Motel “Party” With Strangers Preceded Fort Meade Shooting

Two people 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, 27-year-old Ricky Shawatza Hall, a transgender woman who went by the name Mya, 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. Officials, who released Hall's identity on Tuesday, have not yet named the injured suspect.

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.''

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

The FBI said Monday that agents do not believe terrorism was their motive. No one has explained yet why they 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.

It's not uncommon for drivers to take the wrong exit and end up at the tightly secured gates of Fort Meade, which also is home to the Defense Information Systems Agency and the U.S. Cyber Command. About 11,000 military personnel and about 29,000 civilian employees with security clearances work on the property.

Most drivers 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 Hall 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.

Jon Reinach, owner of Fort Meade Auto Center, is used to giving directions to people trying to figure out how to properly enter security. Truck drivers also sometimes drop off their assistants at his shop because they don't have proper identification. And when people get stuck at the wrong entrance, "usually they'll pull over to a waiting area and they usually do check out.''

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

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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