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DoD News Briefing: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
August 05, 1997 1:15 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon.

Sorry I'm late for the early briefing. I've been getting briefed by Chief Jester on the security incident here this morning, and I'd be glad to talk about that later. But before I start, let me make a few announcements.

On Friday the 8th at 11:00, Alan Liotta, who is the Deputy Director of the Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, will be here to answer your questions on the latest return of remains from North Korea. He will give a description of what happened, talk about the next step in our dealings with North Korea over this crucial issue of getting remains back, and also answer your questions on the latest events as well as what we expect to do in the future.

Second, I'd like to welcome 14 Army Public Affairs people here from the Advanced NCO Course. They are students and instructors from Fort Meade, Maryland. We're glad to have you here.

I'd also like to welcome the Navy. Admiral Pease is here with some officers who will give you a report on some new research. I will introduce them at the end of the briefing as they take over after me.

With that, I'll take your questions.

Q: On the matter this morning, do you have any identification of the individual involved? Also, the identification of the officer who was able to take the gun away from him?

A: Let me tell you briefly what happened and then I'll take your questions.

At about 8:12 this morning, an individual tried to get into the Mall Entrance without a pass. The officer asked him to step to the side. Very briefly he pulled a gun, the officer disarmed him, he was handcuffed and taken away. He remains under questioning now.

The name of the individual was Raymond Steve Maestas. He's 36 years old. He's 5'11" tall, 240 pounds. He is from West Covina, California, which is near Los Angeles. All of this information comes from his driver's license.

He was apprehended by an officer named Christopher Freeman who is quite a bit smaller than Mr. Maestas. Christopher Freeman is about 5'6", weighs about 165 pounds.

He was assisted in this arrest by a security aide named Marvin Frazier.

Basically what happened was that Freeman and Frazier were behind the desk that you probably all go by when you come in the Mall Entrance. When Maestas was unable to show an identification badge, he [Freeman] asked him to step to the officer's right, which is over by the X-ray machine. Freeman went around to talk to him. Maestas was wearing a knapsack at the time. Frazier immediately picked up the phone to call for reinforcements. Frazier, right after he dialed the number, looked up and saw that Maestas had pulled a gun on Freeman, but Freeman didn't see it because he was sideways to Maestas. Simultaneously, Freeman turned around, saw the gun was pulled, immediately grabbed his hand with the gun in it, pushed it to the side, pushed Maestas down to the ground -- wrestled him to the ground. At that point, Frazier, the aide, came around and helped him, and they handcuffed him. This was all done in a matter of probably less than a minute. The reinforcements arrived about a minute, maybe a minute and a half later.

Q: Was there a round in the chamber?

A: I understand it was a 9mm Baretta. It had a clip in it with ten rounds in it, and there was a round in the chamber. He also had, in the knapsack, 12 other magazines filled, so he had a total of 120 rounds in the knapsack, 10 rounds in the gun, a total of 130 in all.

Q: Any kind of service history that you've run on this individual?

A: We do not have any record that he served in the military, as of yet. He apparently does have a criminal record, but the California criminal reporting computer system is down this morning, [Laughter] and we are unable to find out what his criminal record is.

Q: There are reports he asked for someone when he entered the building.

A: Yes.

Q: Can you fill us in on that?

A: When he entered the building he asked to speak to "the Admiral in charge." Then he asked to speak to the "Vice Admiral about a car theft." I don't think he meant the Vice Admiral in charge of car theft, it was the Vice Admiral about a car theft. It was at that point that Officer Christopher Freeman asked him to step to the side because he concluded that this might be a tough case. This wasn't the normal guy coming to work.

Let me just sort of walk you through the events. Actually, he had tried to enter the entrance by the South Parking lot about 15 minutes before he got to the Mall Entrance and had been turned away because he didn't have a pass. He then went back, got into his car, drove to the Mall Entrance. He tried to get in through the parking security station, but was turned back. So he went around and parked in the extended Mall parking lot. In other words, he couldn't get close to the building. Then he walked in, and, as I said, at approximately 8:12 came through the Mall Entrance and tried to get in.

He was wrestled to the ground and taken to a holding area for people who are arrested in the building. We anticipate that he will be arraigned sometime this afternoon at U.S. Magistrate Court in Virginia, Alexandria. We don't know the time yet, when that will happen.

Q: Do you know the charges?

A: I don't know yet what he'll be charged with, no.

Q: You said that he was refused at one entrance,

A: Yes.

Q: . ..refused at a parking gate, and he wasn't being looked for? There was no alert?

A: First of all, it's very routine for people to come here without passes and try to get in. There's nothing unusual about that, and that doesn't trigger a report. Secondly, it's quite routine for people to come in a car who don't know the parking lot system and try to get through one of those parking control gates and be told they can't come and park close to the building. They're frequently told by the guards that they can find in a distant lot an empty parking place if they have an appointment to see somebody. So this didn't seem unusual in either case, and there were no phone calls made because of this.

Q: He was not exhibiting aberrant behavior at that time, but...

A: He was, but we didn't know it because the aberrant behavior is so much like what happens many, many times a day. [Laughter] No, people show up all the time without passes, and there are people who don't know the ropes, so we didn't know it was aberrant behavior at the time until he came into the building.

Now Officer Freeman did exactly what he was supposed to do. He did everything right. He had been trained in disarming people and he used that training and disarmed this guy very quickly and skillfully.

Q: Was the man's car found?

A: Yes. He was driving a red Chevy which he had rented from Avis at BWI on Friday. About an hour after he arrived, an Army EOD team was dispatched to his car. They were able to locate the car because they had the license number from the Avis key.

They first sent a canine team out to sniff the car, so a dog went and sniffed the car for explosives. The dog found no sign of explosives. Then the Army dispatched a robot called ARGUS, which is a small track vehicle with an arm and a TV camera on it. They put the key into ARGUS' hand and they manipulated it with the controls to go up and open the car door. They wanted to make sure that the car door wasn't rigged to explode when it was opened. So ARGUS went up and put the key in and turned the key. Unfortunately for a reason involving bright sunlight in the camera, they weren't able to manipulate ARGUS actually to open the door, so an Army EOD man, dressed up in one of those bomb protective suits, went out and actually opened the car door.

In the car they found an empty Coke can and a receipt from a CVS pharmacy for a pack of cigarettes. They found no explosives. They also found no indication of what he was doing or why.

Q: Beyond the car theft, has he said anything that shed any light on his motivation?

A: I'm not aware that he has at this stage. He's still being interviewed.

Q: This could potentially have been a very serious incident.

A: Well...

Q: If he had 130 rounds of ammunition.

A: I think what you should focus on is that the system here worked. He was not allowed into the building, he was apprehended before he even got by the desk. An officer who was courageous, well trained, and very decisive and quick did exactly what he was supposed to do -- moved the gun away, disarmed him, wrestled him to the ground, handcuffed him. At the same time his assistant had already called for reinforcements and the reinforcements arrived very, very quickly.

Q: Will this result in any review, perhaps even a routine review, of the security procedures? And are you confident generally that security at the Pentagon is adequate?

A: I think this shows that the force of 220 agents, defense protective agents, is extremely well trained and well suited for its job.

Obviously any incident like this causes Chief John Jester and his staff to sit down and review one, what happened; two, did it happen according to procedures; three, did everything go right; and four, was there anything we should have done differently; and five, should we reexamine procedures? That's sort of SOP in a situation like this. It doesn't mean that the procedures are wrong, it doesn't mean there will be a change. It just means that this is always an opportunity to look for ways to fine tune the operation.

Q: At any time did the security guards draw their guns?

A: No. The only person who was armed was Officer Freeman. The aide, Frazier, was not armed. Frankly, Freeman didn't have time to draw his gun.

Q: Is there no panic button up there? Do they have to actually, physically, phone for help?

A: In this case they phoned. I don't believe there's a panic button. I'll find that out. I don't actually know the answer to that question. I'll find that out.

Q: You mentioned he rented his car on Friday at BWI airport.

A: Right.

Q: Do we know if he flew into BWI that day, or he was...

A: That's what we're still trying to check. He is from California, but we don't know how long he'd been in the area. The obvious question is: did he fly in here with the weapon and the 130 rounds of ammunition, or did he acquire them here? If he acquired them here, how did he do it if he has a criminal record? Those are still questions we're looking into. As I say, the fellow is still being questioned.

Q: What other investigative agencies are involved?

A: Many. The FBI, for one, is involved.

Q: You say officer, is that his rank? Officer Freeman? And the spelling of Mr. Frazier's name? And is that his rank as well?

A: He's called a security aide. I believe that Frazier is spelled the normal way, F-R-A-S-E-R [corrected to F-R-A-Z-I-E-R], but I'll double check on that. Marvin is his first name. And there are ten of those. There are about ten aides and 220 officers who all have about eight and a half weeks of training before they become officers, and that's followed by about 12 weeks of on-the-job training once they get here.

Q: Am I accurate in my perception that there was one armed officer standing between this fellow and naval headquarters, all the staff upstairs, and the rest of the building, and at one point this guy had the drop on that guard that was armed, Mr. Freeman?

A: No. You're not entirely right. There was one officer and one aide and the security desk. You know the machine for checking packages is there. But yes, there were two people there and those two people were adequate to apprehend this fellow and disarm him.

Q: But there was nothing between that security desk and Naval headquarters, right?

Q: Did the security doors not close?

A: He was already inside. I don't believe the doors closed.

There is a panic button at the desk, in response to an earlier question, but the aide was already on the phone. So it was quicker for him, since he was already on the phone, to say, by the way we've got a strange fellow here that we're investigating. Then he looked up and saw that the gun had been pulled.

Q: What impact will this have on the current investigation that's being done, the review that's being done at the request of Congressman Traficant about security procedures here at the Pentagon?

A: I'm sure it will be one of the incidents that will be looked at. He'll have to draw his own conclusion about it, but the conclusion that Chief Jester has drawn is that here the system worked.

Q: Was this the first time, it's the first time I remember an armed person being apprehended at the gate.

A: I don't have the answer to that question. We'll get it.

Q: Just to clarify an earlier answer, you said you had no record that he was ever a member of any of the armed services. Are you still searching, or is that complete now, you're satisfied...

A: We're still looking, but the early returns did not indicate... Obviously when a fellow comes and asks for a person of a specific rank in a specific service, you might think he had some sort of connection with that service. In this case he might have worked in a shipyard. There could be any number of things. But so far, we haven't found any indication that that's the case.

Q: Is there an effort underway to determine whether or not his comments about an Admiral or a Vice Admiral was, in fact, true? That he does know somebody?

A: We haven't been able to determine that.

Q: His profession?

A: I don't know what his profession is.

Q: He did not then ask for someone specifically by name?

A: No.

Q: Were his actions captured on the Pentagon video monitor?

A: They were not. The monitoring system is not on all the time, or at least it wasn't on this morning at the Mall Entrance. It can be turned on, but this incident was over before they thought of turning the monitor on.

Q: What would the Pentagon say about Freeman other than he was just doing his job? Would the Pentagon say anything further? How would you characterize it?

A: He did his job very well. I said that he was courageous, well trained, decisive, quick moving, and he did exactly what he was trained to do. He did it extremely well.

Q: Would you say he averted tragedy?

A: He certainly prevented this fellow from getting into the building with many rounds of ammunition. Yes, I'd say he was [doing] what we train police officers, the protective force at the Pentagon, to do. He was a perfect example of training and courage coming to the fore all at once.

I pointed out to you that this fellow, Maestas, weighs 240 pounds, and that Officer Freeman is considerably smaller, weighs about 165 pounds. He works out. He's part of the emergency response team that the Pentagon has, sort of a separate, more elite SWAT team. These are the guys you see dress up in sort of Jedi-type uniforms in black at times of crisis around the building when we're expecting unusual events, challenges. He's one of those people. So he has additional training beyond what it takes to be an officer.

Q: How long has he been on the force?

A: I'm afraid I don't know that.

Q: You noted that everything went right the way it was supposed to work today. But it seems also, when you look at the situation, that there was certainly potential that if everything hadn't gone exactly right that we could have had a huge tragedy here today. Isn't it somewhat complacent to just say everything worked, everything's fine? Doesn't this point out that there may be more of a threat than was anticipated?

A: First of all, Jamie, I don't know how I can say anything different than everything worked because, in fact, it did. This is why we have police officers. This is why we have security, to prevent disasters. In this case, it worked.

I told you that every security incident gives us a reason to review our procedures and to review everything from training, to the recruiting of personnel, to the procedures, to the physical barriers at entranceways, and we will do that. That's not to say that anything was wrong or that we'll change anything, but it's an invitation for a review, and we will take that invitation.

But I think, looking at the facts here, you have to conclude that this went extremely well and we should thank Officer Freeman and we should thank Marvin Frazier, his aide, for the good job they did in apprehending this fellow.

Q: But is there concern that there were only two officers between this gunman and Naval headquarters?

A: First of all, Naval headquarters isn't exactly on the second floor of the Pentagon. One of the things we pointed out here was that the first thing the security aide, Frazier, did, was to call for reinforcements and the reinforcements were there very, very quickly. There are plenty of officers in the area, particularly during the heavy traffic times of the day. There are people moving around, there are people outside, there are people inside the building, so the reinforcements were there very quickly. I don't think you should necessarily assume that had this fellow gotten through, he would have had a clear shot at Naval headquarters which is on the fourth floor of the Pentagon. First of all, he may not have known where they were -- we don't know that. We don't know what he knew and what he didn't know. The indications were that this probably isn't the type of guy you'd ask to do complex problems for you if you needed a rational solution. He did not seem to be approaching his day in a rational way. So we don't know what would have happened when he got into the building, and, of course, that's one thing to worry about.

But the thing to focus on here is that the police agents, the protective service people, did exactly what they've been trained to do and the system worked.

Q: When he came to the South Parking lot earlier and tried to get in, did he ask for anybody there?

A: I don't believe he did. He just tried to get in. He may have thought that if he flashed the word "Admiral" around that people would just let him in. I have no idea what was on his mind, and that's one of the things we're trying to find out, exactly why he did this. We don't know why he did this. But it appears to be a very individual act by a person who clearly had something on his mind, but we haven't quite figured out what, yet.

Q: Was the gun concealed under a coat or in a holster somehow?

A: It was apparently in the knapsack, and he was able to reach in quickly and get it. That's my understanding.

Q: Can you clarify, is he still in the Pentagon?

A: Yes. There's a special holding area for people like him.

Q: You said...

A: But he's handcuffed, so don't worry. [Laughter] And we've taken his gun away.

Q: I wanted to ask you about the reinforcements that you said arrived very quickly. Can you describe how large of a group of reinforcements arrived?

A: We'll find out, but I don't know how many officers arrived.

Q: We were told earlier he would be taken to a Federal Magistrate in Alexandria for arraignment. Do you know when that might occur?

A: That's supposed to happen this afternoon, but I don't know the exact time. At the moment I came in here he was still being interviewed by the Defense Protective Service and the FBI.

Q: He's not been charged yet.

A: He has not been charged. That's why he has to go to the U.S. Magistrate's court, to be charged.

Q: Prior to his drawing the gun was there something in his manner or his dress or his attitude or the volume of his voice that prompted the suspicion of the officers?

A: Well one, that he didn't have a pass; and two, that he wanted to talk to the Admiral in charge and then to the Vice Admiral about car theft. Those two questions were a tip-off that this wasn't a normal Pentagon visitor.

Q: Was there anything bizarre about his behavior or the manner in which he was dressed or anything like that?

A: Well, he's an imposing looking fellow because of his size -- 240 pounds. But I don't believe he was dressed in a bizarre way that tipped people off.

Q: When there's a very serious intrusion like that...

A: There was not an intrusion. The intrusion did not take place.

Q: Attempted intrusion.

A: Right.

Q: When security is tipped about this, does defense security go to the vital offices around the Pentagon and also to protect top leaders in DoD?

A: Bill, I want to be very clear about this. This fellow did not get into the building. There was no reason to tip people off because he was apprehended before he got beyond the desk, and he was apprehended very, very quickly.

I think what you can tell from the way this happened is that the system is very responsive. Reinforcements were on the way, and they arrived shortly thereafter and helped take the guy away. Within an hour we had an EOD team on site with a robot checking out the car because we wanted to make sure there were no explosives in the car, so the system responded quickly.

Q: Is there such a contingency?

A: We have many contingencies.

Q: Has there been any effect on the military's movement of supplies or anything because of the UPS strike that you know of?

A: Not that I'm aware of.

Q: A Korean airliner is down near Guam. Can you update us on any military search and rescue efforts?

A: I cannot because I just saw the report as I walked in here. We're checking on that. Do we have any facts on that yet? I didn't even know it was a Korean airliner. I just heard there was a 747 reported missing off Guam. But we will follow that and let you know if we've been asked to provide any search and rescue.

Q: Do you have any details on the casualty in Bosnia the other day?

A: It appears to have been... The soldier died of a gunshot wound that appears to have been either accidental or self-inflicted, but it's still under investigation. We don't have a conclusive report yet on how it happened.

Q: Do you know what the soldier's job was or anything about him?

A: He was Staff Sergeant Ezzard C. Fuller, E-Z-Z-A-R-D, 42 years old, from Shreveport, Louisiana. He has a family -- survived by a wife and three daughters, a son, step-daughter, and two step-sons. He as assigned to the 603rd Transportation Company at Fort Polk, Louisiana. His specialty was truck driver. As I said earlier, the incident remains under investigation.

Q: Can you update us on the review of the enforcement of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy? Who's in charge of it and how long is it going to take? This evidently came up months ago, but...

A: It did. It came up shortly after the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network report came out. It's being done by Fred Pang, the Assistant Secretary for Force Management Policy, he's supervising it. I can't tell you when it's going to be completed, but it basically has two major elements to it. The first is to look at the number of people discharged every year because they've either announced that they were homosexuals or because they've been discovered to be homosexuals. In other words, discharged for homosexuality. That number has risen over the last several years, and we want to understand why it's risen. That's the first part of the study.

The second part of the study is to look into some of the specific charges that have been made by the SLDN and other groups about inappropriate investigations. We want to find out if those allegations are correct or not. The goal of the study is to find out if the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" law is clearly understood by members of the military -- both enlisted and officers, particularly by commanders -- and whether it's being consistently and fairly enforced throughout the military.

Secretary Cohen felt that the law which has been in effect for about three years could be appropriately reviewed, and we ought to find out, the implementation of it, could be appropriately reviewed now. We have some evidence, we have some facts. We ought to take a look at them and see where we stand.

This is a law. We cannot change the law. We don't intend to change the law. We don't want to change the law. It's just looking at how well the law's understood and how well it's being implemented.

Q: By any process at all, by the end of the year perhaps..

A: Oh, it will be done by the end of the year. I just don't have a precise date for when it will be done.

Q: What about the request from Speaker Gingrich that a new investigation be set up on sexual matters in the military? Is there anyone jumping to that here in the Pentagon?

A: We are doing it. We are, one, looking at the implementation of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Pursue" law, and we already have three separate investigations underway looking at issues that came out of Aberdeen and the Kelly Flinn case. These are three DoD investigations. As you know, the Army has done its own investigation of integrated training and how that's working in the Army and what some of the problems were that were illustrated by Aberdeen.

So we have many investigations underway, the most prominent of which is the panel being headed by former Senator Kassenbaum Baker that looks at integrated training, how it's working, and other related issues. They're supposed to report in the Fall. We also have the task force that's looking at the "good order and discipline" phrase, how that's understood, how it's implemented, whether there's clear and consistent application of that. And we have another group looking at the rules that deal specifically with adultery. That's also to look at the clarity of the language, the degree of understanding of the rule and how well it's being enforced.

Q: Is there any word yet on when military support to civilian agencies on the border might resume, and if there will be any conditions attached to that?

A: No. I'm afraid we haven't finished that review yet.

Q: On the UFO study that the CIA did over the weekend, or it was released or reported on over the weekend -- as Pentagon spokesman are you concerned about a report that says that the government willfully misled individuals to conceal programs?

A: I've read the CIA study, and I have read what they said about the Air Force. It's their characterization of what the Air Force said. I have not gone back and checked what the Air Force said at the time, so I'd prefer not to comment on what the study said. It is not the policy of Secretary Cohen or any of the people who work for him to mislead the public.

Q: Were you at all aware of any misleading of the public that was done by the Air Force prior?

A: I was not aware of that. I will say that one interesting aspect of the report was that for years, UFO people have been charging that we've covered up the fact that there really are UFOs, and the CIA study confirms, as has every other study done by the government, that we have no evidence of UFOs. We have no evidence of extraterrestrial visitors to this planet. The study goes on to say that one explanation for many of these sightings might have been airplanes that were being tested at the time.

Q: Do you think that applies to any programs that might be tested now, or can you say categorically that the Department does not engage in that kind of public relations activity in terms of programs that are perhaps flying today?

A: First of all, we certainly have classified programs and we certainly have legitimate reasons for not disclosing some of the work we're doing, whether it's research and development or whether it's operations. I am not aware that we are putting out stories that misstate the truth about those programs. The distinction would be we just don't talk about the programs at all, so I certainly wouldn't talk about any of those programs today.

Q: Have you seen reports about leaked declassified documents on the Air Force and POWs showing that the Air Force knew more about live POWs than was first admitted? Have you seen that report yet?

A: I have not seen that report. There have been similar reports in the past about other services, but I haven't seen any specific one about the Air Force so I can't comment on it at all.

Q: What's the status of the investigation into Ezequiel Hernandez's death? And do you...

A: I'm sorry?

Q: What's the status of the investigation into the death of the Redford teenager? And do you expect that investigation to come to an end any time soon?

A: Yes, I expect it to come to an end. I can't give you the exact timing of when it will come to an end. The initial conclusion of the Marine Corps when they looked into this was that the Marines acted appropriately. They felt they were under threat, they'd been fired upon, and they responded legitimately to defend themselves as they're allowed to do under the rules of engagement. But we are continuing to look at that incident. When we finish, we will report on the findings.

Q: A senior State Department official said yesterday that very soon arrests of Mladic and Karadzic would come. Does the Defense Department see it that way, that that is imminent?

A: I didn't see any report that that senior official said that. I have to confess, I haven't finished the transcript of the briefing, but I can't imagine that if he said that yesterday, it wouldn't have been reported. I don't think I should comment on that until I read the actual remarks myself. Did you see any reports that that's what he actually said?

Q: I asked the question. That "arrests would come soon" of these war criminals, and I take it that that arrest would come by what means? Anything to do with NATO or SFOR?

A: All I can tell you, Bill, is what we have said many times before, that we're determined to help the International War Crimes Tribunal bring indicted war criminals to justice.

Press: Thank you.