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Pentagon gunman had a history of mental illness

Parents had warned police about mental state of man who had railed about conspiracies.

By Mary Pat Flaherty, Theresa Vargas and Michael E. Ruane


— John Patrick Bedell, whose cross-country odyssey ended in a brief gunfight Thursday at the Pentagon, was a well-educated but troubled man who "had gone off the deep end" and believed that the United States was controlled by a sinister organization leading it toward a new dark age, according to friends and his Internet postings.

Bedell, a 36-year-old engineering graduate student who loved marijuana and conspiracy theories, shot two Pentagon police officers Thursday night before he was killed.

In the eight weeks before the attack, he had crisscrossed the country in a frenetic and sometimes doped-up state that had his parents in Hollister, Calif., so worried that they alerted police that he might be armed.

"We may never know why he made this terrible decision," Bedell's family said in a statement Friday. "His actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character."

Bedell was diagnosed as having bipolar disorder and had been in and out of treatment programs for years. His psychiatrist, J. Michael Nelson, said Bedell tried to self-medicate with marijuana, inadvertently making his symptoms more pronounced.

In early January, a Texas highway patrol officer stopped Bedell near Texarkana for speeding. Bedell's car was in "disarray," the officer noted, and the driver was lurching up and down and rocking on his knees, repeatedly hanging up on a series of cell phone calls that Bedell said were from his mother. Concerned about Bedell's mental state, the officer called his parents and learned that they had filed a missing persons report — one that noted Bedell had been "detained for mental evaluation before."

Police records show that Bedell's mother, Kaye, who is director of allied health at Gavilan College in Gilroy, Calif., told Texas authorities her son was OK, and he was sent on his way.

He returned to Hollister but didn't stay long. On Feb. 1, he hit the road again and was stopped in Reno, Nev., for a traffic violation. He was charged with possession of marijuana and made bail.

On Thursday, he parked his 1998 Toyota at a mall garage and made his way to the Pentagon's main entrance. There, in an exchange that lasted less than a minute, two officers, Jeffrey Amos and Marvin Carraway, were superficially wounded, one in the shoulder and one in the thigh. They and a third officer returned fire, mortally wounding Bedell.

Pentagon officials said that since last year's shooting at Fort Hood, they had been especially alert, and the officers were commended publicly Friday for their performance.

"There are no indications at this point that there are any international or domestic connections to this incident at all," said Richard Keevill, chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency. "At this time, it appears to be a single individual that had issues."

The Pentagon attack was the second in two weeks on a government facility by someone with strong negative feelings about the federal government, coming on the heels of the Feb. 18 attack by Andrew Joseph Stack III, who crashed his plane into an IRS office in Northwest Austin.

Bedell left an electronic trail thick with written, video and audio manifestos. In an audio address posted on the Internet, he suggested that after the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the U.S. had been infiltrated by a cabal of gangsters he called the "coup regime." Bedell said the group has continued manipulating the country "up to the present day" and was probably responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and the Iraq war.

Police were trying to determine whether Bedell's views on the 1991 death of a Marine officer, Col. James Sabow, in El Toro, Calif., played a role in his attack. Sabow's death, which was ruled a suicide, is the subject of numerous conspiracy theories, alleging that he was killed because he was about to expose covert military operations in Central America involving drug smuggling.

Bedell wrote on the Web that he was "determined to see that justice is served" in Sabow's death and that to uncover the truth behind the death would be "a step toward establishing the truth of events such as the Sept. 11 demolitions."

In recent years, Bedell seemed obsessed by what he saw as attacks on personal liberty. He was arrested in Orange County, Calif., in 2006 for growing marijuana and resisting an officer.

He was especially irked by criminal penalties for marijuana use, said Reb Monaco, a family friend who knew Bedell for most of his life. But Bedell had never expressed hostility at the military, Monaco said.

Bedell "had gone off the deep end right before he left, his parents told us," Monaco said.

Additional material from The New York Times and The Associated Press.

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