Police Officer Killed in Burst of Violence Outside Pentagon

“This tragic death today is a stark reminder of the dangers [officers] face and the sacrifices they make. We are forever grateful for that service and the courage with which it is rendered"

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

Officer George Gonzalez was killed in the line of duty, officials said in an update Wednesday. Gonzalez was an Army veteran who was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq. He was from Brooklyn, New York, and joined the Pentagon police force in 2018. 

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. military, was temporarily placed on lockdown after a man attacked the officer on a bus platform shortly after 10:30 a.m. The ensuing violence, which included a volley of gunshots, resulted in “several casualties,” said Woodrow Kusse, the chief of the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, which is responsible for security at the facility.

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. Officials said they believe two bystanders were injured.

Officers from multiple departments honored their colleague later Tuesday by lining the streets outside George Washington University Hospital in D.C. A casket draped in an American flag could be seen.

Officers from multiple departments lined streets outside George Washington University Hospital in D.C. on Tuesday to honor the Pentagon officer killed in the line of duty. News4's Darcy Spencer shows the emotional procession.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency issued a statement confirming the loss of the officer, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin expressed his condolences. Flags at the Pentagon will be flown at half-staff.

“This fallen officer died in the line of duty, helping protect the tens of thousands of people who work in — and who visit — the Pentagon on a daily basis,” Austin said in a statement. “This tragic death today is a stark reminder of the dangers they face and the sacrifices they make. We are forever grateful for that service and the courage with which it is rendered.”

The suspect was identified by multiple law enforcement officials as Austin William Lanz, 27, of Georgia.

Gonzalez was ambushed by Lanz, who ran at him and stabbed him in the neck, according to two law enforcement officials. Responding officers then shot and killed Lanz. 

Investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the attack and were digging into Lanz’s background, including any potential history of mental illness or any reason he might want to target the Pentagon or police officers. The officials could not discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to The AP on condition of anonymity.

Witness Dave Statter said live on News4 that he heard at least a dozen gunshots and then saw CPR performed on two people.

An AP reporter near the building heard multiple gunshots, then a pause, then at least one additional shot. Another AP journalist heard police yelling “shooter.”

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, particularly following the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The violence occurred on a Metro bus platform that is part of the Pentagon Transit Center, a busy hub for subway and bus lines. The station is steps from the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia. Members of the public were asked to avoid the area. Chopper4 footage, taken from outside the large no-fly zone, showed many emergency vehicles on the scene.

At a Pentagon news conference, Kusse declined to confirm that the officer had been killed or provide even basic information about how the violence had unfolded or how many might be dead. He would only say that an officer had been attacked and that “gunfire was exchanged.”

Kusse and other officials declined to rule out terrorism or provide any other potential motive. But Kusse said the Pentagon complex was secure and "we are not actively looking for another suspect at this time.” He said the FBI was leading the investigation.

“I can’t compromise the ongoing investigation,” Kusse said.

The FBI confirmed only that it was investigating and there was “no ongoing threat to the public” but declined to offer details or a possible motive.

A Pentagon announcement said the facility was on lockdown, but that was lifted after noon, except for the area around the crime scene.

Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were at the White House meeting with President Joe Biden at the time of the shooting. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Austin returned to the building and went to the Pentagon police operations center to speak to the officers there.

It was not immediately clear whether any additional security measures might be instituted in the area.

This morning's attack near the Pentagon has affected Metro and bus services to and from Pentagon City, one of the area's busiest stations. News4's Drew Wilder speaks to commuters who are waiting to get home.

The incident had ripple effects on transportation in the D.C. area, temporarily affecting riders of Metro's Blue, Green, Orange, Silver and Yellow lines. Buses stopped elsewhere, and some nearby streets were shut down. A long line of people waited outside the Pentagon City Metro station near midday.

Pentagon police took over security of the grounds after 9/11. They respond to emergencies, screen employees and visitors, screen mail, detect drones and keep ceremonies secure, defense department records say. 

After the attack near the Pentagon this morning, News4's I-Team and Scott MacFarlane discuss the missions that the Pentagon Police Force have, according to documents from the Defense Department.

Last year, Pentagon police responded to calls that a man was trying to blow up a car in the parking lot. Matthew Richardson was found with a cigarette lighter and a cloth, attempting to access the fuel tank of an SUV, officials said. He was found guilty and is awaiting sentencing. 

In 2010, two officers with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency were wounded when a gunman approached them at a security screening area. The officers, who survived, returned fire, fatally wounding the gunman, identified as John Patrick Bedell.

Like other police agencies across the region, Pentagon police have been actively recruiting. 

Stay with NBC Washington for more details on this developing story. 

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