HOLLISTER, Calif. – 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 and warned them that their son 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 and shot and wounded two police officers before he was fatally shot in an exchange of gunfire. The two officers were hospitalized briefly with minor injuries.
But a blog connected to Bedell via the social networking site LinkedIn outlines his growing distrust of the federal government and gives credence to the idea that a criminal enterprise run out of the government could have staged the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill told The Associated Press that Bedell, 36, had been at in-patient mental health institutions at least four times. Court records showed he was diagnosed as bipolar, or manic depressive.
His parents reported him missing on Jan. 4, one 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.
Kaye Bedell told the highway patrol officer in Texas that her son was fine, and the patrolman let him go with a warning. But the next day, Kaye told deputies in California that her son didn't have any 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, Hill said.
Hill also said Bedell's parents found an e-mail from their son that indicated he had purchased a gun. They asked Hill to help them find Bedell and get him help.
The 36-year-old Bedell returned to his parent's home on January 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 had gone.
The family put out a statement Friday saying they were "devastated as a family by the news from yesterday."
"We may never know why he made this terrible decision," it said. "One thing is clear though — his actions were caused by an illness and not a defective character."
Investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the brazen shooting and began 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 car — a 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.
Law enforcement officials speaking on condition of anonymity described what happened next as a chaotic, fast-paced confrontation in which so many bullets were flying from four different guns that even a day later investigators are still trying to determine exactly whose rounds went where.
Bedell, the officials say, opened fire with a 9 millimeter 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 fire at Bedell, who was struck in the head and left arm.
Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said Bedell was arrested in Reno on Feb. 1 after a deputy stopped him in a green Toyota sedan on the south end of town and found 2 ounces of marijuana but no weapons.
Haley told reporters in Reno on Friday that Bedell believed "the currency of the United States should be marijuana."
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.