It was unclear what possessed a 25-year-old man to walk into a Baltimore television news station Thursday and demand airtime, police said. But he was shot and wounded by officers after a brief standoff.
“Why did he do this?” Baltimore police spokesman T.J Smith asked. “We don’t know the answer to that.”
The man was wearing a hedgehog or panda onesie. The makeshift explosives were fashioned from wires and chocolate bars wrapped in foil, police said. His face was hidden behind sunglasses and a surgical-type mask.
The incident began about 1:20 p.m. with a call to police about a man in an animal outfit who displayed “what appeared to be some type of explosive device” at the offices of FOX45, Smith said.
In the vestibule, the man in the onesie displayed a flash drive and said he wanted to air information comparable to the Panama Papers, FOX45 News Director Mike Tomko told reporters, according to the CNN affiliate. The Panama Papers are leaked documents that alleged some world leaders used secret offshore companies and accounts to hide billions of dollars.
“What it is that he wanted them to air is something we’re still investigating,” Smith said.
The intruder said he had a bomb and “a message he wanted to be heard” before handing a flash drive to security guard Joural Apostolides, according to the guard.
Apostolides told the station he checked the content of the drive on a computer and it had to do with astronomy, black holes and space. He and the intruder talked for about 45 minutes.
“At first I thought it was a joke,” the security guard said. “I mean, he was wearing a hedgehog onesie. So I didn’t really think it was serious, but then he kept on saying he didn’t want to hurt anyone and … I told him that I understood that and, if he wanted to sit tight, I would try to help him out.”
Smith described the man’s outfit as a panda onesie and said the alleged explosive device was found to be a flotation device rigged with foil-wrapped candy bars and a small motherboard.
Station employees and visitors were safely evacuated from the building as a precaution. Employees and bystanders later stood near the station watching the drama unfold, as police surrounded the building and a helicopter hovered above.
Around the same time, Smith said, a car outside the station was set ablaze, with a rag inside the gas tank. Police believe the station intruder was also connected to the arson.
The man in the mask came out of the building at one point and slowly advanced toward police officers, ignoring their orders to take his hands out of his pockets, according to Smith.
Smith initially said the man was shot by a police sniper, but later reported that three officers opened fire and struck the suspect more than once.
A bomb squad robot was used to communicate with the wounded suspect and remove his hands from his pockets.
The unidentified man, who has not been charged, was in serious but stable condition with non-life threatening injuries, Smith said.
CNN correspondent Brian Stelter reported from the scene that officers were following the man out of the building and shots were heard after he didn’t obey their commands. He said members of the media crouched behind vehicles.
Baltimore Police Chief Kevin Davis said it is unfortunate that bizarre occurrences such as Thursday’s “very, very unusual event” were becoming common in America.