Discovery Communications headquarters hostage crisis

Discovery Communications headquarters hostage crisis
Discovery Communications headquarters hostage crisis

Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland
Location Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.
Date September 1, 2010
1:00 pm – 4:48 pm (UTC-5)
Target Discovery Communications
Attack type Hostage taking
Weapon(s) 2 starter pistols, explosive device
Death(s) 1 (perpetrator)
Perpetrator(s) James Jay Lee

The Discovery Communications headquarters hostage crisis occurred on September 1, 2010 at the headquarters of Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States, when 43-year-old James Lee, armed with two starter pistols[1] and an explosive device, took three people hostage in the building's lobby. After nearly four hours, Lee was shot dead by police and all the hostages were freed. Lee's motive was believed to have been grounded in environmental activism. The University of Maryland’s START Center has since labeled the crime a terrorist attack.[2]



The incident began at 1:00pm ET, when 43-year-old James Jay Lee entered the building with two starter pistols and fired a single round at the ceiling of the lobby.[3][4] The Montgomery County Police Department confirmed that Lee had an explosive device and was holding three people[5] hostage in the lobby.[3][6] The building was placed on lockdown and most of the 1,500 employees were evacuated.[6] Children from a day care center inside were safely removed to a nearby restaurant.[3] The police began to communicate with Lee soon after the incident began.[3] The Montgomery County police chief, J. Thomas Manger, said that the police were "trying to get him to release the hostages and surrender peacefully".[6] Lee was shot by police at 4:48pm ET after the hostages made a run for freedom.[7] The remaining hostages were immediately freed.[8]


James Jay Lee (c. 1967 – September 1, 2010) was born to a Korean-American father and a Japanese mother, in Los Angeles, California and raised in Hawaii.[9] He was an environmental protester who, in 2008, was given six months of supervised probation and fined $500 after he was arrested during a protest outside the Discovery Communications headquarters. In 2003, he was convicted of smuggling an illegal immigrant into the country from Mexico and sentenced to 18 months in prison.[1]


Lee had published criticisms of the network in an online manifesto at,[4] among which was a demand for the company to cease the broadcasting of television series displaying or encouraging the birth of "parasitic human infants and the false heroics behind those actions".[10] His manifesto also railed against "immigration pollution and anchor baby filth", leading commentators such as Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center to decry Lee as an "eco-fascist".[11] Lee's opinions were dominated by Malthusian analysis,[12] though he also cited works ranging from Daniel Quinn's novel My Ishmael to former U.S. Vice President Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth.[13]


The Washington Post credits the Twitter community for initially breaking the story.[14] Around the start of the incident, Twitter users were posting information and photos, and it was these posts that set the mainstream media in motion.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b "Discovery Channel attacker convicted of smuggling immigrant in 2003". CNN (International). 09-04-2010. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  2. ^ "Background Report: Discovery Communications Building Hostage-Taking". Start. p. 1. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d "Armed Man With Bomb Takes at Least One Hostage in Discovery Channel Building". Fox. September 1, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "Suspect in Maryland hostage situation published angry online manifesto". CNN. September 1, 2010. Retrieved September 1, 2010. 
  5. ^ Morse, Dan (September 3, 2010). "James J. Lee's hostage standoff at Discovery was grueling time for officials". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 8, 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c Robbins, Liz; Stelter, Brian (September 1, 2010). "Gunman Takes Hostage in Maryland". The New York Times. Retrieved September 1, 2010. 
  7. ^ Morse, Dan (September 1, 2010). "Environmental militant slain at Silver Spring building after taking hostages". Washington Post. Retrieved September 1, 2010. 
  8. ^ "Hostages Safe as Police Shoot Maryland Gunman". The New York Times. 1 September 2010. Retrieved 1 September 2010. [dead link]
  9. ^ "한국인 아버지-일본인 어머니…자식들이 어릴 때 이혼했다 [Korean Father - Japanese Mother Divorced When (He) Was a Child]" (in Korean). LA Joongang Ilbo. September 2, 2010.  (Google Translation)
  10. ^ Theresa Vargas (September 1, 2010; 3:54 PM). "James J. Lee is suspect in Discovery hostage case, officials say". Washington Post. 
  11. ^ Mark Potok (September 1, 2010). "Apparent Eco-Terrorist Holding Hostages at TV Building". Hatewatch (blog), Southern Poverty Law Center. 
  12. ^ Leonard, Andrew (SEP 1, 2010). "How Malthus drove the Discovery Channel gunman crazy". Salon (Salon Media Group): p. 1. Retrieved 4 September 2010. 
  13. ^ "Police kill Discovery building gunman". MSNBC. 9/1/2010. Retrieved 3 September 2010. 
  14. ^ Paul Farhi (September 1, 2010). "Twitter breaks story on Discovery Channel gunman". Washington Post. 

External links

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