John Patrick Bedell lightly wounded two officers who returned fire, killing him. Bedell, 36, of Hollister, Calif., had traveled far -- both physically and psychically -- to end his life in a blaze of anti-government hostility at the Pentagon Metro station. Before showing up Thursday at the military headquarters in Arlington, Va., Bedell had spent weeks driving cross-country with two semiautomatic weapons and lots of ammunition.
But his journey began long before Thursday evening.
As Richard Keevill, chief of Pentagon police, told reporters, Bedell "had issues."
Bedell, a software engineer, left a long Internet trail behind him. It paints a portrait of an educated but angry young man with strong libertarian ideas who seethed with resentment for the government over its marijuana laws and alleged international conspiracies, each of which he brought together in an inscrutable business plan for something called "information currency."
Bedell had been diagnosed as bipolar and was known to try to self-medicate with marijuana, his psychiatrist, J. Michael Nelson, told The Associated Press. His parents had contacted authorities in Hollister weeks ago to warn that he was unstable and might have acquired a gun, the AP said.
His family released a statement tonight saying they were "devastated."
"We may never know why he made this terrible decision," they said. "One thing is clear though -- his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character."
Bedell was on Facebook and LinkedIn, where he listed a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a year studying biochemistry at San Jose State University. He said he was in the consumer electronics industry, but no employer is listed. His interests included "new ventures."
On a video posted on YouTube, Bedell explains in a flat, emotionless voice what "information currency" is, his explanation as complex as the stick figures he uses to explain the "financial market" he has created are simple.
He explains more on his Wikipedia page, which has been removed but is available here. On it, "JPatrickBedell" says he has studied electrical engineering "with the goal of creating microsystems for molecular analysis." There's a densely written proposal for a project that many a Ph.D. might have trouble understanding, but there is a tantalizing link to the military in that Bedell's idea "originates from an unsuccessful DARPA proposal to create a 'microMIRV' interoperable with standard firearms ammunition."
Bedell's Wikipedia page also says he is "determined to see that justice is served in the death of Colonel James Sabow, as a step toward establishing the truth of events such as the September 11 demolitions and institutions such as the coup regime of 1963 that maintains itself in power through the global drug trade, financial corruption, and murder, among other crimes."
Sabow was a Marine whose 1991 death was ruled a suicide after his body was found in the backyard of his California home. But the case has spawned conspiracy theories that he was assassinated by the government amid charges by his family that he was rubbed out because he was about to blow the lid on covert military operations involving drug smuggling in Central America.
In a separate, rambling blog written in 2006 by a "Patrick" that uses the same themes and phrases as the Bedell on Wikipedia, the author echoes 9/11 "truthers" in saying, "like so many murderous governments throughout history, (the U.S. government) would see the sacrifice of thousands of its citizens, in an event such as the September 11 attacks, as a small cost in order to perpetuate its barbaric control."
In a separate audio manifesto called "Directions to Freedom," available on The New York Times' The Lede Blog, Bedell avows "an intense personal desire for freedom" that is "inevitably centered on the role of government in society."
Bedell links his "information currency" scheme to "one of the most unjust laws, cannabis prohibition" and related on his blog his 2006 arrest on marijuana charges: "In the course of the arrest for violation of California Health and Safety Code 11358, I chose to not cooperate, given my objection to the injustice of prohibition. I was entirely limp and had to be carried to the police car, resulting in a charge of obstructing an officer in the course of his official duties. "
His account is supported in the official court records, which Bedell posted online.
"One desired result of my effort is (will be) billions and billions of carefully cultivated, highly valuable cannabis plants growing throughout the United States with complete security of property," he wrote on Wikipedia. "I have posted the image to the right in order to illustrate the use of cannabis as a monetary system using digital financial instruments."
As an active contributor to the collaborative online encyclopedia, Bedell often clashed with the site's administrators. In one instance, he posted an autopsy photo of Sabow that was later deleted.
Bedell is the latest suspect in a notorious crime to have left virtual clues to his motives online but in real life may have been a cipher. His father, John Bedell Sr., is a financial planner; his mother, Kaye, works at a college. There was no answer at their home. Bedell's number in Hollister was disconnected.
A neighbor of Bedell's parents, who live in a one-story southwestern-style stucco home in a gated golf course development in Hollister, said he sometimes lived there.
"He seemed like a normal guy to me," Ronald Domingues, 74, told The Associated Press. "I wouldn't suspect he would be involved in anything like this."
The same has been said about other angry men whose quiet lives ended in headlines, many of them drawn to the nation's capital as the epicenter of all they had come to hate. Although much is still unknown about what caused Bedell's thwarted rampage, his views on government were shared by others:
- Joseph Stack's hatred of the federal government, as personified by the Internal Revenue Service, apparently sent him on his suicidal mission to crash his plane into a federal building in Austin, Texas, last month.
- Ted Kaczynski, the convicted Unabomber who waged a deadly mail campaign for 17 years until he was caught in 1995, was another highly educated misfit. His typed 35,000-word anti-government manifesto was a precursor in some ways to Bedell's digital blog rant.
- Russell Weston's fatal shooting of two police officers inside the U.S. Capitol in 1998 may bear the closest resemblance to the Pentagon attack in that both were apparently carried out by men who harbored deep mistrust of the federal government.
- James von Brunn, the elderly white supremacist who killed a guard at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum last year, subscribed to various conspiracy theories involving Jews, blacks and, of course, the federal government.