HOLLISTER, Calif. (AP) — The man who opened fire in front of the Pentagon had a history of mental illness and had become so erratic that his parents reached out to local authorities weeks ago with a warning that he was unstable and might have a gun, authorities said Friday.
It's still unclear why John Patrick Bedell opened fire Thursday at the Pentagon entrance, wounding two police officers before he was fatally shot. The two officers were hospitalized briefly with minor injuries.
Bedell was diagnosed as bipolar, or manic depressive, 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.
"Without the stabilizing medication, the symptoms of his disinhibition, agitation and fearfullness complicated the lack of treatment," Nelson said.
His parents reported him missing Jan. 4, a day after a Texas Highway Patrol officer stopped him for speeding in Amarillo, according to the missing person's report. Bedell told the highway patrolman he was heading for the East Coast, and the officer used Bedell's phone to call his mother, Kaye Bedell, because he seemed disheveled and out of sorts.
Monaco said Kaye Bedell asked the officer to take him to a mental health facility, but that the son refused. The patrolman let Bedell go with a warning. The next day, Kaye told deputies in California that her son had no reason to travel to the East Coast because he had no friends or family there and she and her husband were worried about his mental state, San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill said.
Hill also said Bedell's parents found an e-mail from their son that indicated he had bought a gun. They asked Hill to help them find Bedell and get him assistance.
The 36-year-old Bedell returned to his parent's home Jan. 18, telling them "not to ask any questions" about where he had been. But he left after that, and his parents didn't know where he went.
Little is known about his trip east, but authorities know he spent time in Reno, where Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said he was arrested on Feb. 1 with two ounces of marijuana in his car but no weapons.
The Bedell family put out a statement Friday saying they were "devastated as a family by the news."
"We may never know why he made this terrible decision," the statement said. "One thing is clear though — his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character."
Investigators were trying to unravel a bizarre series of Internet postings that suggested Bedell was fascinated with conspiracy theories, computer programming, libertarian economics and the science of warfare.
Curiously, Bedell also proposed in 2004 that the Pentagon fund his own research on smart weapons. The 28-page proposal outlined his idea for DNA nanotechnology research that might "provide significant new capabilities for the Department of Defense and the individual warfighter."
That document is the first tangible link to surface connecting Bedell and the Pentagon.
On the day of the attack, Bedell left his green, 12-year-old Toyota in a nearby mall parking garage.
The six-foot tall, blue-eyed software devotee approached the Pentagon entrance Thursday evening wearing a jacket, dress shirt and pants, seeming like any other end-of-the-day commuter.
Bedell, the officials say, opened fire with a 9 mm handgun just five feet from the nearest officer, Marvin Carraway. Fellow officer Jeffrey Amos ran out of a nearby guard booth to confront Bedell, as did a third, unidentified officer. All three officers gave chase and fired at Bedell, who was struck in the head and left arm.
The assault at the very threshold of the Pentagon — the U.S. capital's ground zero on Sept. 11, 2001 — came four months after a deadly attack on the Army's Fort Hood, Texas, post allegedly by a U.S. Army psychiatrist with radical Islamic leanings.
Hatred of the government motivated a man in Texas last month to fly a small plane into a building housing Internal Revenue Service offices, killing an IRS employee and himself.
The shooting resembled one in January in which a gunman walked up to the security entrance of a Las Vegas courthouse and opened fire with a shotgun, killing one officer and wounding another before being gunned down in return fire.
Associated Press writers Matt Apuzzo and Devlin Barrett in Washington, D.C.; Juliana Barbassa and Marcus Wohlsen in San Francisco, Haven Daley in Hollister, Calif., and Scott Sonner in Reno, Nev., contributed to this report.
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