ARLINGTON, Virginia (AP) — Hours before a A duplex was destroyed by a massive explosion The incident that rocked the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., began after a suspect fired a flare gun 30 to 40 times inside his home in a neighborhood, prompting a massive police response, authorities said Tuesday.
Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said all officers escaped serious injury but it was unclear what happened to the suspect inside when the explosion leveled the building in Arlington County, Virginia, on Monday night.
Officers responded to the home around 4:45 p.m. after receiving reports of shots fired. Police said in a statement that a preliminary investigation revealed a suspect fired a flare gun from inside his home, but no property damage or injuries were reported.
While investigating, police obtained a search warrant for the home and tried to contact the suspect via telephone and loudspeaker, but he remained inside without responding, police said.
As officers tried to execute the warrant, police said the suspect fired several rounds from a firearm inside the home and then, around 8:30 p.m., an explosion occurred, sending flames and debris into the air. Went. Police said the circumstances of the blast were under investigation.
Savage said police had no evidence other people were in the duplex, but the possibility could not be ruled out.
Police said early Tuesday that the fire was brought under control around 10:30 p.m., but Arlington County Fire Department crews continued to battle smaller blazes. Three officers reported minor injuries, but no one was taken to the hospital.
Later in the day, officers wearing ATF jackets searched a nearby road and found papers scattered in the debris field. Junk mail bearing the name and address of the house where the explosion took place was visible on the road.
A spokesperson said the White House was monitoring developments in the home explosion.
"Our thoughts go out to the police officers who were injured in that explosion," White House principal deputy press secretary Olivia Dalton told reporters on Air Force One on Tuesday. “We are grateful to law enforcement who handled that situation very quickly. I can tell you that the ATF is assisting local law enforcement with the investigation in that case, but other than that I will only tell you about the Arlington Police Department.
Carla Rodriguez of South Arlington said she heard the explosion more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away and came to the scene but police kept onlookers away.
"I really thought a plane exploded," she said.
Hearing the sound of the explosion, Bob Mains thought that perhaps a tree had fallen on his house.
"I was sitting in my living room watching television and the whole house shook," Mains said. "It wasn't an earthquake-like shock, but the whole house shook."
Arlington is located across the Potomac River from Washington, DC. The explosion occurred in the Bluemont neighborhood of North Arlington, where many of the homes are duplexes.
Arlington Fire Department spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner said fire officials do not know the cause of the explosion.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said federal agents and federal fire investigators were on the scene and assisting in the investigation.
Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville contributed from Air Force One.