House explodes in Arlington, Virginia, while police serving search warrant, officials say

PHOTO: A home is seen exploding from a distance, Monday night, Dec. 4, 2023 in Arlington, Va. PlayAP
WATCH Virginia house explodes as police attempt to serve search warrant

A house in Virginia exploded Monday night shortly after officers were executing a search warrant at the residence for reports of a person discharging several rounds with a flare gun, officials said.

The suspect, who was inside the Arlington duplex at the time of the explosion, is presumed dead, authorities said.

Police responded to the residence on the 800 block of North Burlington Street at approximately 4:45 p.m. ET Monday with reports of possible shots fired, said Ashley Savage, public information officer with Arlington County Police Department.

PHOTO: Fire and police officials walk around the scene of a house explosion as an Arlington County Fire Department ladder truck sprays water down on the remains of the building on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, in Arlington, Va. Kevin Wolf/AP
Fire and police officials walk around the scene of a house explosion as an Arlington County Fire Department ladder truck sprays water down on the remains of the building on Monday, Dec. 4, 2023, in Arlington, Va.

Police said in a statement that a preliminary investigation indicated the suspect "discharged a flare gun approximately 30-40 times from inside his residence into the surrounding neighborhood."

Following the discharge, police were attempting to make contact with the suspect and draw him out when the house exploded at approximately 8:25 p.m., ET police said.

Police officers sustained minor injuries and were treated on scene and the fire has since been extinguished.

Fire crews had evacuated other residents of the duplex and surrounding homes starting at around 7 p.m. ET as a precaution, which "saved lives," Arlington County Fire Department Assistant Chief Jason Jenkins told reporters.

The cause of the explosion is under investigation and authorities are working to collect evidence from the scene.

The fire department had turned off the gas at the residence prior to the explosion, according to Jenkins, who said he could not speculate on any cause or origin of the explosion at this time.

Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn said human remains were recovered from the scene but have not yet been identified.

The suspect -- identified as 56-year-old James Yoo -- was the only person inside the residence at the time of the explosion and is presumed to be dead, Penn said.

"There is no ongoing threat to the community related to this incident and no outstanding suspects," Penn said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

Penn said police are aware of "concerning social media posts made by the suspect," though did not elaborate.

PHOTO: James Yoo is seen in an undated photo. LinkedIn
James Yoo is seen in an undated photo.

The suspect had been in touch with the FBI over the years via phone calls, online tips and letters with complaints about "alleged frauds he believed were perpetrated against him," David Sundberg, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office, told reporters.

The complaints did not lead to the FBI opening any investigations, according to Sundberg, who did not provide any further details on the alleged claims.

Yoo operated a LinkedIn profile verified by ABC News that contained hundreds of pages worth of documents. The page, which has been removed from LinkedIn, suggested he may have had financial problems and contained references to several legal disputes he initiated.

According to records from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, Yoo filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital in 2018, claiming he was hospitalized against his will in 2015. In 2021, he sued his ex-wife’s divorce attorneys for $300 million, accusing them of fraud, intentional infliction of emotional distress and other offenses. Both suits were dismissed with prejudice.

According to the LinkedIn profile, Yoo worked for a telecommunications company until 2003 and then as a landlord.

PHOTO: A home is seen exploding from a distance, Monday night, Dec. 4, 2023 in Arlington, Va. AP
A home is seen exploding from a distance, Monday night, Dec. 4, 2023 in Arlington, Va.

Before the explosion, Savage said that a barricade situation took place after attempts to make contact with the suspect were unsuccessful.

"During the early parts of it, after we had obtained a search warrant, we were attempting to make contact with the individual. Our SWAT team was on scene at that point, we would determine that the incident would be a barricade because the suspect had not exited the residence," she said. "We were attempting to make contact with the individual when shots were discharged inside the residence."

Right before the explosion, police were using "nonflammable" chemical munitions to draw the suspect out of the home, Penn said.

"Officers began to deploy nonflammable, less lethal chemical munitions to multiple areas within the residence where the suspect was believed to be hiding. The purpose of this type of deployment is to cause irritation and hopes of compelling the suspect to surrender," Penn said.

About 10 households were impacted by the incident, authorities said.

Witnesses described seeing flares in the sky emanating from the area of the blast prior to the blast.

Neighbors several blocks away described feeling the concussion from the blast in their homes.

The investigation remains ongoing.

ABC News' Tia Humphries and Christopher Looft contributed to this report.