Man arrested in sending suspicious packages to DC-area government sites

WASHINGTON — A man has been arrested in connection with about a dozen suspicious packages that have been found beginning Monday evening at military and governmental installations in the D.C. area.

Thanh Cong Phan, 43, was arrested by the FBI and the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office at his home in Everett, Washington, Monday, the FBI said in a statement Tuesday. He’ll be in court Tuesday afternoon.

The FBI said multiple packages had been sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia; the Naval Surface Warfare Center, in Dahlgren, Virginia; the CIA, in Langley, Virginia; and Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling and Fort McNair, both in D.C. At least one of the packages was addressed to the White House; it was detected at the Secret Service’s mail screening facility, at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling..

The FBI also said that “It is possible that further packages were mailed” to other installations in the area.

NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams told WTOP some of the packages were accompanied by what investigators told him were “rambling and disturbing” notes, and at least two of them had explosive material in them.

An X-ray indicated a suspected GPS and a fuse attached to potential explosive material at the National Defense University, at Fort McNair, WTOP National Security Correspondent J.J. Green. The package was eventually rendered safe and no injuries were reported.

However, Williams said, “it doesn’t appear, from what we’ve been told, that any of these devices were actually fully functioning bombs.” They may have had such explosive material in them, as well as wires and evident fuses, but “apparently, the person doing it fortunately did it wrong,” Williams said. One official told him “they were intended more to frighten than to injure or cause damage.”

Williams said “It’s obvious they were on to this person quite quickly,” adding that authorities had some indication of their suspicions Monday evening.

Asked about a potential motive, Williams said that after talking with investigators, “Motive may be too grand a word; it may be an obsession.” The suspect, he said, “had grievances and had probably expressed them before. … This may have been a long-standing thing.”

Asked whether the packages may have been connected with or inspired by the recent package bombs that terrorized Austin, Texas, Williams said that it was hard to determine that, especially given that it’s not know yet how long this was planned or whether any packages are still out there. He did say, “It seems to bring them out of the woodwork.”

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters on Tuesday that all of the packages mailed to Defense Department facilities were under the control of federal authorities.

“Basically there’s a set procedure, they went through the procedure,” Mattis said.

“We’ve had nobody injured and all those packages and all the evidence is accessible and is the hands of the FBI right now.”

The packages and materials are being investigated by the FBI in Quantico, Virginia.

ABC News, NBC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Rick Massimo

Rick Massimo came to WTOP, and to Washington, in 2013 after having lived in Providence, R.I., since he was a child. He's the author of "A Walking Tour of the Georgetown Set" and "I Got a Song: A History of the Newport Folk Festival."

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up