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. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)
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ARLINGTON, Va. (AP) — Hours before a massive explosion destroyed a duplex and shook a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., a suspect inside his home fired a flare gun 30 to 40 times into the neighborhood, drawing a large police response, officials said Tuesday.

All officers escaped serious injury but it was unclear what happened to the suspect who was inside when the building was leveled by the explosion Monday night, Arlington County, Virginia, police spokesperson Ashley Savage said.

Officers went to the home about 4:45 p.m. after receiving reports of shots fired. The preliminary investigation showed that a suspect discharged the flare gun from inside his home, but no property damage or injuries were reported, police said in a statement.

While police investigated, they obtained a search warrant for the home and tried to make contact with the suspect by telephone and loudspeakers, but he remained inside without responding, police said.

As officers tried to execute the warrant, police said the suspect discharged several rounds from what is believed to be a firearm inside the home and, subsequently, around 8:30 p.m. there was an explosion, shooting flames and debris into the air. An investigation into the circumstances of the explosion were ongoing, police said.

Savage said police don’t have any evidence that others were in the duplex but can’t rule out the possibility.

The fire was under control around 10:30 p.m., but Arlington County Fire Department crews continued to battle small spot fires, police said early Tuesday. Three officers reported minor injuries, but no one was taken to the hospital.

Later in the day, officers wearing ATF jackets combed a nearby street looking through papers scattered in the debris field. Junk mail carrying the name and address of the home that exploded were visible on the street.

The White House was monitoring developments with the house explosion, a spokeswoman said.

“Our thoughts are with the police officers that were injured in that explosion,” Olivia Dalton, the White House principal deputy press secretary, told reporters on Air Force One on Tuesday. “We’re grateful to law enforcement that handled that situation very swiftly. I can tell you the ATF is assisting with the local law enforcement investigation into that matter but beyond that I would just refer you to Arlington Police Department.”

Carla Rodriguez of South Arlington said she could hear the explosion more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away and came to the scene but police kept onlookers blocks away.

“I actually thought a plane exploded,” she said.

Bob Maynes thought maybe a tree had fallen on his house when he heard the explosion.

“I was sitting in my living room watching television and the whole house shook,” Maynes said. “It wasn’t an earthquake kind of tremor, but the whole house shook.”

Arlington is located across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The explosion occurred in Bluemont, a neighborhood in north Arlington where many of the homes are duplexes.

Fire officials do not know the cause of the explosion, said Capt. Nate Hiner, a spokesperson for the Arlington Fire Department.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said federal agents and federal fire investigators were at the scene and assisting in the investigation.

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