- The Washington Times
Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Marine Corps reservist who prompted a security alert near the Pentagon last week was charged in federal court on Thursday in connection with five shootings at military installations last year.

Yonathan Melaku, 22, of Alexandria was charged with destruction of property and gun violations in the series of overnight shootings in October and November. No one was hurt in the incidents.

“Today’s charges allege a long-term pattern of violent behavior against the U.S. military that escalated until his detention last Friday,” said Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Authorities arrested Mr. Melaku on June 17 when he attempted to flee officers after he was spotted at Fort Myer at about 1:30 a.m. According to an affidavit filed in court, as Mr. Melaku fled he dropped four bags containing ammonium nitrate — one of the components used in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.

He also dropped a backpack that contained spent 9 mm shell casings, a spiral notebook with Arabic statements referencing the Taliban, al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, “The Path to Jihad” and a list of individuals associated with foreign terrorist organizations.

The affidavit said authorities searched Mr. Melaku’s home and found a typed list in his bedroom closet titled “Timer” that included nine items used in the building of an improvised explosive device (IED).

“Combined with ammonium nitrate, these items would make up several significant components needed for an IED,” the court papers said.

The affidavit also says law enforcement found a videotape in Mr. Melaku’s bedroom that shows him in an automobile driving near what appears to be the U.S. Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, Va., and repeatedly firing a handgun out the passenger-side window.

It said Mr. Melaku made numerous statements on the video, including “That’s my target. That’s the military building. It’s going to be attacked” and after firing multiple shots saying, “Allahu Akbar.”

The affidavit says that authorities determined that some of the shell casings found in Mr. Melaku’s backpack when he was taken into custody matched the brand of ammunition used in the shootings at the military facilities. The affidavit states that the bullets and fragments recovered from the shooting were fired from the same gun.

Mr. Melaku is accused of firing multiple 9 mm rounds at the Pentagon, a Marine Corps recruiting substation in Chantilly, a U.S. Coast Guard recruiting office in Woodbridge, Va., and the National Museum of the Marine Corps twice.

Authorities said the shootings resulted in more than $100,000 in damages.

Officials said Mr. Melaku joined the Marine Corps Reserve on Sept. 4, 2007, and is currently listed as a Marine Corps reservist lance corporal and a motor vehicle operator with Combat Engineer Support Company, 4th Combat Engineer Battalion, 4th Marine Division, Marine Forces Reserve.

He has been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal. He has not deployed overseas.

If convicted, Mr. Melaku faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison on each of the two willfully injuring the property of the United States charges and a total mandatory minimum of 35 years and a maximum of life in prison if he is convicted of both use of a firearm during a crime of violence charges.

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