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Man detained in Pentagon security case had prior arrest

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Bond in a previous grand larceny case is revoked
  • Yonathan Melaku was detained last week in Arlington National Cemetery
  • Suspicious behavior set off a security scare that jammed Washington area traffic

Washington (CNN) -- A U.S. Marine reservist detained in a security scare last week around the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery had his bond from a prior criminal case revoked, a local sheriff's office spokesman said Monday.

Yonathan Melaku, who was detained Friday after being found acting suspiciously before dawn in the national cemetery, was arrested in May in Leesburg, Virginia, during a vehicle tampering investigation, said Kraig Troxell of the Loudoun County Sheriff's Office.

In the earlier case, Melaku, 22, was charged with four counts of grand larceny and released on a $5,000 bond, Troxell said. Melaku's detention last week caused that bond to be revoked, and Melaku was moved Friday to the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center, according to Troxell.

No federal charges have been filed against Melaku so far regarding his detention last week. After he was taken into custody, Melaku provided information that led authorities to a car parked in bushes on the side of a road near the Pentagon and prompted explosives experts to examine the red 2011 Nissan, according to an FBI statement.

A security perimeter set up to divert traffic from the area closed Route 27 and other roads around the Pentagon and national cemetery in northern Virginia just across the Potomac River from Washington, snarling morning rush-hour traffic.

No explosives or other suspicious material were found in the vehicle, FBI Special Agent Brenda Heck said. A backpack Melaku was carrying held bags of a "nonexplosive unknown material" that was being investigated, she said.

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney said Friday that "there were no dangerous materials or explosives found."

The FBI said Melaku, of nearby Alexandria, Virginia, was detained for trespass in Arlington National Cemetery when it was closed.

"At this time, law enforcement believes Melaku acted alone and that there were no other locations or activity involved," an FBI statement said.

According to the U.S. Marine Corps, Melaku joined the Marine Corps Reserve in September 2007 and currently is listed as a Marine Corps reservist lance corporal and a motor vehicle operator with the Combat Engineer Support Company of the 4th Combat Engineer Battalion in the 4th Marine Division.

He has been awarded the National Defense Service Medal and the Selected Marine Corps Reserve Medal, and he was not deployed overseas, said the information from the Marine Corps.

A source in the military said Melaku had "fallen off the radar as a Marine." He has failed to pass required fitness tests, and records show that he was given a nonrecommendation for promotion, according to the source.

CNN's Carol Cratty contributed to this report.