Alleged Pentagon shooter denied bail

Story highlights

  • Judge says Yonathan Melaku is too dangerous and too much of a flight risk
  • Melaku is accused of shooting at Pentagon and two other military-related targets
  • Police say a seized tape appears to shows Melaku shooting at Marine Corps museum
  • A discarded backpack contained shell casings, ammonium nitrate
A federal judge denied bail Thursday for a former Marine reservist accused of shooting at the Pentagon and other military-related buildings in late 2010.
Federal Magistrate Judge John Anderson said the accused shooter, Yonathan Melaku, is too dangerous and too much of a flight risk to be released on bail. Melaku's defense attorney, Greg English, had argued Melaku should be released with a GPS-tracking ankle bracelet prior to trial.
The U.S. government has charged Melaku with shooting at the Pentagon, National Museum of the Marine Corps and a Coast Guard recruiting center in northern Virginia. He faces a maximum of life in prison if convicted of use of a firearm during a crime of violence, according to the Justice Department.
Authorities recently transferred Melaku into federal custody following grand larceny charges filed by Loudoun County, Virginia, authorities in an unrelated incident.
Melaku attempted to flee law enforcement in June when they found him trespassing in Arlington National Cemetery, but he was apprehended. He discarded a backpack in which police found 9-millimeter shell casings, numerous Arabic statements referencing al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, along with Ziplock bags containing ammonium nitrate, according to a police affidavit. Ammonium nitrate is a fertilizer that can be used in making explosives.
A subsequent search of Melaku's residence revealed components consistent with construction of a homemade bomb.
Police also seized a self-made videotape in the desk of Melaku's bedroom showing what they say appears to be the National Museum of the Marine Corps and repeated gunfire out the passenger-side window of a vehicle. In that video, police say Melaku stated, "Last time I hit them, they turned off the lights for like four or five days. So now, here we go again; this time I'm going to turn it off permanently. All right, next time this video turns on, I will be shooting. That's what they get. That's my target. That's the military building. It's going to be attacked."
After firing multiple shots, police say Melaku repeatedly exclaimed, "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is great."
FBI forensics testing concluded all of the bullets recovered from the shootings were fired from the same weapon. The FBI also says further analysis concluded some of the bullets were manufactured by Prvi Partizan, the same company which had manufactured spent cartridges found in a search of Melaku's backpack.