Captives Are Safe, But Police Are Checking Site for Explosives
Police shot and killed a man identified as James Lee, who took three hostages at Discovery Communications Inc. in downtown Silver Spring, ending the standoff around 4:48 p.m. Wednesday. The hostages were safe, but the building was searched for possible explosives, Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger said in a news conference.
Lee took an unarmed security guard and two people in the lobby hostage. About 1,900 people, along with children in the company’s day care center, were evacuated from the building shortly after 1 p.m.
“All of our employees are accounted for,” said David C. Leavy, executive vice president for global communications and corporate affairs at Discovery. Leavy praised law enforcement officials and the company’s security team.
Leavy acknowledged that company officials were familiar with Lee, who was reportedly arrested in a demonstration at Discovery in 2008. Lee made demands related to his dissatisfaction with Discovery’s programming on the environment and civilization. The company’s networks include Discovery Channel, TLC, Animal Planet, Science Channel and Planet Green.
It’s unclear whether any of Lee’s explosives detonated, but witnesses in the area reported hearing popping sounds and sirens from fire engines. According to Lee’s MySpace.com page, he was 43, from Hawaii, based in Silver Spring and interested in books by Daniel Quinn.
Safeguarding Surrounding Area
Gbenga Akingbe was working on Cameron and Spring streets, two blocks away from Discovery, when he received a notice from his human resources department that warned about a gunman in the area.
“I was shocked to hear that such a serious situation was occurring right down the street,” said Akingbe, 25, of Lanham, Md. “But I was also concerned about the people in the building hoping that no one would be hurt and that the situation would end quickly.”
Courtney Johnson, a senior public relations major at Howard University, traveled to the area for a doctor’s appointment on Colesville Road near Discovery. “When I got to Silver Sping, there were something around six SUVs speeding down Colesville Road,” Johnson said. “Initially, they weren’t letting people out.”
Johnson arrived around 1:30 p.m. and when she left a half hour later, the traffic had escalated. Although the Metro was still running at the time, there were road blocks between Georgia Avenue and Colesville, and near the Wayne Avenue side of the Metro. Trains are operating in the area, but buses have been re-routed.
Charmese Wilson, a broadcast journalism major at Howard, was heading to a nearby Wachovia branch on Georgia Avenue, off Cameron. “I was on my way to the bank, and then I saw all the police and roadblocks so I turned around and then I found out on Twitter what happened.”
Putting Businesses on ‘Lockdown’
A number of businesses in the area were closed. Panera Bread on Georgia Avenue was on “lockdown,” said employee Icela Romero. Other closed businesses include Bank of America, Office Depot and New York & Co. All four are across the street from Discovery.
Copper Canyon Grill and Washington Sports Club were among the businesses that remained open.
“We’re going to stay open through this thing,” said Jonathan W. Jones, who works at the sports club.
Applying to Discovery
Autumn Jones was working on a job application for a position at the Discovery Channel when she heard about the hostage situation.
“As the story unfolded, my first thought was actually relief that the children on site had been evacuated quickly and efficiently,” said Jones, who is moving her family of three to Silver Spring in January. “Their work-life balance emphasis (including on-site day care) is a large motivator for my application.”
Jones stopped her application process to read the suspect’s list of demands but eventually picked up where she left off. “Ultimately I feel like crazy people can be anywhere at any time, so it didn’t affect my desire to finish the app,” she said.
Jones said Lee’s letter left something to be desired. “My first thought was that it was poorly edited,” said Jones, who is a professional journalist. “It didn’t read like anything anyone should take seriously.”