ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — The owner of a Virginia house that exploded as police tried to execute a search warrant is believed to have died in the blast, officials said Tuesday, as details emerged about numerous grievances he expressed against neighbors and others on social media and in lawsuits.
James Yoo, 56, was identified by Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn at a news conference as the person whose actions brought police to the Arlington home after he fired a “flare-type gun” from inside the house into the neighborhood more than 30 times.
Penn said police responded to the house about 4:45 p.m. Monday after receiving reports of shots fired. When attempts to communicate with Yoo were largely unsuccessful, police obtained a search warrant.
As officers breached the door to enter the home, the suspect fired multiple gunshots from within the house, Penn said. He said it wasn’t clear where in the house the shots were coming from or what the suspect was firing at.
Soon after that, just before 8:30 p.m., the house exploded, shooting flames and debris into the air in a blast that was felt for miles.
An investigation into the cause of the explosion is ongoing, fire officials said. Police asked that anyone with photos or video of the area share them with investigators.
Assistant Fire Chief Jason Jenkins said authorities turned off gas service to the home and evacuated nearby residents — including people who lived in the other part of the duplex — about 90 minutes before the explosion.
“I’m not going to speculate on cause or origin,” he said of the blast.
“The fire department personnel absolutely saved lives” by evacuating residents of the neighborhood, Jenkins said.
Investigators have not yet identified human remains found inside the home, but “all factors point to that it's this individual (Yoo),” Penn said.
Yoo publicly aired grievances against multiple people in his life. On LinkedIn, he recently posted paranoid rants about his neighbors and a former co-worker.
He also filed federal lawsuits that were dismissed as frivolous against his ex-wife, younger sister, a moving company and the New York Supreme Court.
Each of four lawsuits filed between 2018 and 2022 case were dismissed, and some were described by judges as “convoluted” or “confused.”
In 2018, Yoo filed a 163-page federal lawsuit in New York against his then-wife, younger sister and a hospital after he said he was committed against his will. Yoo alleged conspiracy and deprivation of his rights, among other crimes.
The sprawling complaint included biographical details, such as who was at his wedding, and also wove in facts about who was president of the United States at the time. Yoo described how his then-wife drove him to Rochester General Hospital in November 2015 “against his will.”
Yoo denied having any thoughts of suicide or prior depression. He cited hospital records that reference a suicide note that he left for his wife, which he said he never wrote.
A man who identified himself on the phone as the husband of Yoo’s ex-wife said she had no comment. Yoo’s sister did not respond to an email or LinkedIn message requesting comment.
In his lawsuits, Yoo referenced many attempts to contact the FBI. He wrote that he believed that a New York Times reporter he saw on television was someone who had claimed to be an FBI agent and came to his house in 2017. He said the person warned him against further attempts to communicate with a U.S. attorney in western New York or he would face a harassment charge.
David Sundberg, assistant director of the FBI’s Washington field office, said Yoo had communicated with the FBI with phone calls, letters and online tips “over a number of years.”
“I would characterize these communications as primarily complaints about alleged frauds he believed were perpetrated against him,” Sundberg said. “The information contained therein and the nature of those communications did not lead to opening any FBI investigations.”
On Tuesday, officers wearing Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives jackets combed a nearby street looking through papers scattered in the debris field. Junk mail carrying Yoo's name and the address of the home that exploded was visible on the street.
Craig Kailimai, special agent in charge of the Washington field division for the ATF, said investigators were conducting a “grid search” of the home to determine the cause and origin of the explosion.
The White House was monitoring developments in the case, a spokeswoman said.
“Our thoughts are with the police officers that were injured in that explosion,” Olivia Dalton, the White House principal deputy press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One on Tuesday.
Carla Rodriguez of South Arlington said she could hear the explosion more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away and came to the scene, but police kept onlookers blocks away.
“I actually thought a plane exploded,” she said.
Bob Maynes thought maybe a tree had fallen on his house when he heard the explosion.
“I was sitting in my living room watching television and the whole house shook,” Maynes said.
Arlington is located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The explosion occurred in Bluemont, a neighborhood in north Arlington where many of the homes are duplexes.
Associated Press reporters contributing to this report were: Ben Finley, from Norfolk, Va., Michael Kunzelman, from Silver Spring, Md., and Darlene Superville, from Air Force One.