UPDATE (7): Man Questioned for Molotov Cocktail at Mall

by ARLnow.com October 18, 2012 at 12:25 pm 66,867 116 Comments

Update at 11:25 a.m. — Charges have been filed against the suspect, identified by police as 29-year-old Leon A. Traille.

Update at 6:40 p.m. — See video of the suspect being arrested, courtesy of Fox 5, below.

Update at 5:55 p.m. — A “person of interest” was detained at Courthouse Plaza, near the Arlington County government building on the 2100 block of Clarendon Blvd, around 3:00 p.m. The county’s bomb squad was called to inspect the suspect’s belongings — a gray and red backpack containing electronics and other items — but no hazards were found.

Police were first tipped off about the suspect when someone inside the Cheesecake Factory in Clarendon saw a man, who matched the suspect description from news reports, walking down Clarendon Boulevard, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. The suspect is in custody and is being questioned at police headquarters.

Update at 5:15 p.m. — Wilson Boulevard has reopened to traffic and the mall has reopened to shoppers, according to Arlington County.

Earlier: Arlington County (Va.) Police and federal agents are searching for a man who threw a Molotov cocktail-like incendiary device inside the Ballston Common Mall.

The man threw what was described as a “flaming bottle” from an upper level of the mall down to the food court. The device, said to be 40 ounce beer bottle, possibly containing gasoline or a similar substance, shattered on impact but did not explode, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. No one was injured.

Two to three additional bottles, which “smelled like gasoline,” were found in a bag by mall security after the man fled.

Employees and shoppers are being allowed to stay in the mall, but all mall and parking lot entrances are being blocked by police and no one is being allowed in. Police are currently reviewing security camera footage and police K-9 units are searching the inside and outside of the mall. The FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force is taking over the investigation, according to ACPD spokesman Lt. Michael Watson. The ATF, Department of Homeland Security and Pentagon Police are assisting with the investigation.

Asked whether this was an incident of terrorism, Sternbeck said it’s “too early to tell.”

Police are looking for a slender 5’11” black male, in his late 30s, with medium-length curly hair and a beard. He was seen wearing a gray jacket, a white dress shirt, a necktie and a white or gray backpack with a red inverted ‘V’ on it.

Eastbound Wilson Boulevard has been shut down outside the mall due to the emergency response.



Arrest photos (below) courtesy Meet Kadiwar

Update at 1:50 p.m. — Police have issued the following press release about the incident.

Arlington County Police are investigating an incident today involving a “molotov cocktail” at Ballston Common Mall. At 12:10 p.m., a call came into Arlington’s Emergency Communications Center, reporting that a lit bottle had been thrown into the Food Court from the top level of the mall.

The initial investigation revealed that a black male with curly hair and wearing a gray jacket stood on the top level of the mall and dropped the bottle into the Food Court. The 40-ounce bottle was filled with an unknown substance, with a fuse attached. The bottle shattered, but there was no explosion or fire. There were no reported injuries. The suspect fled the scene on foot and remains at large at this time.

Three additional bottles of similarity were found on the second level of the mall.

Arlington County Police evacuated the mall and established a perimeter when they arrived on scene. The investigation is ongoing.

Police are asking anyone with any knowledge of this incident to call the non-emergency line at 703.558.2222.

  • Hoodston

    Uhhhhh. Ok.

    Like I said in a previous post, the Ballston area is getting sketchier and sketchier.


      • SomeGuy

        _ E _ I O U _ _, _ H A T _ H E _ U C K ?

        You missed a few letters.

        • John Fontain

          Give the guy a break, he is typing with paws after all!

    • Raker

      I agree 100%. I work here and it stinks, sidewalks will kill your ankles, and bus stops smell like piss. I had a guy the other day in a bank start running his mouth to me and showed me his deposit slip and said all this is going to Al-Qaeda.

      • Dodge

        Is this a (bad) joke? If not, you should be reporting this to the police.

        • Raker

          No joke at all. I did report the guy. I didn’t care if the guy was joking around or not. When a foreign suspect says something like that to me it will get reported.

  • Pat M

    I, too, was upset when Chevy’s moved, but molotov cocktail is not the way to display such dissatisfaction with the food choices.

    • Rob


  • YTK

    Ballston’s crazies are moving from the bus area to the mall now, I see.

    • B22201

      It’s part of the migration path. Like the swallows of Capistrano. . .the crazies migrate once it starts getting cooler out.

      • YTK

        The swallows I can handle. The crazies….. another story — so WHEN will they put a Satellite police station at that mall, lke that have (or had) at landmark?

      • Ballstonian

        or like the salmon of Capistrano.

    • b-money

      Seriously. It’s become a real problem. Even without the Molatov cocktails, putting up with the ‘sketch’ crowd every day is getting really irritating.

  • Swag

    It’s a sad day when a man can’t even Google instructions for an effective firebomb or test his designs before going full-Ballston.

    For shame.

    • Chris B

      Actually, it’s a pretty happy day that this moron didn’t succeed.

  • B22201

    That place has been going downhill since it was changed from being called Parkington.

    • Mandy

      I remember Parkington! Nice place, SAFE… but it was nice when the mall was open AIR. We didn’t have homeless much in those days either. I won’t shop at Ballston or take the metro anywhere after some bad experiences. I scoot on down 66 west and shop and party in Sterling.

      • Rob

        OK shop in Sterling I get, but party?!

        • Ziv


          • Josh S

            “We didn’t have homeless much in those days either.”

            Tells you all you need to know.

  • QED

    People are taking matters into their own hands, it seems.. trying to get rid of this mall-thingy, even when gas is so damn high… hehehe.. not funny though

  • CW
  • BrianKal

    Just back from the mall .. more info which I also Tweeted to ARLNow

    Lotsa police and fire on the third floor (area facing Wilson Blvd) and in food court directly below there is debris on the floor and large area cleared. There is brown or black debris on the floor and within that area, two men in Coast Guard uniforms standing by, not sure if they were target. I also saw a black/brown male in handcuffs at the entrance to mall with two ACPD officers.

    Strong smell of oil or gas in the mall and massive police presence there. I also Tweeted some pics.

    Scary stuff.

  • SMDC

    WTF. This is insane. I think I need to move back to DC.

    • Molotav

      I’m moving back to PG County. Ballston’s getting too dangerous.

  • CrystalMikey

    No Fixed Address

    • Malaka

      where does it say that? or was that just your prejudices showing?

      • CrystalMikey

        Why so serious?

  • BrianKal

    BREAKING UPDATE — Mall being evacuated. Good call based on what I smelt/saw in there

    ArlingtonVA ‏@ArlingtonVA

    Ballston Common Mall being evacuated. Police & Fire are on the scene investigating.

  • novasteve

    So will the mall get a whacky historical marker about this firebombing attempt?

  • BrianKal

    Also from county FD, multiple devices found:

    #ArlingtonFFs are at Box 7207, Ballston Comm Mall investigating several suspicious devices. The mall is closed.

  • TJ

    Someone save the cell phone cases!!!

  • HighViewPunk

    Man, people really want that mall to go away.

  • Phil

    I’m in the food court now (12:58). No signs if Evac.

  • InTheMall

    The Mall is not closed, I just went and got lunch at the food court, there is a small area where the”I love Tai” resturat is roped off.

    • Malaka

      Thai food is spicy!

  • Phil

    So, once you leave the mall, won’t let you back in now.

    • Flying Spaghetti Monster

      unless you come in through any of the other entrances… Noodles & Co, Macy’s, CVS… oddly they don;t seem to care if you come through those venues.

  • Chris

    I understand the guy. I feel the need to be armed when I am there, too.

  • JJ

    I was in mall for lunch too, got there at 12:15pm. Small area block off near the fountain, that is all. There are dozens of people sitting around eating lunch in area.

    • Westover

      Good thing it wasn’t a biological agent mixed in those bottles.

  • Cletus Van Damme

    Seriously? I’m just as mad as you about bikers not being audible when saying “on your left”. But this is no way to handle it or display your rage in this county!

  • Ripley

    I think they were trying to exterminate the giant cockroaches in the mall using flamethrowers like in the movie Prometheus, when Ripley tries to save the Nostromo, by using her flamethrower.

  • do not politicize this

    I hope “someone” does not start a press conference claiming that this was an attack against the Coast Guard, then talk about this over and over for the next few days, bring it up in a debate, misquote their debate partner if he mentions it, and then blame his debate partner for not stopping it from happening.

    • Sherriff Gonna Getcha

      I’ve got an answer for this in a binder I think

    • politicized

      And I hope “someone else” does not assure the public that this was a spontaneous, unplanned act growing out of protests against the YouTube video of the Glebe Road overpass ribbon cutting, mention once that no act of molotov-cocktail throwing can ever go unpunished, and then repeatedly condemn said video for containing no streetcar footage.

      • Wayne Kubicki


  • Interesting

    I see they started the mall renovations early! Really though, management should be admonished for not communicating this event before demolition began. Glad to see progress though!

  • S.

    Wow, it really is like the Belgrade Galleria!

  • Schmeff

    This really bums me out since I was supposed to go furniture shopping at Dinette Design, then maybe catch some laughs at The Comedy Spot.

    • Chris C

      actual lol

  • Dr_Klahn

    I hope this wasn’t a cheap advertising ploy for the killer flambe that Sam’s Food Truck was serving up in Ballston this afternoon.

  • News

    All roads around mall being roped off.

  • Sherriff Gonna Getcha

    if you are concerned about the recent spike in crime around the Ballston mall & metro, please reach out to the county Board and demand action. We pay too much in taxes for this trashy place to keep getting closer to Springfield mall. Total joke.


    • Bella Luna

      I agree w/ you Sherriff Gonna Getcha!

  • We are closing comments at this time.

  • The comment section is back open.

  • SomeGuy

    How were you able to get pictures from inside the mall while the other news gatherers appeared to be stuck behind the police tape?

    • The mall was not closed — people were not forced to leave — but most of the entrances were blocked. We found an entrance that was still open to the public.

      • SomeGuy

        Thanks for the response.

      • SomeGuy

        And, and is the spike in site traffic the only reason you shut down the comments? Or did authorities ask you to limit the info sharing for some reason?

        • No, it was to reduce load on the server

          • GreaterClarendon

            The Arlnow report was picked up on Drudge Report yesterday, will likely see a spike on your monthly numbers.

  • Ashton Heights

    I hope the police will finally step up its patrols in Ballston and VA square where the mall, bus stops and metro stations are being overrun by (drunk) vagrants. I feel for the people in Courthouse that will have a homeless shelter next door.

    • Buck Futter

      Stop blaming the police. Hold your elected officials responsible for encouraging vagrancy by handing out all the free foods, beds, and mental healthcare. The more you feed the birds, the more they return. Liberals want all these free services at our expense then complain about the results. There is nothing the police can do with homeless people, get a clue and stop voting in the same dem nitwits.

  • Cletus Van Damme

    Locking the comments section… that was painful.

  • Ballston Needs Help

    Ballston Mall is pretty sketchy – curious as to why no developer has stepped up to renovate and invigorate? Perfect location – perfect demographics.
    BTW – Arlington Magazine has a GREAT article about Ballston this month. Great read. I picked up my copy today.

    • Right of Center

      And maybe we need to install a streetcar system on Glebe connecting the non-vibrant Eclipse on Center Park with the non-bibrant Ballston Mall. Yeah that’s the ticket to turning around this economy!

      • ARLResident

        There actually are plans for the Pentagon City-Crystal City-Alexandria streetcar to pass right by the Eclipse on Center Park.

  • justin

    Bulldoze the mall, the employees and patrons who inhabit it. Ballston’s problems would be solved overnight. Shut down the metro and re-route the bus terminal to South Arlington.

    • b-money

      The offices and ice rink on top make that idea unrealistic.

      • Rick

        The garage is an independent structure from the mall, and the newer tower is as well. I’m sure someone could deconstruct the mall without disturbing everything.

        And for the umteenth time, the reason the mall can’t be razed is because Macy’s owns Macy’s, Forest City Enterprices (FCE-A FCE-B on the NYSE) owns the rest, and the county owns the garage…

      • B22201

        Totally doable. . .

        If you hit the lower level really fast, and hard. . . you can knock it from underneath those upper level structures. It’s just like Jenga, duh.

        We also don’t need that ice rink anymore. Alex Ovechkin is going to stay in Moscow since he isn’t getting paid enough to stay with the NHL.

    • Eat More Chikin

      Only if they can bulldoze around Chick Fil A.

  • Astute?

    Dude in the photo looks like John Allen Muhammad (sniper guy) with longer hair.

    • DynaFlash 8

      you beat me by a minute.

  • DynaFlash 8

    I thought the authorities had already executed John Allen Muhammad.

    • But…..

      Doppelganger !!

  • Tabs

    He’s dressed like a waiter…

  • R

    My son and I entered the mall around 4 pm to go see a movie. However, all the stores and the theater were closed. But, we entered and exited the mall easily. Some of the shops still had workers inside but they had the gates closed.

    • Paul Ryan

      Get a job, Slacker!

  • Ballston Resident

    This probably has nothing to do with what happened at the mall, BUT..

    This morning I was going into Ballston Metro around 6:30 and I noticed a police officer approaching a black guy on the mezzanine, around where the elevator lobbies and farecard machines are. The officer was catching up to the guy to get his attention and give him back what I thought was a backpack. I heard the officer say something like “keep this by you, don’t just leave it”. I got the impression the guy had left it somewhere deeper in the station and was walking back towards the exit. The officer wasn’t being confrontational, but he was being deliberate in making the guy take back the bag. He seemed reluctant at first, like he didn’t immediately respond but just kind of stood there, and the officer continued to ask the guy to take it. He had to repeat himself at least twice.

    As I got to the fare gates the officer was walking back behind me and the kiosk manager was out and I heard him tell the officer that he saw the guy just put the bag down and walk away from it.

    All that dialog is paraphrased from memory, I didn’t think about until I was getting home today. There’s virtually nobody else in the station at that time so it was pretty easy to notice what was going on.

    • SoArl

      I swear I saw him around the Ballston Metro on Monday, too, around 8am.

  • JimPB

    Kudos for citizen help from someone in the Cheesecake Factory for providing the ACPD with the first tip, and seemingly, one that lead to an arrest.

  • Willowy

    Congratualtions, ARLnow. Impressive reporting today. I enjoyed seeing your pictures and first-on-the-scene story on the evening news tonight. Well done.

  • Right of Center

    Kudos to the Fox5 News videoclip. And to the dude who probably filmed the video and talking in the background, ever heard of the mute button? — “they’re arresting a black guy as usual”

  • Billyack

    Anyone ever been to The Shaver Store? It’s a nice place to get a replacement foil for your Remington microscreen… or a Ghurka knife. At any rate, I was hoping the proprietor would have somehow played a role in today’s events. Or at least given an on-camera interview. That store is too awesome to not get some local publicity.

  • Bill

    I bet that guy filming and commenting on the police “harassing a black guy as usual” felt stupid when he realized the dude threw molotov cocktails at the ballston food court

    • Buck Futter

      +1. Nobody likes the police around here, not even the presumably middle class white guy sipping a latte at a starbucks while the Police are doing their job. Cops are constantly accused of racially profiling, when really the bigger problem is the public profiling all Cops as racist.

      • Glebe Roader

        That’s not true. Remember that a handful of people commenting on arlnow.com does not necessarily reflect the opinion of 200,000 other Arlington residents.

      • I like the police around here.

        The middle-class white guy sipping a cappuccino at Northside

        • Tabs

          There’s foam on your lip.

    • GreatWorkACPD

      Why politicize someone exercising their rights in a public place.
      Fortunately, we have great police in ACPD. They do not seem
      to be “camera shy” like other places we know.

      Cameras can work for the forces of good also, esp when you have honest police forces.

      • sunflower

        +213 !!!

  • JimPB

    Kudos to ARLNow.Com for staying with this story.

  • alex1138

    HEY ARLNOW: Congrats on your national scoop! Well done.

    • Thanks, Alex, and thanks to everybody else for the kind words.

  • novasteve

    In a glad way I’m glad this isn’t a national story because it didn’t explode, but are we going to hear updates, in case this is the actual person, why they did it?

    • bman

      it was on drudge report! that’s national

  • Bon Air

    This guy just justified an extra 100$ billion dollars in homeland security funding for the area.


    • Josh S

      “100$ billion dollars “

  • John Andre

    Since I now eat lunch at the Baileys Crossroads Great American Buffet before going to Ballston I missed much of the excitement but did see the after-effects of this incident. To be frank, Ballston mall needs to replace some of that junky fast food with a reincarnation of the old “Market to Market” before I’ll start eating there again!

  • Glebe Roader

    Great job Arlington PD. Great reporting arlnow.com

  • FinkStist

    Looks like the madrassas let out early today!

  • OhTheIrony

    Flashback: SUV flipped has Ryan/Romney sign.

    Fast forward: Terrorist arrested next to WaPo machine

  • Chapelle

    Looks like the folks over at CrimeMap will need a new Icon.

    • Josh S

      Attempted arson?

  • Scully Frank

    Only in the DC Metro area = biggots!

  • karzai

    Maybe this bomber was paid by the developer. That mall is a major problem. the one good thing they’ve done in recent years is open out some of the retail to the street. However, now, two of those stores have closed – Chevy’s and the Body Works store. No new stores have moved in to take their place. And they really should open out Baileys so they can have outdoor tables and interact with the street – but they didn’t. And of course the Glebe and Randolph corner remains vacant – no sign of a bocce field or anything started there.

    • Julio

      Totally agree. I would have to think that the vagrants, tacky streetwear stores, and low flying birds puts it high up in the running for Worst Mall in America. This morning there was a man shouting at no one in particular near the skywalk on the second floor.

    • JohnB2

      Bailey’s would love to have outdoor seating. They’ve considered installing garage door type entrances on the Randolph side. I’m not sure if they’ve approached the mall management about it though.

  • jerseyee

    90 % sure that is the homeless man that sleeps around Clarendon office buildings every night!

  • Bravo Zulu Ballston

    Did the gasoline smell overpower the stench of urine outside of CVS?

  • ArlingtonWay

    I mean I’m glad no one was hurt and commend the ACPD for their quick aprehension, but what kind of dumbass can’t make a molotov cocktail? It is literally gasoline in a bottle. Pretty hard to mess up. Let’s hope all the terrorists are equally idiotic.

  • I think the real question here is why did that bag contain 1 xbox controller, 1 ps2 controller, a phone charger and an Asus laptop?


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