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Pentagon police killing jangles nerves in capital

China Daily | Updated: 2021-08-05 09:16
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Motorcycle officers from the US Capitol Police pass saluting law enforcement officers during a procession in honor of a Pentagon police officer killed in Washington on Tuesday. JIM BOURG/REUTERS

A Pentagon police officer died after being stabbed on Tuesday during a burst of violence at a transit center outside the building in the Washington area. The suspect was shot by law enforcement and died at the scene.

The Pentagon, headquarters of the US Department of Defense, was temporarily placed on lockdown after a man attacked the officer on a bus platform shortly after 10:30 am.

Woodrow Kusse, chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency responsible for security at the facility, said the ensuing violence included a volley of gunshots, resulting in several casualties.

The deaths of the officer and the suspect were first confirmed by officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The Fairfax County Police Department conveyed their condolences over the officer's death on Twitter. Officials said they believe two bystanders were injured.

The suspect was identified by multiple law enforcement officials as Austin William Lanz of Georgia.

The officer was ambushed by the 27-year-old Lanz, who ran toward him and stabbed him in the neck, according to two law enforcement officials. Responding officers then shot and killed Lanz. Investigators are still trying to determine a motive for the attack and looked into Lanz's background, including any potential history of mental illness or any reason he might want to target the Pentagon or police officers.

Lanz had enlisted in the US Marine Corps in October 2012, but was "administratively separated "less than a month later and never earned the Marine title, according to the Corps in a statement.

Tuesday's attack on a busy stretch of the Washington area's transportation system jangled the nerves of a region already primed to be on high alert for violence and potential intruders outside federal government buildings, especially after the Jan 6 riot at the Capitol.

Investigation underway

At a Pentagon news conference, Kusse and other officials declined to rule out terrorism or provide any other potential motive. Kusse said the Pentagon complex was secure and "we are not actively looking for another suspect at this time". He also said the Federal Bureau of Investigation was leading the investigation.

The FBI only confirmed that it was investigating and there was "no ongoing threat to the public". The agency declined to offer any details or possible motive for the attack.

Later on Tuesday, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency issued a statement confirming the loss of the officer, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin offered his condolences and said flags at the Pentagon will be flown at half-staff.

The violence occurred on a Metro bus platform that is part of the Pentagon Transit Center, a hub for subway and bus lines. The station is steps from the Pentagon building in Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington. It was not immediately clear whether any additional security measures might be instituted in the area.

On Monday, authorities disclosed that two more of those officers who fought rioters at the Capitol had committed suicide.

Hundreds of then-president Donald Trump's supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan 6, following a fiery speech in which he repeated his false claims of election fraud.

More than 140 officers were injured, and more than 500 people have been charged over the riot.

Four people died on the day of the violence. A Capitol police officer attacked by protesters died the following day. The two police suicides announced on Monday raised the number of officers who later took their own lives to four.

Agencies and May Zhou in Houston contributed to this story.

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