Discovery Employees Go Back To Work

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One day after a gunman terrorized employees at Discovery Communications headquarters in Silver Spring, Md., staffers were welcomed back to work Thursday morning by CEO David Zaslav, COO Peter Ligouri and founder and chairman John Hendricks.

The top executives were on hand to greet employees as they entered the glass-walled lobby, the very place where a gunman, explosives strapped to his body, held three employees hostage for nearly four hours until police shot and killed the man.

There was coffee, juice and muffins. And executives presided over a town hall before sending employees home at about 1 p.m. to get an early start on the long Labor Day weekend. About 1,900 employees work in the building.

Police completed a sweep of the building for additional explosives Wednesday night. David Leavy, Discovery Communications executive VP of communications and corporate affairs, said the company is reviewing security procedures. But he noted that in this case "security worked," as the gunman did not make it past security, but took his hostages -- three men, one of them a security guard -- in the building's lobby, which is open to the public.

One of the hostages, Jim McNulty, posted a blog on the company's web site thanking Montgomery County police for "helping to get me and my fellow hostages out safely."

"I especially want to thank Discovery for their support," he wrote, adding that he would not talk about his ordeal in detail as the police investigation is ongoing.

Discovery also put a photo on its site of employees gathered in the lobby, applauding the courage of their colleagues.

Leavy said the company followed very specific evacuation procedures and worked with authorities to ensure that employees and the children at the day care center in the building were quickly and safely evacuated.

"This is a very organized and disciplined company," he said. "And in this situation that discipline saved lives."

Montgomery County police identified the gunman as James J. Lee, a radical environmentalist who had staged at least one demonstration outside Discovery headquarters in 2008 for what he believed was the network's dearth of programming about environmental dangers including global warming and over-population.

During that protest, he paid homeless people to carry signs and threw wads of cash into the air. News footage of that event -- replayed by ABC Silver Spring affiliate WJLA -- shows throngs of people scrambling for the money. Lee was charged with disorderly conduct and ordered to stay 500 feet away from Discovery headquarters as part of his probation, which ended two weeks before the incident.

In court and on his website, Save the Planet Protest, Lee inveighed against Discovery content including multiple-birth programs Kate Plus 8 and 19 Kids and Counting, which air on TLC. Lee said the network should air "programs encouraging human sterilization and infertility."

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