CRIME

Pentagon scare suspect, Yonathan Melaku, charged in military shootings

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The Marine reservist who caused a scare at the Pentagon last week is now facing charges in connection with five separate shootings at military facilities in northern Virginia, law enforcement officials said Thursday. 

Forensic evidence connects Jonathan Melaku, 22, to the mysterious shootings, between October and November 2010, at military facilities, including the Pentagon. No one was hurt in the shootings.

“Today’s charges allege a long-term pattern of violent behavior against the U.S. military that escalated until his detention last Friday,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride.

Authorities say Melaku videotaped himself carrying out the five shootings at military buildings. According to charging documents, Melaku states one video: “That’s my target. That’s the military building. It’s going to be attacked.”

The evidence was discovered in Melaku's Kingstowne home. During a search of his home Friday, officials seized the video and other items.

“We've located the weapon and we're in the process of transferring it to Quantico to the laboratory for ballistics,” said James McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI's Washington field office.

When authorities searched Melaku’s backpack last week, they found spent 9 mm shell casings, four clear Ziplock bags containing a powdery substance labeled “5 lbs” and “AN,” which turned out to be ammonia nitrate, an ingredient in homemade explosives, according to charging documents.

His backpack also had a spiral notebook with Arabic statements written in it referencing the Taliban, al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden, the “Path to Jihad,” and other references to people linked to foreign terrorist groups.

When authorities searched Melaku’s home, they discovered batteries, electrical wire, a digital kitchen timer and other materials that could be used to create an improvised explosive device, the documents state.

Melaku Complaint Affidavit

Melaku is in custody on unrelated charges. He was discovered after 1 a.m. Friday inside Arlington National Cemetery several hours after it had closed.

Officials investigated the contents of Melaku's bag and his car parked nearby, sparking authorities to close roads around the Pentagon, snarling traffic for hours.

The five shootings he is being investigated for started in October, when an unidentified suspect fired multiple rounds into the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle on Oct. 17. Then two days later, the gunman opened fire on the Pentagon just before five in the morning.

The series continued with a shooting late in October at the Marine Corps recruiting center in Chantilly, another shooting at the National Museum and a Coast Guard recruiting station near Potomac Mills Mall on Nov. 2.

Authorities at the time didn’t believe the gunman wanted to harm anyone because the suspect chose facilities that weren’t open at the time.

“It was really shocking and scary to find someone that’s (allegedly) done so many crimes alive so close to us,” he said.

Another neighbor, however, cautioned that much remains unclear about the incidents. “It would not be right to prejudge and form opinions without knowing all the facts,” Bill Hunley said.

Melaku, a naturalized citizen originally from Ethiopia, was detained for trespassing after becoming uncooperative, authorities said, but hadn't been charged as of Friday night.

Melaku was not believed to have any ties to al-Qaida or any other terrorist organization, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

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