Police shot and killed a 43-year-old gunman who took three hostages at Discovery Channel's corporate headquarters Wednesday, ending an hours-long standoff with the aspiring TV writer and radical environmentalist who had a history of protesting the network's programming.
James J. Lee strode into the Silver Spring, Md., building in the early afternoon with metallic canisters — that police believed were possible explosive devices — strapped to his body and waving a handgun. Discovery evacuated most of the employees, but Lee was able to hold three men hostage near the front of the building.
Sometime before 5 p.m. EDT, a police sniper brought Lee down with a fatal shot, apparently pulling the trigger as Lee made a threatening gesture with his gun toward one of his hostages. The three hostages were unhurt.
Lee had aspirations of creating radical environmental television shows and was previously arrested for disorderly conduct while protesting at the building in 2008. He was sentenced to 60 days in jail with all but 14 days suspended due to time served. He was also given two years probation and barred from coming within 200 feet of the Discover Channel Headquarters. His probation expired two weeks ago.
Sometime before the incident, Lee published an unconfirmed list of demands, calling for Discovery to do more to "save the planet." His suggestions included programming that discouraged overopulation and solicited ideas on alternative ways to live.
An accompanying photo shows Lee in a baseball cap. He described the rationale behind his protest in posting on another site where he solicited people to join him.
"I have tried to submit television show ideas to the Discovery Channel about saving the planet and they have outright rejected all ideas and won’t even listen. My question is: What will it hurt to broadcast shows about seeking solutions to saving the planet? What would it hurt to at least TRY to find solutions by televising shows asking the public for new ideas on how to live?" Lee wrote.
Lee later posted indications that the February 2008 protest ended in an arrest. Apparently, he caused a disturbance by throwing $20,000 into the air. Lee followed up the demonstration with a "Save The Planet Protest Essay Contest!" where he solicited help making a TV show.
"I am still looking for an essay or a package presentation about a TV show that could be developed based on Daniel Quinn's book, 'My Ishmael' where it talks about how people can build on each other's ideas in order to save the planet," Lee said.
Many of Lee's web postings seem to indicate a fixation with "My Ishmael."
Lee claimed he would give the essay contest winner "about $200,000 worth of commercial real estate property in Hawaii plus $10,000 in cash for the best TV show idea to save the planet." As of this writing, there was no explanation for Lee's seemingly easy access to large amounts of cash.
Email addresses linked to the protest posting show that Lee attempted to organize a radical environmentalist group called World Guardian Voices in San Diego in 2006. He described it as "a movement designed to educate the masses on the impending cultural collapse from overpopulation, global warming, animal extinction, pollution, and exploitation."