WASHINGTON - Federal prosecutors said a man in Virginia was arrested after trying to blow up an SUV in the parking lot of the Pentagon on Monday.

Matthew Richardson, 19, from Fayetteville, Arkansas, was spotted by a Pentagon police officer in the parking lot north of the building on Monday morning, according to a criminal complaint released by prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia on Tuesday. 

The officer, Michael Landry, wrote that he was on patrol when he came across Richardson using a lighter to set fire to a piece of fabric stuck in the gas tank of a Land Rover, with a piece of fabric smoldering on the ground. Landry confronted Richardson, who said he was trying to "blow this vehicle up" along with himself, Landry wrote.

Richardson fled when the officer grabbed his wrist and tried to detain him, the complaint said. He ran across the parking lot and onto the four-lane road that runs between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery. 

The complaint said surveillance footage showed Richardson jumping the fence to the cemetery, and he was soon discovered about a mile away near Arlington House, the former home of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who owned the land on which the cemetery now sits. 

When Pentagon officers told Richardson to stop, he complied and told the officers, "I was just trying to blow myself up," according to the complaint. Richardson was carrying a lighter, gloves and court documents related to an apparent arrest for felony assault of a law enforcement officer in Virginia over the weekend.

The Land Rover belonged to an active-duty service member working at the Pentagon, the complaint said. The service member said he did not know Richardson. 

Richardson faces one count of maliciously attempting to damage and destroy by means of fire, a vehicle used in and affecting interstate and foreign commerce, according to prosecutors. The charge carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison. He remains in the custody of the Alexandria Sheriff's Office.

First published on February 25, 2020 / 2:55 PM

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