Evidence has linked last week’s suspicious person near the Pentagon to last fall’s shootings at military targets, a source told NBC Washington.
Federal law enforcement officials told NBC that they are preparing to charge Marine reservist Yonathan Melaku in connection with the shootings.
Melaku, 22, caused a security scare that prompted massive road closures near the Pentagon during the Friday morning rush, authorities said. U.S. Park Police detained him for trespassing after observing him in Arlington National Cemetery, searching his backpack after initially fearing he might have bomb-making materials. He also left his vehicle parked in the woods near the Pentagon, police said. Authorities found no explosives but found a notebook in which "al-Qaida" and "Taliban Rules" were written. The context is unclear, but authorities do not believe Melaku has ties to any terrorist organizations, the Associated Press reported.
InsideNova.com reported that an anonymous source said forensic evidence links Melaku to five shootings at military buildings in October and November. Federal law enforcement officials did not confirm for NBC that the evidence is forensic in nature. They said the evidence connecting Melaku to the shootings was developed after his arrest Friday. An official described it as ballistics evidence for the Associated Press.
"We immediately wondered when we found him near the Pentagon in the early morning hours if he might be responsible for the shooting, and information we've developed since then confirms it," a law enforcement official said.
Shots were fired at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., on Oct. 17 and Oct. 30. On Oct. 19, shots were fired at the Pentagon, shattering windows just before 5 a.m. Shots fired at the Marine Corps recruiting center in Chantilly on Oct. 26 and the Coast Guard recruiting station near Potomac Mills on Nov. 2 were linked to the other incidents. The five shootings were done with the same gun. No one was injured in the shootings.
On Monday in Loudoun County District Court, Melaku, a lance corporal with the Marine Reserves, was ordered to be held without bond until his next court appearance for grand larceny charges related to more than two dozen vehicle break-ins in the Leesburg area.
Melaku, a naturalized citizen from Ethiopia who lives in Alexandria, was scheduled to return to Loudoun County District Court Thursday.
No federal charges have been filed in relation to Friday's scare, but Melaku's detention on state charges gives federal authorities more time to investigate the incident and determine whether any crimes were committed.
Melaku joined the Marine Corps Reserve in September 2007 and was assigned as a motor vehicle operator to a unit based in Baltimore, the Associated Press reported. Spokesman Lt. Col. Francis Piccoli said Wednesday the Marine Corps was in the process of trying to remove him from the service based on the grand larceny charges. Melaku has not tried to contest his removal, Piccoli said.
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