A 29-year-old man accused of throwing a lighted molotov cocktail into the food court of an Arlington County mall was charged with arson Friday by federal authorities.
Leon Alphans Traille Jr. didn’t speak during an appearance in Alexandria federal court Friday afternoon when U.S. Magistrate Judge Theresa C. Buchanan questioned him.
“Do you speak English?” Buchanan asked.
“Mr. Traille?” she prompted.
And then, after another pause, “Mr. Traille?”
Officials said that no one was injured when Traille allegedly tossed a brown glass bottle from the top floor into the midst of the lunch crowd at Ballston Common Mall on Thursday. The bottle smashed, but it did not explode despite the flame.
Traille then dropped a bag with three more molotov cocktails from the second floor skyway and left the mall, according to court documents.
The mall was evacuated and a nearby road closed. Witnesses described the suspect’s features and his red-and-gray backpack, and Traille was arrested near the Court House metro station Thursday afternoon.
If convicted of the arson charge, Traille faces a minimum of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison.
The investigation is in the early stage, said Peter Carr, spokesman for U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride.
The FBI, Arlington police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are involved in the investigation. Handling the prosecution is Assistant U.S. Attorney Dennis Fitzpatrick of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia’s National Security and International Crime Unit.
Officials don’t know where Traille has been living and have no indication of a motive, Carr said.
According to public records, Traille’s last address was in Staten Island, and in Georgia before that. In a newspaper account from 2001, he was listed as a candidate for graduation from a high school in Tyrone, Ga.
Asked whether Traille had been cooperative, Carr gestured to the courtroom: Unresponsive.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.