The mood at NSA headquarters seemed controlled but tense Monday afternoon after a shooting that left one person dead and a law enforcement officer injured.
Current and former officials who’ve worked on the agency’s campus, at Fort Meade, Maryland, told The Daily Beast they’d been making and receiving calls to colleagues since the news of the shooting broke Monday morning. Footage from a local TV news helicopter showed the entrance to Fort Meade closed and police tape around what appeared to be a damaged civilian vehicle. A white sheet was seen next to the vehicle, but what was underneath couldn’t be determined.
“The driver failed to obey an NSA Police officer’s routine instructions for safely exiting the secure campus,” NSA spokesman Jonathan Freed said in a statement. “The vehicle failed to stop and barriers were deployed. The vehicle 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.”
“One of the unauthorized vehicle’s occupants died on the scene. The cause of death has not been determined. The other occupant was injured and taken to a local hospital.”
The two men were reportedly dressed in women’s clothing and were driving an SUV stolen from a nearby hotel. The injured suspect is Kevin Fleming of Baltimore.
A spokesperson for the FBI’s Baltimore field office said the event was isolated and not connected to terrorism.
Early reports suggested that the vehicle may have taken a wrong turn and not intended to enter the facility. A former intelligence official told The Daily Beast that the entrance to Fort Meade is often confused by motorists as a normal highway exit, and that it’s not uncommon for unsuspecting drivers to find themselves stopped by NSA police. He noted that a large number of immigration law violations referred to authorities stemmed from drivers who found themselves at NSA’s gates and were forced to show a driver’s license or some other form of ID to explain why they were there.
This isn’t the first time Fort Meade and its neighbors have witnessed gun violence. Earlier this month, a suspect was arrested in a string of shootings in Maryland, including at the NSA’s campus. No one was injured in that incident, which damaged a building, and investigators have found no ties to terrorism.
But a strip of bars and restaurants near Fort Meade and the NSA, appropriately nicknamed Boomtown, has been the scene of multiple shootings over the years, prompting increased police patrols in the area. From 2006 to 2010, four people were murdered in Boomtown, including a former federal police officer who was shot during a botched robbery behind the bar My Place, which neighbors have unsuccessfully tried to close, the Capital Gazette reported.
Last December, a man was shot in the leg in the bar’s parking lot. And in 2010, another man was shot and injured behind the bar and two bystanders were also hit. At a My Place neighbor, Traffic Bar & Lounge, two men were killed and another injured in a 2008 shooting. And in 1996, a liquor store owner in Boomtown was also shot and killed in a robbery that injured his wife and two customers.
— Additional reporting by Brandy Zadrozny.