An Alexandria man has been charged in connection with a series of shots fired at military installations late last year.
Yonathan Melaku, 22, faces three counts of causing injury to U.S. property by shooting with a firearm and causing damage in excess of $1,000, and one count of discharging a firearm during a crime of violence.
The charges are in relation to a string of vandalism incidents last October involving gunshots fired at military targets including the Pentagon, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico and a military recruiting center in Chantilly.
The FBI announced the federal charges Thursday. According to the FBI, Melaku is listed as a Marine Corps reservist.
The first incident occurred at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico on Oct. 17. Officials said at least 10 shots were fired there.
“It appears that the rounds came from the Interstate 95 side of the building,” said Assistant Chief Mike Cosby of the Prince William County Police department during a press conference after the shootings.
Next, bullets were found embedded in windows at the Pentagon on Oct. 19. After the Pentagon shooting, guards there reported five to seven audible shots fired in the vicinity of the Pentagon's south parking lot.
An FBI investigation determined that those incidents, along with shots fired at a Marine recruiting station in Chantilly's Sully Plaza shopping center on Oct. 26, were all fired by the same weapon, but the FBI did not have any suspects in the case.
Not until Friday.
That day, Melaku was detained for trespassing after he was seen in Arlington National Cemetery overnight while the cemetery was closed, FBI officials said last week.
U.S. Park Police contacted the FBI after discovering that Melaku was carrying items in a backpack that raised concerns about public safety, FBI spokesman Andrew Ames said. The FBI and other agencies responded to the scene and shut down roads around the Pentagon.
Melaku’s backpack allegedly contained potential bomb-making materials, spent 9 mm shell casings and hand-scrawled references to Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban and al-Qaida, according to a search warrant affidavit made public Thursday.
U.S. Park Police later questioned Melaku and identified what they described as two potentially dangerous items in his possession, as well as in a red 2011 Nissan found parked in a wooded area near the Pentagon directly off routes 27 and 110. The FBI removed the vehicle from the scene for further examination.
The materials in the backpack also are undergoing further testing at the FBI laboratory in Quantico, he said. The FBI and Fairfax County police searched Melaku’s home in Alexandria, but did not comment on what was discovered from the search.
“Items discovered both in his backpack and in the vehicle were evaluated by our bomb techs and were determined to be nonexplosive and inert,” Ames said.
According to Ames, Melaku currently is listed as an active Marine Corps reservist.
U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Peter Carr announced the federal charges against Melaku on Thursday.
A search warrant affidavit of Melaku's Alexandria apartment claims that Melaku was in possession of several materials that are commonly used to make improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, as well as a video allegedly showing Melaku shooting a firearm out a car window near the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico. The affidavit says Melaku's voice can be heard on the video saying: "Last time I hit them they turned off the lights for like four or five days. So here we go again; this time I'm going to turn it off permanently."
Melaku was charged May 27 with four counts of grand larceny by the Leesburg Police Department.
He made an initial appearance in Loudoun County District Court on Monday, where a judge ordered him to be held without bond on two of the grand larceny counts. A trial date for the charges is pending.
The two grand larceny charges are in addition to a rash of other vehicle tampering cases Melaku is believed to have caused, according to Chris Tidmore of the Leesburg Police Department.