Update on 12/5/23: The suspect, now officially identified as James Yoo, is presumed dead following the explosion, police say.
(Updated at 11:30 p.m.) A large explosion, heard throughout Arlington, has rocked the Bluemont neighborhood after a police standoff.
A duplex, where a suspect was involved in an ongoing incident with police, exploded in a massive fireball as police, including a SWAT armored vehicle, moved in. It followed the suspect repeatedly firing a flare gun over nearby Fields Park.
Residents in the area were being instructed to shelter in place, while others were evacuated by police.
Arlington County police said the person inside the house fired shots as officers tried to enter the home, just before the explosion. A video, below, shows the explosion (the video contains strong language and disturbing imagery.)
“As officers were attempting to execute a search warrant at the residence, the suspect discharged several rounds inside the home,” said ACPD. “Subsequently, an explosion occurred at the residence and officers continue to investigate the circumstances of the explosion.”
“I think it blew up the entire duplex,” one neighbor told ARLnow in the immediate aftermath. “I’m sure the family next door was evacuated before it blew up but they lost their home.”
Firefighters were still working to extinguish small residual fires from the resulting blaze as of 11:30 p.m., three hours after the explosion. Investigators — including from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — are on scene.
Paramedics were initially told to expect “multiple burn patients” after the explosion, but police said around 9:30 p.m. that officers on scene only “reported minor injuries with no one transported to the hospital.”
Numerous residents described the shock of the huge blast to ARLnow.
One said the explosion “literally shook my bed” and described an “acrid stench” afterward.
Another said he was in the shower at the time.
“It shook my entire house and I didn’t know what it was at first,” said Dave Tran. “So I ran outside and I saw… the entire house was just leveled.”
Alex Wilson, the neighbor who took the video seen above — and shared worldwide on social media tonight — told ARLnow that the resident of the home was firing a rifle at police as they used the SWAT vehicle to try to get inside.
“When they rammed the front door he started firing an AR back at them,” he said. Wilson said he saw at least one officer injured following the explosion.
“He was able to walk but he was like holding his head,” said Wilson.
Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said on social media that he is “monitoring the emergency response to a major explosion in the Bluemont neighborhood of Arlington tonight.”
“This is very, very scary, and my profound thanks go out to first responders working to secure the area and keep everyone safe,” Beyer said.
Del. Patrick Hope (D), who lives in the area, posted on X — formerly Twitter — following the explosion.
“For all who are checking in- my family and I are fine but our house shook and we could see the flames from our front yard,” he wrote. “Thank you @ArlingtonVaPD @ArlingtonVaFD who are on the scene of a very dangerous situation tonight.”
The explosion happened at 8:25 p.m., just under four hours after an initial dispatch to the house at the end of N. Burlington Street, near Fields Park, Key Elementary and Arlington Fire Station No. 2.
Initial reports suggested a man was holed up in his house, shooting a flare gun out of a window.
“At approximately 4:45 p.m., police were dispatched to the 800 block of N. Burlington Street for the report of possible shots heard,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow earlier. “The preliminary investigation indicates a suspect discharged a flare gun from his residence. No property damage or injuries have been reported.”
As of around 7 p.m., the incident was still ongoing.
“Police remain on scene investigating the circumstances of the incident. As the investigation is ongoing, the suspect has not been taken into custody at this time,” Savage said. “As a precaution, the Bluemont Junction trail is closed between N. George Mason Drive and N. Burlington Street.”
A witness described the unsettling sight of repeated flares over the neighborhood.
“Looked like flares being fired off. Large red fire ball (with ‘tail’) just above tree line heading west,” the witness wrote. “Would last 15-20 secs. Several in a [matter] of 5 mins or so.”
Around 7:30 p.m., explosive ordnance disposal units from the fire department reported that they were responding to the scene.
Police have not yet released any information about the suspect in the case, but a social media account may provide some clues.
A man named James Yoo, listed in public records as the resident of the address to which police were initially dispatched, has been repeatedly posting paranoid screeds on his Linkedin account. One post from three days ago rants against his neighbors in the adjoining duplex unit.
Wilson — the neighbor who took the video of the explosion from his roof — described Yoo as a recluse and said he had aluminum foil covering the windows.
After the home was listed for sale a couple of years ago, Yoo chased would-be buyers off with a knife, according to Wilson. Real estate records show the home was taken off the market on at the end of 2021.
— Jim Mathews 🦆🇺🇦 (@mathewsjh) December 4, 2023
I’m in Westover. Didn’t hear boom but felt the house shake.
— Holly Bunting (@holly_bunting) December 5, 2023
Just heard a massive explosion coming from Arlington. Shook our balcony windows with a huge thud.
— Ryan Hauser (@R__Hauser) December 5, 2023
— Alan Henney (@alanhenney) December 5, 2023
— ATF Washington (@ATFWashington) December 5, 2023
James Jarvis contributed on-scene reporting
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