ARLINGTON, Va. - Community members in an Arlington neighborhood were told to shelter in place Monday night after police say rounds were fired from a flare gun and a firearm inside of a home before it exploded.
Arlington County police put out the alert just after 8:15 p.m., saying the incident occurred in the 800 block of N. Burlington Street in the Bluemont neighborhood.
Police say officers first responded to the home around 4:45 p.m. for a report that shots had been fired. After they arrived, investigators found evidence that the suspect had fired somewhere between 30 and 40 flares into the surrounding neighborhood. No property damage or injuries were reported.
Officers were able to obtain a search warrant for the home but as they were attempting to execute it, the suspect fired shots from what police believe was a firearm inside the home.
Neighbor Alex Wilson spoke exclusively with FOX 5, saying this came after an hours-long standoff with the suspect. He said he took notice of what was happening when police rolled up to his neighbor's home just before 5 p.m.
Wilson said as time went on, it was clear the situation was only getting worse.
"Three hours later, at least, we saw the SWAT truck arrive and when the SWAT trucks arrive you know, you’re like, ‘oh things are getting escalated at that point,'" Wilson said.
Wilson told FOX 5 he watched the entire event unfold from the roof of his townhome. He said police and SWAT continued to urge the suspect to come out of the home but when that failed, they went inside.
"The guy inside wasn't responding and they drove a SWAT truck through the front door and then shots were being fired," Wilson said.
He said after some time, the SWAT team appeared to try to change tactics, backing up and shifting the placement of the truck to get inside another way.
"At that point, they reversed back and they changed the angle of the truck and they were going to try to take out the window, the front window there," said Wilson. "They tell him to back up from the window and, at that point, they were driving forward to the window and that's when the whole place went up."
The explosion, which happened at approximately 8:25 p.m., rocked the normally quiet neighborhood and it could be seen from miles away. The smoke billowed out in plumes and power was knocked out for several homes.
"It was a very, very, very loud ‘boom,'" Arlington resident Blake Thompson told FOX 5. "I thought it was a sonic boom at first but I looked out of my window and I saw burning stuff in the sky, in a sense. It looked like ash, but of course, it was much farther away so it was probably debris."
Neighbors were immediately told to shelter in place and drivers were told to avoid the area as a large response came from Arlington Fire and EMS and police.
"At that point, there's no thought. There's no thought, there's just pure reaction and shock," Wilson said. "It was wild. It was wild, to say the least. I mean, for this to happen in your neighborhood right down the street."
The flames took hours to put out. Arlington Fire and EMS said the fire was controlled around 10:30 p.m. but crews continued to battle small spot fires.
Officials say only minor injuries were reported and no one was transported to the hospital but it's not yet clear how many officers may have been involved. The explosion knocked the power out for several homes in the neighborhood.
The area is near Key Elementary School. FOX 5 checked in with administrators who said there will be no changes to school operations Tuesday.
Right now, police have not provided any information about the suspect but an online search of public records shows a man named James Yoo linked to the residence.
But Wilson said he'd "never seen" the neighbor, who appeared to have been living as a recluse.
"This guy has been cooped up for years. He’s closed off his windows, no one has really seen him for years," Wilson said.
Wilson says he does know the neighbors who live on the other side of the duplex, however. They also lost their home in the explosion.
"I feel terrible for them. Their house is like, gone." The entire structure is gone," Wilson said.
An Arlington police officer told FOX 5 that he expected his team would remain at the scene late into the night. The investigation into the explosion is ongoing and the ATF says fire investigators are on scene to assist.