Police blow up suspicious item near U.S. Capitol

WASHINGTON -- A bomb squad safely destroyed a pressure cooker found in an unattended vehicle parked on the National Mall near the U.S. Capitol and the vehicle's owner was found and arrested, a U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman said.

Police Lt. Kimberly A. Schneider said in a statement that Capitol Police officers on routine patrol spotted the parked, unoccupied vehicle on a street on the mall west of the Capitol around 5 p.m. Sunday.

"Further investigation revealed a pressure cooker, and an odor of gasoline was detected," Schneider said. A Capitol Police bomb squad investigated the vehicle, which had been deemed "suspicious in nature."

Authorities noted that pressure cookers have been used in the past to create explosive devices. In April 2013, two pressure-cooker bombs set off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three and injured over 260 others.

Schneider said the bomb squad destroyed "items of concern in the vehicle including the pressure cooker" Sunday around 7:45 p.m. after temporarily closing off the area on the long Memorial Day holiday weekend. She did not immediately identify the other items but said only that "this safe disruption produced a loud bang."

The Washington Post reported that the explosion could be heard by the crowd that had gathered by the Capitol's west lawn for the annual Memorial Day concert.

Schneider also said a follow-up search of the vehicle found nothing hazardous. The vehicle's owner was found and identified as Israel Shimeles of the Washington suburb of Alexandria, Virginia, Schneider said. Shimeles was arrested and charged with "operating after revocation." Schneider didn't elaborate on the charge. It wasn't immediately known if he had an attorney.

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.