Who is James Yoo? Investigation into suspect behind Arlington home explosion continues

More than 24 hours since a massive home explosion in Arlington, parts of the neighborhood remain roped off by police tape as authorities investigate.

Sam Kim of Arlington lives a few yards away from the home that exploded Monday night along the 800 block of Burlington Street. Kim said he noticed police activity earlier that evening but he assumed it was resolved quickly.

"SWAT team was like right in our backyard, hidden near trucks and cars with their doors open. I was like, ‘Wait, this is actually pretty scary. What’s going on?’" Kim recalled. "I was just talking to my housemate and all of a sudden, it [the house] exploded. It was actually kind of to this direction, so the glass was actually coming in our direction. Me and my housemate fell back a little bit because of the wave."

Kim said the explosion was so powerful, it broke the windows on his home.

Authorities on Tuesday identified the suspect inside the Burlington Street home as 56-year-old James Yoo. Human remains have been found at the scene of the explosion and presumed to be Yoo’s, according to Arlington County police.

"The scene is beyond where it occurred. There was an explosion. So, evidence is clearly displaced," Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn said. "When there’s explosion, you know…there’s firefighting efforts. It’s not a standard, you show up and there’s an investigation. There’s a lot of moving pieces."

The explosion happened just before 8:30 p.m. Monday. 

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Earlier that evening, police responded to the home after Yoo was believed to have fired more than 30 rounds from a flare-type gun. 

Officers were able to obtain a search warrant for the home but as officers were trying to execute it, Yoo allegedly fired shots from what police say was a firearm inside the home.

As of Tuesday, a cause for the explosion has not been determined. Authorities said they did not want to speculate on how it was caused or whether it was intentional. 

Assistant Fire Chief Jason Jenkins confirmed the fire department evacuated neighbors and shut off the gas before the explosion.

"The fire department personnel absolutely saved lives in anticipation of what could happen and unfortunately, what did happen, the fire department evacuated neighboring residents," Jenkins said. "So, again, as I state, the evacuation of neighbors saved lives."

Police added Tuesday that they were aware of social media posts allegedly by Yoo. One found by FOX 5 includes a LinkedIn post from an account under Yoo’s name regarding his neighbors and complaints about the government. 

Most neighbors who spoke with FOX 5 on Tuesday said they didn’t much about Yoo, with some characterizing him as reclusive.

Tony Geary of McLean said Yoo used to live by him.

"Absolutely flabbergasted. I didn’t really know him. He was one of those people who moved into the house later after my childhood friends grew up in it. I knew him for a short time. We had a few get togethers, but I’m just now hearing about this news. So, it kind of amazes me," Geary said.

Police said Tuesday, Yoo was the only resident in the home. Officers responded twice in the past for noise complaints, but nothing came of that. Until Monday night, they never made contact with Yoo. 

FBI officials also confirmed that Yoo made multiple complaints of alleged fraud but no formal investigations were opened.

Neighbors like Kim who witnessed the explosion said the entire incident has been surreal.

"It was shocking, traumatizing. And today, there were interviews everywhere. To cope with it, I saw my therapist for an emergency session. I just didn’t know how to go about it," he said. "I know there are a lot of videos posted, but I’m not looking at the videos. If it was a little bigger, I think it would have annihilated the entire police squad and even some neighbors."

Bryan Castro who lives in an apartment complex nearby said he heard the blast and like other neighbors, he has questions.

"I just think it’s crazy. You never know who’s living around you. Very surprising, especially in a place like Arlington," Castro said.

Authorities said Tuesday, there is no definitive timeline for the investigation which includes the FBI and ATF.