The Marine Reservist and Fairfax County resident whose overnight presence at Arlington National Cemetery sparked an aggressive police response Friday may also be connected to the series of shootings at area military sites late last year, law enforcement sources said.
Jonathan Melaku, 22, of the Alexandria section of Fairfax County, was taken into custody early Friday. Authorities said he initially fled from police, had suspicious items in his backpack and told officers that the bag contained bombmaking materials. Authorities eventually determined that there was no immediate threat to the public.
No charges have been filed against Melaku in the series of five shootings at Northern Virginia military sites, which have been linked by investigators to the same weapon. But federal law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation said evidence found Friday links Melaku to the shootings.
The evidence against Melaku is “strong,” according to one federal source who said it involved “ballistics matches” but was not more specific.
The incidents began the night of Oct. 16 or early the next morning, when shots were fired at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle. The Pentagon was hit a few days later. A U.S. Marine recruiting center in Chantilly was next. Then the shooter returned to the Marine Corps museum and, finally, a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting center in Woodbridge in November.
Nobody was hurt in any of the shootings.
Authorities said Friday’s incident began about 1:30 a.m. when police spotted Melaku in the cemetery, which is closed to visitors overnight, and he ran from them. Melaku was then detained by U.S. Park Police, authorities said, and told officers that his backpack contained bombmaking materials, including ammonium nitrate, a compound used as a fertilizer and as a component of explosives, according to a law enforcement source, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.
The FBI reported that Melaku joined the Marine Corps Reserve on Sept. 4, 2007, and has been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal. He has not deployed overseas, the FBI said.
Melaku appeared in Loudoun County General District Court on two grand larceny charges Monday. He was ordered held without bond pending a Thursday hearing.
This item has been updated.
Washington Post staff writer Jerry Markon contributed to this report.