'Forever grateful': Officer dies after being attacked outside Pentagon, officials say

An officer has died after being attacked on Tuesday morning at a transit station just outside the Pentagon, federal officials say.

The Pentagon Force Protection Agency, tasked with securing the building, identified the officer as George Gonzalez.

The suspect, who officials say ambushed and stabbed Gonzalez, died after being shot by law enforcement at the transit station, according to officials who were not authorized to discuss the matter and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. 

The PFPA said on Twitter the agency on Tuesday observed End of Watch, a ceremony following a police officer's death, for Gonzalez.

Gonzalez joined the PFPA in July 2018 and was quickly promoted to senior officer in 2020, according to the agency. A military and police veteran, Gonzalez previously served with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Transportation Security Administration, and the Army. He was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his service in Iraq, according to the PFPA.

"He took our mission of 'protecting those who protect our nation' to heart," the PFPA said. The agency described him as "gregarious" and "well-liked and respected by his fellow officers."

"Officer Gonzalez embodied our values of integrity and service to others," the agency said.

Gonzalez was a Brooklyn native, a die-hard Yankees fan and a graduate of New York City’s Canarsie High School, the PFPA added. 

The suspect was identified by multiple law enforcement officials as Austin William Lanz, 27, of Georgia, the AP reported, adding investigators were attempting to determine a motive in the attack and were digging into Lanz’s background, including any potential history of mental illness or any reason he might want to target the Pentagon or police officers.

Lanz had enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps in October 2012 but was “administratively separated” less than a month later and never earned the title Marine, the Corps said in a statement.

The Pentagon, the headquarters of the U.S. military, was temporarily placed on lockdown after the incident occurred near the entrance of the building. The violence broke out at a busy stretch of the Washington area’s transportation system, an area that is still on edge and reeling from the violence of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin extended his sympathies to Gonzalez's loved ones and ordered flags at the Pentagon to be flown at half-staff to honor the officer. 

"This fallen officer died in the line of duty, helping protect the tens of thousands of people who work in — and who visit — the Pentagon on a daily basis," Austin said in a statement. "He and his fellow officers are members of the Pentagon family, and known to us all as professional, skilled and brave. This tragic death today is a stark reminder of the dangers they face and the sacrifices they make. We are forever grateful for that service and the courage with which it is rendered."

Pentagon Force Protection Agency chief Woodrow Kusse saidat a press briefing Tuesday afternoonthat the officer "was attacked on the Metro Bus platform" and "gunfire was exchanged."

Kusse refused to outline what led up to the incident or discuss reports about the two deaths at a press briefing Tuesday afternoon. He cited the "active ongoing investigation" and said information was still being obtained about how the incident unfolded and how many people were involved. 

He said there were "several casualties," a term that can mean injured or deaths. 

Throughout the afternoon, condolences poured in for the officer, including from D.C. police and Sen. Mark Warner — the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Fairfax County Police Department Chief Kevin Davis ordered his officers to wear formal mourning bands, a black band that stretches over an officer's badge, in honor of the fallen officer. Fairfax County, Va. is the neighboring country to Arlington County, Va. where the Pentagon is located. 

Kusse said the incident would likely spur a security review at the Pentagon. 

"There are a number of measures that we have in place out there. Every time an incident occurs, whether it's here or anywhere else across the nation or in the world, we do after-action (reports) on those, we examine them, we look for things that we can do to improve," Kusse said. 

The FBI, which is leading the investigation into the incident, did not offer any details on the number of injured or how the incident unfolded when asked by USA TODAY. 

"At this time, it would be premature to speculate on motive, and in order to protect the integrity of the investigation we cannot provide additional details at this time," the bureau said in a statement provided to USA TODAY by spokeswoman Samantha Shero. "There is no ongoing threat to the public."

An Associated Press reporter near the building heard several gunshots, then a pause, then at least one additional shot. Another AP journalist heard police yell “shooter.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were at the White House meeting with President Joe Biden when the incident occurred.

It was the first deadly incident at the Pentagon's transit hub in more than 10 years. 

In 2010, two officers with the Pentagon Force Protection Agency were wounded when a gunman approached them at a security screening area. The officers, who survived, returned fire and killed gunman John Patrick Bedell.

Contributing: Tom Vanden Brook; The Associated Press