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Marine Reservist Eyed In 2010 Gunfire At Pentagon

Ballistics evidence may tie a man arrested at Arlington National Cemetery last week to a mysterious series of shootings at military buildings in the Washington, D.C., area, in 2010, federal authorities say.

Yonathan Melaku, 22, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, has been in custody since police found him wandering the cemetery after it had closed. He was carrying a backpack he said was full of explosives. The FBI later determined the material in the backpack was inert.

FBI investigators had theorized that the person responsible for firing shots at the Marine Corps Museum and the Pentagon last year had a grudge against the military. If early ballistics tests are accurate, that hunch may prove right.

Two sources say they have linked Melaku, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ethiopia, to last year's shootings at those locations.

Melaku, who lives in Alexandria, Va., has not been charged in any of the shootings, which appeared to target the buildings themselves. No one was injured by the gunfire.

When he was found at the cemetery, he was carrying a notebook that contained the words "al-Qaida" and "Taliban Rules" written inside. The context of the words was not immediately clear.

The gunfire erupted at night, when buildings were empty. The Marine Corps Museum was targeted twice. Two windows were shot out at the Pentagon. A Marine Corps recruiting station in Chantilly, Va., outside Washington was also targeted.

Authorities are continuing to investigate Melaku's connections and other activities leading up to his arrest. He's being held on local larceny charges while the FBI examines his background.

Melaku has a status hearing Thursday in Loudoun County, Va., on the unrelated larceny charges. He has not been charged in the incident last week or the shootings.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this report

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.