WASHINGTON (AP) — 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, officials said.
The Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. military, was temporarily placed on lockdown after someone 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 in the facility.
The suspect was identified by multiple law enforcement officials as Austin William Lanz, 27, of Georgia.
The officer was ambushed by Lanz, who ran at him and stabbed him in the neck, according to two of the 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 AP on condition of anonymity.
Lanz had enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in October 2012 but was “administratively separated” less than a month later and never earned the title Marine, the Corps said in a statement.
Lanz was arrested in April in Cobb County, Georgia, on criminal trespassing and burglary charges, according to online court records. The same day, a separate criminal case was filed against Lanz with six additional charges, including two counts of aggravated battery on police, a count of making a terrorist threat and a charge for rioting in a penal institution, the records show.
A judge reduced his bond in May to $30,000 and released him, imposing some conditions, including that he not ingest illegal drugs and that he undergo a mental health evaluation. The charges against him were still listed as pending. A spokesman for the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that Lanz had been previously held at the agency’s detention center but referred all other questions to the FBI’s field office in Washington.
An attorney who represented Lanz in the Georgia cases didn’t immediately respond to a phone message and email seeking comment, and messages left with family members at Lanz’s home in the Atlanta suburb of Acworth, Georgia, were not immediately returned.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Tuesday evening offered his condolences for the slain officer.
“On behalf of everyone working at the Pentagon, and across the Department of Defense, I extend my deepest sympathies to the family, loved ones and colleagues of the Pentagon Force Protection Officer who died as a result of injuries he received this morning,” he said in a statement.
Austin ordered flags flown on the Pentagon Reservation to be at half-mast in honor of his loss.
“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. “He and his fellow officers are members of the Pentagon family, and known to us all as professional, skilled and brave. 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.”
An investigation remains underway, said Austin, to determine the circumstances surrounding today’s incident.
“We must let that investigation proceed unimpeded and without speculation,” he said. “In the meantime, we will keep the family of our fallen officer — and his fellow officers — foremost in our mind and provide them whatever support they require. I know nothing we can say will properly assuage their grief, but I hope they know we mourn with them.”
The Pentagon did not identify the officer, saying that will come after next of kin notification.
The death of the suspect was 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 also tweeted condolences about the officer’s death.
The circumstances remained unclear even hours after the violence had ended,. But the episode 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.
During a Pentagon news conference, officials declined to confirm the death of a Pentagon Police Officer, citing that the investigation is ongoing and fluid. Instead, Kusse, the Pentagon police chief, told reporters that the incident produced “several casualties,” and the Pentagon was now secure.
“The incident is is over, the scene is secure, and most importantly, there’s no continuing threat to our community. The FBI is on scene, leading the investigation,” Kusse said.
The FBI issued a similar statement, confirming only that it was investigating and that there was “no ongoing threat to the public” but declining to offer details or a possible motive.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was attending a weekly briefing at the White House with President Joe Biden at the time of the incident. However, upon his return to the Pentagon, Austin made his way to the Pentagon Police’s operations center to ensure their welfare.
“First thing [Austin] did is go to the operation center for the Pentagon police to check up on them,” Kirby told reporters. “They are an exceptionally professional skill group of men and women who protect this reservation and the tens of thousands of people that work here every single day. You certainly want to express that gratitude.”
Elected officials took to social media to express their condolences.
The incident began at 10:37 a.m. Tuesday morning as gunshots rang out near the entrance of the Pentagon. The facility was placed on lockdown, but that has now been lifted.
The Arlington County Fire Department reported “multiple patients,” but it wasn’t immediately clear if they had been shot or the extent of the injuries.
A police officer was among those injured, according to two law enforcement officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly. Sources later said that an officer died.
The incident occurred on a Metro bus platform that is part of the Pentagon Transit Center, the Pentagon Protection Force Protection Agency tweeted. The facility is just steps from the Pentagon building, which is in Arlington County, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C.
At 11 a.m., the Pentagon Force Protection Agency announced the facility was on lockdown due to “an incident at the Pentagon transit center.”
The lockdown was lifted about an hour later, although the entrance to the building closest to that area remained closed off by police.
Ralin Lewis, 20, was in a parking lot outside the Pentagon at about 11 a.m. when he said he heard gunshots ring out
“I was trying to find parking and the next thing you know, I hear about eight gunshots go off, kind of by the Metro station,” said Lewis. “I didn’t know what was going on until I saw a cop go by...I see one cop car go, then I see about six others follow that one. I just stayed in my car because I didn’t know what else to do.”
Metro subway trains were ordered to bypass the Pentagon due to a police investigation.
An Associated Press reporter near the building heard multiple gunshots. Another AP journalist heard police yelling “shooter.”
The attack is the second violent incident at the location in the last 17 months.
In March 2020, a man was killed after he was stabbed on the public transit platform there. Police later arrested a 27-year-old man for the crime.
Associated Press writers Colleen Long in Washington and Matthew Barakat and Sagar Meghani in Arlington, Va., and Military Times reporter James. R. Webb and Senior Managing Editor Howard Altman contributed to this report. This is a developing story. Stay with Military Times for updates.