Update: Leon A. Traille, 29, Charged with Throwing Molotov Cocktail in Ballston Mall
The incident spawned a four-hour mall and road closure.
Update (10:50 a.m.): Authorities have charged 29-year-old Leon A. Traille in Thursday's incident at the Ballston Mall.
Traille has been charged with reckless endangerment, attempted malicious bodily injury by use of fire, and use of fire bomb. He has no fixed address, according to police.
He is expected to make an appearance in Arlington County Court this afternoon. Federal charges are expected to be brought against Traille in the immediate future.
Original Article: Ballston Common Mall was on lockdown for four hours Thursday after a man threw a Molotov cocktail into the mall’s food court.
Though the device did not ignite, the incident spawned hours of road closures and an investigation by multiple local and federal authorities.
“We want to find out what was inside his head,” said Richard Marianos, special agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Washington Field Division at a news conference.
Arlington County police were first called to the mall just after noon Thursday. At about 2:30 p.m., a "person of interest" was in custody thanks to an observant tipster in Clarendon who spotted the man near the Cheesecake Factory at 2900 Wilson Blvd. and called police.
The caller told police the man matched the description released by authorities. Police described the suspect is a thin male, about 5-foot-11, with curly hair and wearing a dress shirt and red tie.
“The ACPD put out the man’s description within minutes of the incident,” Marianos said. “This is a real victory.”
The suspect, who authorities are not identifying at this time, was being questioned at the Arlington County Police Department headquarters Thursday afternoon.
Investigators did not go into details of the Molotov cocktail’s ingredients, but Marianos said it was a “crude incendiary device” in the form of a 40-ounce bottle with a fuse inside. The bottle was tossed from the second floor of the mall into the food court below. When it failed to ignite, the suspect fled and left behind a bag with three similar bottles.
“We are going to find out what it is,” Marianos said.
Authorities were not prepared to discuss the suspect’s motivations as of Thursday afternoon.
“We aren’t going to speculate on what his target was,” said Arlington County Police Lt. Michael Watson. “I don’t know if he tried to ignite the other ones.”
Tre Johnson told Patch that he was eating in the food court when he saw someone on a floor above him — perhaps the second or third floor.
"He yelled something and threw something," Johnson told Patch. "I don't know what he said. It sounded like some weird language."
Police soon came through and asked him to leave. Johnson said he could smell gasoline as he was walking out.
Watson confirmed that the smell of gas came from the bottle that was thrown, but did not want to say whether the suspect had yelled anything when throwing the device, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Wilson Alvarez, who works at the Sprint store on the mall's first floor, said he heard something shatter in the direction of the food court just after noon. He then saw a group of people in uniforms and a black substance on the ground.
“Then five minutes later police came,” Alvarez said. “Then the police dogs came and I knew it was something.”
The mall shut down for hours as police dogs swept the building to ensure there were no other incendiary devices were left behind. The mall reopened just after 5 p.m. with the food court still closed to the public and authorities still investigating.
Charges are pending, said FBI spokeswoman Jacqueline Maguire.
“We are on top of this,” Maguire said. “We ask the public to remain vigilant.”