Virginia Conspiracy Theorist Used Gasoline to Explode Own Home

The Virginia man who was killed in a dramatic explosion at a duplex during a police standoff in early December 2023 deliberately detonated canisters filled with gasoline in his basement to set off the blast, according to law enforcement officials.

Police were called to the home of James Yoo, 56, in Arlington on December 4, 2023, after he fired a flare gun into a nearby park and school. After hours of repeatedly attempting to make contact with Yoo, police obtained a search warrant and knocked through the front door of his duplex using an armored vehicle. Yoo fired several shots at police and a few minutes later, the duplex exploded.

In a June 7 press conference, Arlington County Police Chief Andy Penn said while the investigation into the incident revealed Yoo’s history of mental health problems and paranoia, it was unlikely they would ever determine the specific motive.

During the press conference, officials played a video compiled from dash cam and body cam footage showing the December 4 explosion. The compilation also included body cam footage showing children in the park reacting to the flare gun as well as the efforts by police to talk Yoo out of his home.

The investigation into the explosion concluded that Yoo deliberately started the fire that caused the blast, an ATF agent told reporters.

Investigators discovered 35-gallon gas canisters that were stored in Yoo’s basement.

The ATF agent said investigators were unable to determine precisely how Yoo ignited the fire and suggested that the explosion could have been caused either by striking a match or by gasoline vapors ignited by the gunshots Yoo fired.

The pepper spray and tear gas used to try to force Yoo to leave the duplex were not flammable and could not have been responsible for the explosion, officials told reporters. Police also shut off the natural gas to the house long before they attempted to breach the door.

While none of the first responders were severely injured in the explosion, Chief Penn said that several did seek medical attention in the days following the incident.

In the wake of the explosion, officials revealed that Yoo had a history of erratic behavior and made frequent contact with the FBI to allege that he was a victim of various frauds and schemes. Court records revealed that Yoo also filed multiple federal lawsuits, all of which were dismissed for being frivolous.