Motel 'party' with strangers preceded spy agency shooting

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Shooting Outside NSA Gate Leaves 1 Dead

FORT MEADE, Md. (AP) - Two cross-dressing men who were shot at by National Security Agency police when they disobeyed orders at a heavily guarded gate had just stolen a car from a man who picked them up for a motel "party," police said Tuesday.

One suspect was killed and the other was injured, along with an NSA police officer, as the driver of the stolen SUV apparently tried to get away from the guards.

The SUV's owner, a 60-year-old man from Baltimore who has not been publicly identified, told investigators that he had picked up the two strangers in Baltimore. They arrived around 7:30 a.m. Monday to "party" at the nearby Terrace Motel in Elkridge, Howard County Police said.

Police spokeswoman Mary Phelan told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she "can't confirm there was any sexual activity involved," and declined to elaborate on whether drugs or alcohol were part of their "party."

The SUV owner told police that he went to the bathroom about an hour after checking in to a room, and when he came out, the others were gone, along with his car keys. He called police to report the stolen car. Minutes later, just before 9 a.m., the men took a highway exit that leads directly to a restricted area at the NSA entrance at Fort Meade.

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Motel 'party' with strangers preceded spy agency shooting
In this image made from video and released by WJLA-TV, authorities investigate the scene of a accident near a gate to Fort Meade, Md., on Monday, March 30, 2015. A spokesman at Fort Meade says two people are being treated for injuries at one of the gates of the sprawling Army installation near Baltimore. (AP Photo/WJLA-TV) MANDATORY CREDIT
ATF agents gather in a parking lot where media have been asked to gather, down the road from the entrance to Ft. Meade after a vehicle rammed a gate to the National Security Agency, Monday, March 30, 2015 in Fort Meade, Md. One person was killed in a firefight that erupted Monday after a car with two people tried to ram a gate at the Fort Meade, Md., military base near a gate to the National Security Agency, according to preliminary reports cited by two U.S. officials. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A police officer stands at a gate to Fort Meade directing a vehicle to turn away after a vehicle rammed a gate to the National Security Agency, Monday, March 30, 2015 in Fort Meade, Md. One person was killed in a firefight that erupted Monday after a car with two people tried to ram a gate at the Fort Meade, Md., military base near a gate to the National Security Agency, according to preliminary reports cited by two U.S. officials. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
A police officer stands outside an entrance to Fort Meade directing traffic after a vehicle rammed a gate to the National Security Agency, Monday, March 30, 2015 in Fort Meade, Md. One person was killed in a firefight that erupted Monday after a car with two people tried to ram a gate at the Fort Meade, Md., military base near a gate to the National Security Agency, according to preliminary reports cited by two U.S. officials. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
Map locates Fort Meade, Md.; 1c x 3 inches; 46.5 mm x 76 mm;
CBS Baltimore-2 Injured In Shooting At NSA Gate-http://t.co/nnNy09iEqd #NSAShooting http://t.co/bnPinJQqQa
A Maryland State Police cruiser sits at a blocked southbound entrance on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that accesses the National Security Agency, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Fort Meade, Md. A spokeswoman at Fort Meade says two people have been injured near a gate to the NSA. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A Maryland State Police cruiser sits at a blocked southbound entrance on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway that accesses the National Security Agency, Monday, March 30, 2015, in Fort Meade, Md. A spokeswoman at Fort Meade says two people have been injured near a gate to the NSA. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Shots are fired as the National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade suffers a sec via @inside https://t.co/d0Pim2yGIk http://t.co/qfiEXTIA7f
http://t.co/lqcmFohnBO
State Police have ramp blocked from 295 South to NSA http://t.co/42KO5tlE5f
Details unclear over NSA ‘altercation’ http://t.co/4ltc9FdiTe #msnbc #news http://t.co/4yxPxXqFF8
Update: 2 hurt at NSA HQ gates at Fort Meade http://t.co/byNZES04Eo http://t.co/zELIRufxqC
MORE: At least two injured after shooting at #NSA headquarters http://t.co/p4TEvCQzcO http://t.co/RsPEPSk39S (Pics - @NewsChopperBrad)
FILE - This Sept. 19, 2007 file photo shows the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md. The U.S. National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the intelligence agency broad new powers in 2008, The Washington Post reports. In one case, telephone calls from Washington were intercepted when the city's area code was confused with the dialing code for Egypt. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)
A sign stands outside the National Security Administration (NSA) campus on Thursday, June 6, 2013, in Fort Meade, Md. The Obama administration on Thursday defended the National Security Agency's need to collect telephone records of U.S. citizens, calling such information "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats." (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A helicopter hovers over Fort Meade after a vehicle rammed a gate to the National Security Agency, Monday, March 30, 2015 in Fort Meade, Md. One person was killed in a firefight that erupted Monday after a car with two people tried to ram a gate at the Fort Meade, Md., military base near a gate to the National Security Agency, according to preliminary reports cited by two U.S. officials. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)
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The FBI said Monday that agents do not believe terrorism was their motive. No one has explained yet why the men ended up outside the NSA. However, the new timeline suggests they may have simply taken a wrong turn while fleeing the motel, about 12 minutes away.

Once so secretive that it was known as "No Such Agency," the location of NSA's headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, is no longer a secret to millions of people who live in the sprawling suburban communities between Baltimore and Washington and the thousands of daily commuters who traverse the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, where the NSA has a dedicated, employees-only exit. About 11,000 military personnel and about 29,000 civilian employees with security clearances work on the property.

Similarly, the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, is less than a mile from the George Washington Parkway, a heavily-traveled link between downtown Washington and the Capital Beltway. The CIA also has a training facility known as "The Farm" at Camp Peary, also conveniently located along Interstate 64 in Williamsburg, Virginia.

The NSA is Maryland's largest employer, and Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, whose district includes the NSA campus, said its convenient location is critical.

He also said the NSA gate is far enough removed from the highway that it's easy to avoid ending up there by mistake.

"I drive by there every day, when I come from Baltimore to go to the Capitol. There's plenty of signage there," he said. "If you follow the signs that say 'prohibited,' you can very easily get off. When you break the law, you break the law everywhere."

But it's not uncommon for drivers to take the wrong exit and end up at the tightly secured gates.

Most drivers then carefully follow the orders of heavily armed federal officers and turn around without getting into more trouble. In this case, authorities say the men ignored instructions on how to leave, and ended up stuck behind barriers. Police ordered them to stop, and then things escalated quickly.

"The driver failed to obey an NSA Police officer's routine instructions for safely exiting the secure campus," Jonathan Freed, an NSA spokesman, said in a statement. The vehicle failed to stop, then "accelerated toward an NSA Police vehicle blocking the road. NSA Police fired at the vehicle when it refused to stop. The unauthorized vehicle crashed into the NSA Police vehicle."

The FBI declined to comment on the conditions of the surviving suspect and officer, except to say they were being treated at a local hospital. They also haven't said how the man driving the stolen car died.

It's not the first time someone has disobeyed orders at an NSA gate. In July, a man failed to obey an NSA officer's command to stop as he approached a checkpoint. That man drove away, injuring an NSA officer and nearly striking a barricade. He was later arrested and is awaiting trial on federal charges.

The FBI is investigating and working with the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland to determine if federal charges are warranted.

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Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers and Ben Nuckols in Washington, David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Maryland and Juliet Linderman in Baltimore contributed to this report.





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