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Former Marine Who Shot At The Pentagon Sentenced To 25 Years

Yonathan Melaku was sentenced to 25 years for firing weapons at the Pentagon.
Leesburg Police Department
Yonathan Melaku was sentenced to 25 years for firing weapons at the Pentagon.

Yonathan Melaku, the former Marine who admitting to shooting at several U.S. military buildings in the Washington, D.C., area in 2010, has been sentenced to 25 years in prison, in a plea deal that makes his sentence non-negotiable. After his arrest, Melaku was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

"At Friday's sentencing hearing, Melaku confirmed that he wanted to go forward with the plea deal, even though he was aware of a potential insanity defense," the AP reports. "He risked an 85-year sentence if he passed on the plea deal."

As Mark reported last summer, Melaku was arrested after he was found wandering around in Arlington National Cemetery in the pre-dawn darkness of a work day. He had apparently intended to spray-paint phrases onto veterans' grave markers.

One week after his arrest, investigators said that ballistics evidence led them to link Melaku with gunfire that was directed at U.S. military buildings during the summer of 2010. In those incidents, he "appeared to target the buildings themselves," NPR's Carrie Johnson reported.

Carrie added, "The gunfire erupted at night, when buildings were empty. The Marine Corps Museum was targeted twice. Two windows were shot out at the Pentagon. A Marine Corps recruiting station in Chantilly, Va., outside Washington was also targeted."

Melaku, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Ethiopia, had enlisted in the Marine Reserves in 2007. He was never deployed overseas.

At the time of his arrest, Melaku claimed that he was carrying explosives. FBI tests revealed that statement as a falsehood. But his backpack did contain spent bullet casings, which evidently led investigators to the earlier attacks.

As The Washington Post reported last January, Melaku admitted using his 9mm pistol to fire at the buildings — as a video he filmed in his car during one attack seemed to prove.

In addition to harming U.S. property, Melaku pleaded guilty to using a firearm during a crime, and attempting to injure U.S. veterans' memorials.

Copyright 2013 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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