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Wrong turn? Authorities try to narrow causes of NSA security scare at Fort Meade

With a bevy of exit ramps that wind and weave their way through the area, the FBI is not discounting the idea that the driver of the SUV just made a wrong turn and then panicked as he approached armed guards outside the secure NSA gate.

WASHINGTON — The investigation into Wednesday’s NSA security incident is still ongoing, but authorities are not discounting that a wrong turn may have started the whole thing.

The shooting left three people with injuries, including the driver of an SUV that crashed into a barrier with apparent bullet holes in it, as well as an NSA police officer and a civilian onlooker.

Two passengers were also in federal custody as the FBI tried to sort out the details.

“We are making a determination as part of the ongoing investigation as to what happened leading them on to the NSA compound and then what happened once they got on the compound,” said Gordon Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Baltimore field office.

With a bevy of exit ramps that wind and weave their way through the area, the FBI is not discounting the idea that the driver of the SUV just made a wrong turn and then panicked as he approached armed guards outside the secure NSA gate.

“That is certainly one of the theories we are looking at,” said Dave Fitz, an FBI spokesman, in a text message response to a question about the possibility of a wrong turn leading to the confrontation.

The Washington Post quoted Fitz as saying that it’s too early to definitively say that’s what happened, but it appears the investigation is moving that way at this time.

At a news conference on Wednesday, the FBI said there was nothing to indicate what happened had any roots in terrorism, and further investigation into the three people inside the SUV has failed to turn up any terrorism connections.

“I cannot emphasize enough that we believe there is no indication that this has a nexus to terrorism,” said Johnson.

But with the driver of the SUV hospitalized, any final conclusions can’t be drawn until authorities are able to talk to him. It’s unclear what the condition of the driver was Wednesday.

And despite the fact that someone opened fire on the SUV, no one inside the vehicle appeared to suffer any gunshot-related injuries.

The vehicle in question is apparently a rental car.

The NSA campus — in suburbs edged by woods outside the nation’s capital — sits by a highway with an exit specifically designated for NSA employees. But drivers have taken the wrong exit before and ended up at the tightly secured gates. Most motorists then carefully follow the orders of heavily armed federal officers and turn around without getting into further trouble.

But in early 2015, two people were shot by NSA police when they disobeyed orders outside the heavily secured campus. One driver died at the scene after NSA police opened fire on a stolen sports utility vehicle. Authorities later said they had stolen a car from a man who picked them up for a party at a motel.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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