CRIME

Yonathan Melaku pleads guilty

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Suspected military shooter Yonathan Melaku Thursday pleaded guilty to firing into military installations throughout the region.

Prosecutors charged Melaku last year, saying they have evidence linking him to a series of overnight shootings in October and November of 2010 at a number of military buildings in northern Virginia. No one was injured in the shootings.

“Yonathan Melaku pled guilty to carrying out a calculated, destructive campaign to instill terror throughout our community,” said U.S. Attorney Neil MacBride. “The video he filmed during one drive-by shooting is a chilling portrayal of his intent and the escalating danger he posed. Thanks to the FBI and their law enforcement partners, we were able to apprehend Mr. Melaku, develop the evidence that linked him to the shootings, and secure this conviction today.”

As the federal judge questioned Melaku Thursday whether he committed each of these crimes, Melaku replied quietly "Yes sir," with his hands clasped behind his back.

FBI Special Agent Jacqueline Maguire said, "This case shows that there is violent, homegrown extremism in our community."

He's set to be sentenced in April.

Authorities earlier said ballistics evidence links all five shootings to the same gun, and authorities found a video that they say Melaku made of himself that shows him firing shots from Interstate 95 at the Marine Corps museum.

Court documents show that Melaku had videotaped himself driving past the Marine Corps Museum in Triangle, Va., firing a handgun out his car's window. The video shows Melaku narrating the incident, saying "That's a military building and that's the building I'm going to be targeting... Last time I hit them, they turned off the lights for like... Four or five days... Punks! Now, here we go again. This time, I'm gonna turn it off permanently. Alright. Alright, next time I turn on this video, I'm gonna be shooting them. That's what they get... That's the target. That's the military building that's going to, gonna get attacked."

Melaku is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ethiopia.

Watch a homemade video of Yonathan Melaku released by federal authorities.

Melaku was arrested and charged in June when he was spotted after dark in Arlington National Cemetery with a backpack containing 20 pounds of ammonium nitrate, a potential bomb-making material, and notations referring to jihad and Osama bin Laden. That arrest set off a massive security scare around the Pentagon.

After the shootings, Melaku was dismissed from the Marine Corps reserves because of unrelated larceny charges in Loudoun County. He struck a plea deal on the state charges that resulted in a six-month jail term, including time served.

 

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