Northern Virginia military shootings

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The Northern Virginia military shootings were a series of attacks targeting military facilities at times when they were believed to be unoccupied during October and November 2010. Forensic examination of the bullets left at the various scenes confirmed that all of the shots were from the same rifle.[1]


The first shooting was aimed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia on October 16, when bullets from a high-velocity rifle penetrated the atrium skylight. On October 19, 2010 shortly before 5 a.m., an unidentified gunman shot at the south side of The Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, shattering, but not penetrating windows on the third and fourth floors. The offices behind those windows were vacant due to renovations. The Pentagon Reservation was locked down as authorities swept the area for evidence, and the building was reopened about 5:40 a.m. The Joint Terrorism Task Force is leading the investigation into the incident.[2] Then the shooter attacked the Marine Corps Museum again on October 29.[3] The same rifle was used to attack a Marine Corps recruiting center in Chantilly, Virginia on October 26.[4][5]

This series of attacks prompted the organizers of the October 31, 2010 Marine Corps Marathon to upgrade security precautions, which proceeded without incident.[6][7] On November 3, authorities announced that the same rifle was used to shoot at a United States Coast Guard recruiting center in Woodbridge, Virginia on late November 1 or early November 2.[1]


The person behind the attacks remained unknown until June 17, 2011 when Yonathan Melaku, a 22-year-old naturalized American from Ethiopia and Marine Corps Reserve Lance Corporal, was found at Arlington National Cemetery while it was closed.[8] He was arrested by two officers from the U.S. Park Police. A search of his backpack revealed that he was carrying spent shell casings, a notebook containing references to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, and plastic bags filled with ammonium nitrate, a common component of homemade explosives.[8] He had no identification on him at the time of his arrest. He also left his rental vehicle parked in the woods near the Pentagon. The U.S. Park Police obtained a copy of the rental contract from the information affixed to the car key. The contract had his name listed. The U.S. Park Police conducted name check of his name for a Virginia drivers license. Once police obtained a drivers license number, the Park Police obtanied his license photograph. After the Park Police informed him of his name, date of birth, social security number, and address, he confessed to his crimes. He had also been recently charged with breaking into 27 cars in suburban Washington.[9] The investigation of the incident connected Melaku to the shootings, and on June 23, 2011, he was charged with two counts of willfully injuring the property of the United States, for which he faces up to 20 years in prison, and two counts of using a firearm during a violent crime, for which he faces up to a life sentence, with more charges possible.[8]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation worked with the Fairfax County Police, the Prince William County police and the Pentagon Force Protection Agency to investigate the case.[7]

On January 11, 2013, Melaku was sentenced to 25 years in prison.[10] This sentence was the outcome of a plea deal; afterward, Melaku retained new counsel and was diagnosed with schizophrenia, but decided to stick with the plea deal.[11]


  1. ^ a b Maria Glod and Josh White (November 4, 2010). "Authorities link shooting at Coast Guard center to 4 others". Washington Post. p. B1.
  2. ^ Christy Goodman and Maria Glod (October 20, 2010). "Gunman sought in Pentagon shooting". Washington Post. p. B1.
  3. ^ Sorcher, Sara (October 29, 2010). "Authorities report another shooting at Marine Corps museum". National Journal. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  4. ^ "Chantilly Shooting Linked to Pentagon, Marine Museum". NBC News4. October 28, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  5. ^ Josh White and Maria Clod (October 29, 2010). "Recuriting station shots linked to 2 incidents". Washington Post. p. B10.
  6. ^ "Linked Shootings Prompt Marine Corps Marathon Security Concerns". NBC News4. October 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  7. ^ a b Maria Glod and Kafia Hosh (October 30, 2010). "FBI: Shooter could be a Marine". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-11-04.
  8. ^ a b c Pentagon suspect charged with shooting at military buildings
  9. ^ Olivia Katrandjian (June 18, 2011). "Pentagon Bomb Scare: Is the Suspect a Lone-Wolf Terrorist?". abc News. Retrieved 2011-06-23.
  10. ^ Jouvenal, Justin (January 12, 2013). "Yonathan Melaku, who fired at Pentagon and other military facilities, gets 25 years in prison". Washington Post. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  11. ^ Matthew Barakat (11 January 2013). "Marine who shot at Pentagon gets 25 years". Army Times. Alexandria, Virginia. Associated Press. Retrieved 12 January 2013.