Police destroy pressure cooker in car near Capitol and arrest driver

A bomb squad safely destroyed a pressure cooker found in a "suspicious" vehicle left unattended Sunday afternoon on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol, and the vehicle's owner was found and arrested, a Capitol Police spokeswoman said.

Police Lt. Kimberly A. Schneider told the Associated Press that Capitol Police officers on routine patrol spotted the parked, unoccupied vehicle on a street on the mall west of the Capitol about 5 p.m.

"Further investigation revealed a pressure cooker, and an odor of gasoline was detected," Schneider said, and a Capitol Police bomb squad was called in because the vehicle was "suspicious in nature."

She said the squad known as the Hazardous Devices Section destroyed "items of concern in the vehicle including the pressure cooker" about 7:45 p.m. after temporarily closing off the area on the busy Memorial Day holiday weekend. She did not immediately identify the other items but said only that "this safe disruption produced a loud bang."

She said follow-up searching of the vehicle detected "nothing hazardous."

Schneider said the bomb squad intervention came after authorities had set up a security perimeter around the site on 3rd Street. She said the street was temporarily closed between Independence Avenue and Constitution Avenue while authorities investigated. It was unclear how many people were in or near that area at the time.

After the items were destroyed, she said, police conducted a thorough search of the vehicle and concluded their investigation by about 8:20 p.m.

Schneider identified the vehicle's owner as Israel Shimeles of the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Va. The statement said Shimeles was arrested by Capitol Police and charged with “operating after revocation” and was being processed Sunday evening at police headquarters.

It wasn't immediately known whether he had an attorney. Schneider didn't elaborate on the charge.

Schneider also said the city's Metropolitan Police, U.S. Park Police, the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force were assisting Capitol Police.

The FBI did not immediately return a call for comment.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

UPDATES

9:51 p.m. This story was updated with further details.

This story was originally published at 8:43 p.m.

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