BALTIMORE (CN) – The armed man who was shot to death this week after taking hostages in the Discovery Communications building had staged a bizarre protest at the building before. In February 2008, James Lee paid homeless people to carry protest signs, and promised the most money to the people who shouted the loudest, according to a police report.
Montgomery County Police officers shot Lee to death on Wednesday in Silver Spring, Md. Strapped to his body were what appeared to be bombs.
Most Discovery employees escaped, but Lee held three hostages and demanded that the Discovery Channel show more programs about keeping the world’s population in check.
None of the hostages died. Lee was shot to death by Montgomery County Police.
On Feb. 21, 2008, Lee had come to the same building, wielding not guns and bombs, but signs and money. According to police report filed the next day, Lee paid homeless people to carry signs to protest the Discovery Channel and promised more money to the loudest protestors.
“Lee also arranged essay contests, in which he paid every person who gave him an essay $20 and periodically awarded an essayist $1,000,” according to the Feb. 22, 2008 Montgomery County police report, which cited Lee for disorderly conduct and littering.
The police report identifies Lee as 40 years old and a resident of San Diego. The complaining officer, identified only as Hutchinson, wrote that police were sent to the building because of a report of an armed robbery. “The victim had recently received $1,000 from Lee for winning the essay contest,” the report states. “During the attempted armed robbery the victim was assaulted by armed suspects.”
By the time the police arrived at the Discovery building and tried to contact Lee, “A crowd of more than 100 people, tightly gathered around Lee, had formed in front of the Discovery building,” according to the police report.
When police told Lee that his essay winner had been assaulted, “Lee responded by referring to money as ‘just trash,'” the police report states. “Lee said ‘Watch this’ to the officers and Lee then began throwing handfuls loose money into the air”.
Officer Hutchinson wrote that Lee’s throwing the money around created a public disturbance, as the crowd hustled to get it, “putting the safety of the officers conversing with Lee and those in the crowd at risk.”
Lee was arrested for disorderly conduct and littering. He was found guilty of disorderly conduct, but not littering.
In a pro se written appeal, Lee wrote that police had no right to arrest him because he was on private property, and since the owners of the property, the Discovery Channel, had not pressed charges, he had not broken any laws.
“There is nothing in those charges filed against me from the private property owners, the Discovery Channel. They themselves are not complaining. The private property owners are not filing charges against me for allegedly disturbing the peace. The state is,” Lee wrote in his March 24, 2008 appeal.
He claims that he was not responsible for the assault on the contest winner who was assaulted, equating it with banks whose “customers get robbed during payday or during withdrawals at their ATM’s where robbers could and do lie in wait.”
Lee’ wrote that perhaps the Discovery Channel should be arrested for disturbing the peace: “on their show, ‘It Takes a Thief,’ they show burglars how to break into and burglarize people’s homes. On their show, Future Weapons, they show people how to kill each other using the most advanced weapons of the future. I’m surprised they don’t get sued more for this by their victims. Isn’t that ‘disturbing the peace?’ Can I file charges against them, have them arrested without bail, and use their shows as evidence?
“There is a double-standard here when it comes to the law. There is one interpretation for the rich and another interpretation for the poor.”
Lee concluded his 4-page appeal by blasting police: “This is a police state or is quickly turning into one. The police justify what they want when they want when they feel like it. Never mind civil rights. It’s meaningless because the law can be interpreted in any way to fit their mood. …
“The police can justify anything these days. Money, rubber balls, coins, and gold bars are litter. They can say a wallet looks like a gun and they can shoot and kill you and it will be justified murder. They can twist the law, manipulate evidence, and interpret the law any old way they want to seem right.”
His appeal concludes: “Please overturn these charges and uphold your own Constitution.”