Huffpost DC

SUV Driver Charged With Arson, Other Counts In Office Building Incident (UPDATED)

Posted: Updated:
CATHY LANIER
Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier says it appears that the driver of an SUV intentionally hit an office building at Connecticut Avenue and L Street NW on Friday night. | AP

WASHINGTON -- Police in the nation's capital, along with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force, investigated an incident where a stolen SUV is believed to have been intentionally driven into a downtown office building Friday night.

WRC-TV/NBC 4 reported:

Sources told News4's Jackie Bensen that the interior of the SUV as well as the driver had been deliberately doused with gasoline.

The FBI and a bomb squad went to the scene.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that the driver, Charles Morrell Ball, 32, of New Market, Md., was charged with arson, felony destruction of property and felony unauthorized use of a vehicle.

The building in question was 1050 Connecticut Ave. NW, a large office block called Washington Square that stretches the length of L Street NW between Connecticut Avenue and 18th Street NW.

The street-level retail includes a Men's Wearhouse, Victoria's Secret, Verizon Wireless, The Art of Shaving and J.R. Cigars. Morton's Steakhouse occupies a second-floor space fronting Connecticut Avenue. The Arent Fox law firm is one of the building's tenants.

Bensen reported during WRC-TV's 11 p.m. newscast that around 7:45 p.m., an SUV drove in between steel bollards that line the sidewalk outside the Washington Square lobby and ended up inside the building. The driver was taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

WJLA-TV/ABC7 reported Friday night that Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier said that the Joint Terrorism Task Force was asked to investigate the situation "out of abundance of caution" because it appeared that the SUV was driven intentionally into the building.

The Washington Post, which reported that Ball had "mental-health issues" and is listed on Maryland's registry of sex offenders, quoted Lanier on Saturday saying: "I don’t think it was a terrorist act."

Later, WTOP-FM's Michelle Basch indicated that police believe the SUV had been stolen and that the gas inside the vehicle was from a canister that had "simply been left there by the car's owner."

One of the Farragut North Metrorail station's entrances at L Street NW was closed, but according to a D.C. Alert sent out around 8:45 p.m., Red Line operations were not impacted. Metro reported that other entrances remained open.

Streets adjacent to the office building were closed but were reopened by midnight.

This post has been updated to reflect new information about the driver and charges he's facing.