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Korean American dies in house explosion after several-hour standoff with police

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James Yoo, a 56-year-old Korean American, was the suspect in an incident in Arlington County, Virginia. Police reported that Yoo died at the scene when his home exploded with a massive blast on December 4. [Captured from X (formerly Twitter)]

 

A Korean American suspect in his 50s died at the scene of a house explosion in Arlington County, Virginia, near Washington, D.C., on December 4.

The Arlington County Police Department identified the suspect as James Yoo, 56. The case has drawn attention due to reports that Yoo is the son of a Korean American broadcaster who was one of the founding members of the Korean American community in Washington, DC.

House Explosion Suspect Dies at Scene

According to authorities, officers responded to a report of shots fired around 4:45 p.m. on December 4. “A neighbor reported that Yoo had fired more than 30 rounds from flare guns inside the duplex house,” police said.

Yoo, who was inside the house when police arrived, refused to come outside. After a several-hour standoff, when police attempted to enter the home, Yoo fired multiple shots.

Then, at 8:25 p.m., the house exploded with a loud bang, shattering the structure. It burst into flames and caused minor injuries to three police officers in the vicinity. “I was watching TV in the living room and the whole house shook like an earthquake,” a neighbor of James Yoo said.

“The suspect was inside the house at the time of the explosion and died at the scene,” authorities said, adding that the gas to the house was shut off before the explosion, and the cause of the explosion is still under investigation.

Contacted FBI Over the Years

During his life, Yoo posted paranoid rants on social media, targeting his ex-wife, family members, neighbors, and former employer, among others, according to media reports. Yoo’s YouTube and LinkedIn accounts have been taken down as of now.

The Fox News report stated, “The posts refer to his ex-wife as a ‘witch,’ and include anti-U.S. slogans such as ‘#F—AMERICA’ and quotes from Noam Chomsky.” Yoo also accused a neighbor of spying and claimed that her children were collecting his information and sending it to their managers.

He also described himself as a former Head of Information and Physical Security for an international telecommunications company. In a post in late October, he claimed he was being targeted with hate messages and mentioned a possible assassination.

Over the years, Yoo had communicated with the FBI through phone calls, online tips, and letters. David Sundberg, FBI Assistant Director for Washington, said, “I would characterize these communications as primarily complaints about alleged frauds he believed were perpetrated against him.”

A neighbor who recorded video of the explosion described Yoo in an interview with the local outlet Arlington Now as a “recluse” who covered his windows in aluminum foil. The neighbor also said that when the house was for sale a few years ago, Yoo threatened someone who came to see it with a knife and chased them away.

Multiple Lawsuits Against More Than 10 People

Yoo had filed lawsuits against more than 10 people, including his ex-wife, sister, and New York state authorities, alleging fraud, conspiracy, and more. All four cases, filed between 2018 and 2022, were dismissed, according to the Associated Press. In 2018, Yoo filed a 163-page federal lawsuit in New York against his ex-wife, her sister, and the hospital, alleging that Rochester General Hospital had detained him against his will.

It is known that both of Yoo’s parents passed away 10 years ago.

BY SUAH JANG, JUNHAN PARK    [jang.suah@koreadaily.com]