Pentagon Scare Suspect, Yonathan Melaku, Charged in D.C. Area Military Shootings

Above: A suspicious car and a backpack prompted authorities to close major highways around the Pentagon on Friday. (AP)

Tadias Magazine
News Update

Friday, June 24, 2011

New York (Tadias) – Yonathan Melaku, a 22-year-old Alexandria resident and a Marine Corps Reserve lance corporal, has been charged with the series of shootings at D.C. area military sites that took place last fall.

Prosecutors said in court paper that they have evidence that the suspect videotaped himself shouting “Allah Akbar” after he fired shots into the windows of the U.S. Marine Corps museum, located in Triangle, Virginia, on October 16, 2010.

“Alright next time this video turns on, I will be shooting,” Melaku said on the video, court papers say. “That’s what they get. That’s my target. that’s the military building. It’s going to be attacked.”

Melaku was taken into custody at Arlington National Cemetery on Friday, June 17 after he was found carrying a backpack containing suspicious items, including the bomb making material ammonium nitrate, spent 9mm shell casings, work gloves, a headlamp and pro-al Qaeda literature.

“Today’s charges allege a pattern of violent behavior…we believe his statements that he’s targeting military installations speak to his desire to engage in violent activity against the military,” U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride said.

Video: Yonathan Melaku of Virginia Charged With Military Shootings (The Associated Press)

According to The Washington Post, Melaku remains jailed in Virginia where he has been charged with four counts of grand larceny involving car vandalism and theft. Police records show he was also arrested on May 26 in Leesburg, Virginia, for allegedly smashing windows and stealing property from 27 cars.

“Its always disappointing when someone who wears this uniform gets in trouble with the law,” Lt.. Col Chris Hughes, a spokesman for the Marines, told the Washington Post.

According to the FBI, he serves as “a Marine Corps reservist Lance Cpl and a motor vehicle operator with Combat Engineer Support Company, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve. He has previously been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal. He has not deployed overseas.”

The military said paperwork has been filed for the Lance Corporal to be removed from the service. “Melaku was notified Tuesday at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center that he will be processed for administrative separation due to charges of serious offense,” said the Marine Corps in a statement.

Melaku is a naturalized American citizen from Ethiopia.

Watch: Pentagon scare suspect, Yonathan Melaku, charged in shootings

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Tadias Magazine
News Update

June 20, 2011

Washington, D.C. (Tadias) – No explosives were found following last Friday’s dramatic bomb scare at the Pentagon. However, is Lance Corporal Yonathan Melaku, the 22-year old Ethiopian-American decorated Marine reservist, who was detained for trespass that morning at Arlington National Cemetery on suspicion of carrying bomb making materials near the Defense Department headquarters, “simply an unstable, misguided young man, or a cold-blooded lone wolf terrorist?”, ABC News asks, adding that an international investigation has been launched to find the answer. Authorities said Mr Melaku does not appear to have known ties to any terror organization.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post quoted a law enforcement official as saying “This looks like a whole big bunch of nothing” regarding Friday’s Pentagon bomb scare that brought local morning traffic to a standstill – triggered by a red 2011 Nissan and a backpack belonging to the suspect.

According to police records, Melaku also appears to have recent history of run-ins with the law involving car vandalism and theft. A man by the same name was arrested on May 26 in Leesburg, Virginia, for allegedly smashing windows and stealing property from 27 cars.

Lance Corporal Melaku was taken into custody at Arlington National Cemetery early Friday morning suspected of carrying bomb making materials, including what was believed to be ammonium nitrate, and pro-al Qaeda literature. The FBI, however, said no explosives were found in the car or bag and that the al Qaeda reference was mostly notes for a financial class.

The official also told The Washington Post that the agencies involved — including FBI’s Washington Field Office, United States Park Police, Pentagon Force Protection Agency, Ft. Myer Police, Arlington County Police Department and Arlington County Fire Department — were appropriately responding in high alert mode. “With what’s been going on in the world lately and what he said, unfortunately this is what we have to do,” the official said. “You have to go to Defcon 1 and then work your way back down to make sure…I’m sure people were upset sitting in traffic, but that’s the price you pay living in the nation’s capital.”

Authorities searched Melaku’s home located at the Autumn Chase development in Fairfax County and found nothing that would raise public safety concerns.

“We went into a residence … on the public safety provision to confirm [there were] no hazards. There is no public safety hazard at this time,” Andrew C. Ames, an FBI spokesman, said.

As to the contents of his backpack: “It didn’t burn, didn’t blow up, didn’t do anything,” an official with the FBI told The Washington Post. “We’re not certain what the materials were, but it wasn’t anything that was going to cause an explosion or even a fire.”

According to ABC News: “Sources also said there were pro-al Qaeda statements found in a notebook that contained mostly notes for a financial class. There was also was a page containing words “al qaeda,” “Taliban rules,” “mujahidin” and “defeated coalition forces.”

Melaku, a resident of Alexandria, has not been charged in the Pentagon incident, but faces four counts of grand larceny in connection with the series of car vandalism incidents in Leesburg.

Melaku is a naturalized American citizen. According to the FBI, he serves as “a Marine Corps reservist Lance Cpl and a motor vehicle operator with Combat Engineer Support Company, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve. He has previously been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal. He has not deployed overseas.”

Per The Washington Post: “The incident began about 1:30 a.m. when police found [Yonathan Melaku] at Arlington Cemetery, said Brenda Heck, a counterterrorism official for the FBI’s Washington field office. He fled officers, but was eventually taken into custody. Cemetery visiting hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Heck said the man’s backpack and behavior initially aroused concern. The sack contained items in bags, which initially appeared suspicious, Heck said. The man also refused to cooperate with officers and, after an interview, they decided it was important to find his car, Heck said. Arlington County police found the red 2011 Nissan off Washington Boulevard near the Pentagon shortly before the morning commute began, according to Heck. The investigation closed Routes 27 and 110, all ramps to and from Interstate 395 near the Pentagon and eastbound Interstate 66 to Route 110. The Pentagon remained open.”

“He’s a pretty normal person,” said Dagnachew Bizuwerk, an 11-year-old Ethiopian boy who lives across the street from Melaku’s family, speaking to reporters about Yonathan’s father who works as a taxi driver . “He was a person that doesn’t really talk a lot, a quiet man, doesn’t say much.”
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Photo credit: Yonathan Melaku in a booking photo from an arrest in May. (Leesburg Police Department/Reuters/May 26, 2011)

Related:
No explosives found with man in custody near Pentagon (Reuters)

Video: Backpack, Suspicious Man Found Near Pentagon (The Associated Press)

16 Responses to “Pentagon Scare Suspect, Yonathan Melaku, Charged in D.C. Area Military Shootings”


  1. 1 Dawit Jun 18th, 2011 at 1:35 pm

    “A Whole Big Bunch of Nothing” is quite an appropriate.

  2. 2 Sara Belay Jun 18th, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    glad it was resolved peacefully, it could have been worse. Given what we know now that he is an active Marine reserve and all that , had the officers used excessive force or hurt the guy in anyway, at it often happens with minorities, I think it could have been hugely controvesrial. I think they acted out of an abundance of caution to protect the Pentagon on this one, as they should, and they handled it extremely professionally.

    Hanging out at Cemetery in the middle of the night sounds very creepy. Hope he gets the help he needs. Glad he is back with his family.

  3. 3 China Jun 18th, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    It was really hilarious to see when this news broke that some journalist were suggesting Yonatan was a Muslim. If you are an Ethiopian and if you lived in Ethiopia, you may not know his exact religion, but hearing his name tells you that he is more likely to be a christian than any other religion. In fact, Yonatan which is a very common among the majority of Christians in Ethiopia, is original Hebrew form of Jonathan.

  4. 4 Yoni Jun 18th, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    What is it with Ethiopian guys and breaking windows? Breaking into 27 cars in one night is very troubling. Bro needs some help.

  5. 5 TOLA Jun 19th, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Hey this guy needs help, i don’t think he is a terrorist but mentally troubled guy. He may need support in terms of life choices.

  6. 6 Ras Mitat Jun 20th, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Wrong place at the wrong time.

  7. 7 Kerchelle Jun 20th, 2011 at 6:39 am

    He is extremely lucky for not being gunned down by those paranoid cops.

  8. 8 Mek Jun 20th, 2011 at 9:27 am

    If his Dad is like most Taxi drivers in DC, mostly concerned in what’s happening in ET and the social circle of the DC life than their kids, I am not surprised. Ethiopian DAD’s please be there for your kids…they need direction and leadership from you. Give them the most important element in parenting…TIME. If not am not surprised if we see many of these stories coming up in the future. There are a lot more of us now in the States.

  9. 9 Ethiopia Jun 20th, 2011 at 5:18 pm

    Ethiopians are no terrorists. This young man is obviously troubled and needs mental evaluation and help. No sane person hangs out in the cemetery at 1:30 am in the morning.
    I hope he gets the help he needs. There are Ethiopian mental therapists who can help.

  10. 10 Ras Mitat Jun 20th, 2011 at 5:34 pm

    From all the facts, it is clear that he is no Terrorist. ABC news was the one that was jumping all over the place on this story. But no doubt he needs help. He is a Marine, can’t the Vet Hospital take care of him?

    But you must admit this was the perfect case for live practice and dress rehearsal for the Feds. You’ve got a foreign-born decorated United States Marine Reservist with a sketchy legal background hanging out in a cemetery in the middle of the night near the pentagon. Bingo! Let’s test this baby out in full gear. That’s really what happened. Oh well. S—t happens.

  11. 11 Meron Jun 20th, 2011 at 5:42 pm

    Response to Mek:

    I like the way you stereotype Ethiopians in D.C. out of willful ignorance. For the record, this is not the 1980s. The profession of Ethiopians are very diverse and includes taxi drivers, pilots, Marine Reservists, wealthy & enterprising individuals, academics, shop keepers, scientists, hotel managers, bartenders, cruz-ship operators, engineers, doctors, and much, much more. Think.

  12. 12 Mek Jun 21st, 2011 at 8:09 am

    In Response to Meron,

    Please look at details when you read stories, it says his Dad is a taxi driver in DC. I am not undermining the fact that we have come a long way. I myself was educated in the DC area and have a professional job. Do some research and find out yourself on how many young men with Ethio origin get in trouble with the Law the number is growing very rapidly. From my observation, these are not criminals but kids with lack of direction and leadership in their lives and a lot of time on their hands. Thus, they get involved with the wrong crowed, etc. Just because we don;t get to hear it on the news doesn’t mean its not happening. I don’t know about you, but I am very much connected to the community through different avenues and I see a weak link in the father/son relationships. Unless we take the TIME now, we will not have a good harvest (law abiding citizens who make contributions to society) in the future. Bet on it!

  13. 13 whatgives Jun 23rd, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    Everybody who defended this guy…..eat your words. I’m not a profiler or a “tough on crime” guy by any means, but i knew something was up ever since i heard about the incident. what innocent person trespasses into arlington national cemetary overnight with chemicals that can be used to create explosives, spray paint cans, and notebooks with pro-terrorist language? not to mention that he RAN from police. how was he ever released from federal custody in the first place?? why on every article i read online the first day everybody was defending this guy?

  14. 14 Yoni Jun 23rd, 2011 at 10:02 pm

    Can’t really blame the lame street media on this one. It turns out the guy may actually be a clear case of a “Lone wolf terrorist” as ABC said. He is either crazy or playing crazy with the car breaking drama. But the shooting accusations are very serious matters. Who knows what lurks behind the brains of people like this gentleman. I am really curious to see what has driven him to this point so that we learn to avoid his issues. Glad he was caught before he has done harm to people.

  1. 1 Ethiopian-American Marine Reservist Linked to Virginia Shootings at Tadias Magazine Pingback on Jun 23rd, 2011 at 6:43 pm
  2. 2 Pentagon Scare Suspect, Yonathan Melaku, Linked to Virginia Shootings Pingback on Jun 24th, 2011 at 5:41 am
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