Shaho Jaf was sitting at home last Wednesday evening when a succession of three quick, loud blasts rattled the windows of his south Arlington house.
"It sounded like a big clap — boom, boom, boom; like lightning just struck outside," said Jaf, 27.
While the skies were clear, Jaf and his roommate, Jimmie Jenkins, found themselves in the eye of a different type of storm, one that roiled their quiet Douglas Park neighborhood throughout the night and into the following morning.
In front of them, their 26-year-old neighbor was lying on his lawn, clutching a leg that had turned a dark shade of crimson.
"He was rolling on the ground and moaning," Jaf recalled the following day, standing next to yellow police tape that cordoned off his neighbor's property.
"That's when we realized those were gunshots," said Jenkins, interrupting his friend.
THE SHOOTING WAS only one incident in a deadly night in Arlington — often resembling a scene from a big budget Hollywood action movie — that began with a traffic accident on I-395 and ended at 4 a.m. with the suicide of Travis Lamar Hampton, who had barricaded himself inside a home on the 3200 block of 13th St. South for more than 10 hours.
The trouble began at 5:30 p.m., when Hampton's Ford Taurus, traveling southbound on I-395, sideswiped an SUV filled with three agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, police said.
The agents pursued Hampton's vehicle, before he pulled over near the Glebe Road exit ramp and exited his car. After the agents identified themselves as federal law enforcement officers, Hampton, who lived in Washington, withdrew a handgun and began firing, Arlington police spokesman John Lisle said.
Bullets damaged the SUV, and the shattering of glass slightly injured at least one of the agents. Hampton, 24, then jumped back into his car and continued onto Glebe Road, with the agents giving chase.
Near Columbia Pike the agents' SUV, punctured by multiple gunshots, gave out, and the officers continued their pursuit on foot.
Hampton turned onto 13th St. South, where he crashed his Taurus into the side of a parked burgundy Chevrolet Blazer. Hampton then ran to the front of the house and kicked in the door, having picked the dwelling at random, Lisle said.
Hampton confronted the 26-year-old male resident, who had just emerged from the shower, and shot him in the leg. The man and his sister, who lived in the basement of the house together, both managed to escape from the gunman. He was treated for non-life threatening injuries at a local hospital, police said.
"We don't know if he had intended to keep them hostage," Lisle added.
Hampton proceeded to barricade himself in the house, blocking the door with furniture. Police then evacuated the surrounding neighborhood, including Jaf and Jenkins, as a lengthy standoff began.
MEMBERS OF ARLINGTON'S emergency response team attempted to communicate with Hampton through a bullhorn. Later in the evening authorities threw phones into the house, but failed to establish contact.
At one point Hampton pressed a note to a window, but officers could not make out the inscription, Lisle said.
Shortly after 11 p.m., officers shot pepper spray into the house to induce Hampton to leave. Despite the overwhelming smoke, Hampton made no attempts to vacate the building or contact the officers.
The reason why became clear when a team of Alexandria officers, who had relieved Arlington police officials, entered the house at 4 a.m. They found Hampton dead due to self-inflicted gunshots in the front bedroom of the house.
Speaking to a group of reporters the next day, Lisle said police had still not identified a motive for Hampton firing on the ATF agents on the side of the highway.
A police bus escorted approximately 20 neighborhood residents to nearby Thomas Jefferson Middle School to wait out the standoff. In the end only four individuals spent the night at the school, with the remainder booking rooms at hotels or going to friends' houses.
Michell Cuellar, who lives several doors down from the house that was seized, spent the night in a local hotel and returned at 6 a.m. the next morning, with her street still full of police officers.
"It's usually such a quiet neighborhood she said," staring at police cars still lining the road nearly 24 hours after the incident began. "This is bizarre."