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BREAKING: Suspect killed in house explosion, police believe

(Updated at 3:50 p.m.) The man whose house exploded during a standoff with police is dead.

James Yoo, 56, is presumed dead as a result of the explosion of the duplex at 844 N. Burlington Street, in the Bluemont neighborhood, Arlington County police confirmed during a news conference this afternoon.

Human remains were located at the scene, said Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn, and the medical examiner is working to identify the remains. There are no ongoing threats to the community and no outstanding suspects, Penn added.

The explosion happened around 8:25 p.m. Monday and was heard — and felt — from miles around. It followed a standoff that started around 4:45 p.m. as Yoo fired some 30-40 flares from his window, sending them over neighboring Fields Park and in the direction of Key Elementary School.

The force of the explosion shattered home and car windows near the blast site and injured several Arlington police officers. The officers suffered only minor injuries, police previously said.

As many as a dozen surrounding homes were damaged and ten households temporarily displaced by the explosion, ACPD said today. Nearby residents, including those in the duplex unit adjoining Yoo, were evacuated by firefighters about an hour and a half prior to the explosion, authorities said. Those displaced are being provided with temporary housing and necessities, Penn said.

Gas to the house was turned off at the meter prior to the explosion, according to ACFD Assistant Fire Chief Jason Jenkins.

“Their efforts last evening saved lives, period,” Jenkins said. “They minimized damage to property, and I thank them for their efforts.”

Before the explosion, ACPD used a SWAT vehicle to breach the front door and establish communication with Yoo, ordering him to come out. As officers “tried to engage with the suspect,” they “experienced what is believed to be multiple gunshots from a firearm coming from within the dwelling,” Penn said.

Arlington police then “began to deploy non-flammable, less-lethal chemical munitions” in several parts of the home they thought Yoo might be hiding, in an attempt to get him to surrender. Shortly thereafter, the house erupted in a giant fireball that sent debris soaring through the air. Some debris was found several streets away, authorities said.

Firefighters battled the resulting fire for hours, until the early morning hours, with ACFD using a water stream from a ladder truck to douse the potentially gas-fed flames. The fire is now out, authorities said.

Neighbors told ARLnow that Yoo had previously pulled a knife on people looking at the house while it was listed for sale for a few months in 2021. Three days before Monday’s incident he had posted a paranoid rant on Linkedin against his neighbors in the duplex, at the end of quiet street that dead-ends at the Bluemont Junction Trail, near Arlington County Fire Station No. 2.

Penn said that police are now aware of Yoo’s “concerning” social media posts, but noted that he was otherwise largely off the police department’s radar before last night.

“The Arlington County Police Department does not have any prior documented interactions with the suspect at this address other than two calls for service for loud noise,” Penn said.

At Fire Station No. 2 today, numerous personnel from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives could be seen, helping the Arlington County police and fire departments investigate what caused the explosion. Penn said the ATF and the FBI are both assisting with the investigation, alongside the Northern Virginia Critical Incident Response Team and the Arlington County Fire Marshal’s Office.

David Sundberg, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, said the bureau received communication from Yoo in the past about “alleged frauds” against him.

The FBI and ATF both sent bomb technicians and other investigators to the scene and are working to determine the cause of the explosion, spokespeople said. No timeline was given for when the investigation will conclude, other than it is expected to “extensive and time consuming.”

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