision, a resource center in the same complex, recalls having encountered Lee. Randy Cooper reports that Lee "looked like a regular person" and professed to have "no idea why" Lee had such a longstanding grudge against Discovery.

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