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Suspect in Pentagon scare appears in Va. court
LEESBURG, Va. — A Northern Virginia man whose suspicious behavior near the Pentagon prompted a security scare appeared Monday in state court to answer unrelated charges.
Yonathan Melaku of Alexandria made an initial appearance in Loudoun County General District Court on two grand larceny charges. The 22-year-old Melaku was ordered held without bond pending a status hearing Thursday.
During the brief hearing, nothing was said about his detention Friday after U.S. Park Police observed him in Arlington National Cemetery after dark. Mr. Melaku’s behavior after he was confronted by police prompted massive road closures during the Friday morning rush hour as officials investigated the contents of his backpack for what they initially feared might be bomb-making materials. They found no explosives. His Alexandria home also was searched.
No federal charges have been filed so far, but his detention on state charges gives federal authorities more time to investigate Friday’s incident.
Mr. Melaku made his court appearance Monday via a video hookup from the Loudoun County jail, where he was in handcuffs and an orange jumpsuit. The larcenies for which he was charged allegedly occurred on May 26, and are in addition to four other larceny charges previously filed against him.
Mr. Melaku’s attorney on the previous larceny charges, Robert May, was not at the hearing.
Mr. Melaku said during the hearing that he was concerned he would be unable to get in touch with May because he’d used his two free phone calls.
Prosecutor Amy Totten would not comment on why the additional charges were filed against Mr. Melaku only after he was arrested Friday by federal authorities in Arlington.
Federal authorities continue to investigate what happened on Friday and whether any crimes were committed.
A law enforcement official speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information said investigators found Mr. Melaku with what appeared to be a notebook with the words “Al-Qaida” and “Taliban Rules” written inside. It was not clear in what context those words had been written down.
• Associated Press writer Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.
By Tom Fitton
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