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Luther Jackson Middle School entrance (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Luther Jackson Middle School students will have to wait for their first dance of the year.

The Valentine’s Day dance scheduled for this afternoon (Wednesday) has been postponed after threats of gun violence at the Merrifield school (3020 Gallows Road) were discovered earlier this week.

While Fairfax County police say there “does not appear to be any substantial threat at this time,” Luther Jackson officials announced the postponement yesterday (Tuesday) “out of an abundance of caution.”

“As soon as we have a new date selected, we will let everyone know,” the school said in a newsletter bulletin. “All tickets already purchased will be honored on the new event date once selected. Regular after-school activities will proceed as usual, and previously canceled activities have been added back on to the signup form.”

The first threat came in the form of graffiti found in a school restroom late Monday (Feb. 12) afternoon, Luther Jackson principal Raven Jones said in a message sent to parents at 8:14 p.m. that day. The graffiti made a “vague” threat that there would be a shooting at the school on “Thursday.”

“We notified the Office of Safety and Security and the Fairfax County Police who have responded, checked the school and begun an investigation,” Jones wrote. “Fairfax County Police continue to investigate but do not believe that there is a valid threat to the school based solely on this graffiti.”

As a precaution, additional security personnel were assigned to the school yesterday morning.

However, a second anonymous threat was found circulating on social media, claiming that there would be a shooting and possibly a bomb at Luther Jackson Middle School this Thursday, Feb. 15. The message appears to have first emerged on Instagram before getting shared on Twitter.

In an update sent to parents at 9:21 a.m. yesterday, Jones said school officials were “aware of the additional social media post also referencing a school shooting on Thursday.”

Fairfax County Police and our Office of Safety and Security are actively investigating. I do not have any further information to share at this time but will update you as soon as we are able. Additional safety and security staff will be monitoring our school.

The safety of our students is our primary concern, and we will always investigate these incidents as soon as we are made aware.

If you or your student has any information to share about this situation, please contact our Office of Safety at 571-423-2000 or through our anonymous safety tip line that you can access online, by text or by phone.

The Fairfax County Police Department says its investigation into the social media threat is ongoing, though there isn’t believed to be a “substantial” threat at this time.

“We urge the community to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity promptly,” the FCPD said. “Additionally, we encourage individuals to refrain from sharing unverified information on social media platforms to prevent unnecessary panic. The Fairfax County Police Department is committed to ensuring the safety and security of all individuals, and we will continue to work diligently to resolve this matter.”

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A handgun with bullets (via Tom Def on Unsplash)

In an attempt to stem what Democratic lawmakers say is an epidemic of guns being stolen from vehicles, the Virginia Senate passed legislation Thursday that would create a $500 civil penalty for firearm owners who leave handguns on a car seat or other areas visible to passersby.

The legislation, one of the first gun control measures put to a full vote in either chamber this year, still needs to pass the House of Delegates and is likely at risk of being vetoed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin after the session ends. Still, the issue highlights the two parties’ diverging views on how to address gun crime, with Democrats trying to reduce the number of guns flowing onto the streets and Republicans calling for tougher enforcement of existing laws.

Sen. Dave Marsden, D-Fairfax, said the bill he’s sponsoring uses a “light touch” to try to limit the supply of guns available to people who shouldn’t have them.

“We cannot have our vehicles here in the commonwealth act as vending machines for firearms,” Marsden said.

If authorities spot a vehicle with a visible handgun inside, the bill would allow them to have the vehicle towed. The law would apply to any “unattended motor vehicle” left on a public highway or public property where neither the driver nor a passenger can see it.

To illustrate the extent of the problem they’re attempting to solve, Democratic lawmakers pointed to recent statistics presented by the Richmond Police Department showing a major uptick in the number of guns stolen from vehicles in Virginia’s capital. There were 225 such thefts in 2017, according to city police, and 637 in 2022.

All 19 Republicans in the Senate voted against the bill, with the chamber’s 21 Democrats voting to pass it.

Sen. Mark Peake, R-Lynchburg, said the fundamental problem is people breaking into cars to begin with, adding that thieves could steal money or anything else of value left in a car and use the proceeds to buy a gun.

“We have to stop it at the beginning,” Peake said. “And that is by stopping people who are breaking into cars.”

Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham, argued the bill would have no impact because he’s doubtful many gun owners are so careless as to leave a handgun in plain sight for would-be thieves. The state should instead focus on different kinds of incentives for safe storage, Obenshain said, such as a bill passed in 2023 that created a $300 tax credit to help Virginians buy gun safes and lockboxes.

“We ought not be punishing victims of crimes,” Obenshain said.

Democratic senators said the law’s passage alone would send a message to Virginia gun owners to be more thoughtful about how they store firearms in vehicles.

“Responsible gun owners ought to get in the habit of putting their gun in the glovebox,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Surovell, D-Fairfax. “Put it in the glovebox every time they get out of their car. Just make it a habit.”

Photo via Tom Def on Unsplash. This article was reported and written by the Virginia Mercury, and has been reprinted under a Creative Commons license.

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Residence Inn at 8400 Old Courthouse Road in Tysons (via Google Maps)

Police recently seized over a dozen firearms and some drugs from a Maryland house in connection to an armed robbery at a hotel in Tysons.

Officers were called to the Residence Inn at 8400 Old Courthouse Road at 3:46 a.m. on Dec. 19 for the reported robbery, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

“The suspects displayed a firearm and pistol whipped the victim before stealing money,” the FCPD said.

The resulting investigation identified a 33-year-old man from Maryland and a 26-year-old woman from Sterling as the suspects, police say.

It also led detectives to search a home in Prince George’s County where they found 13 firearms, three of them reported stolen, and four pounds of a substance believed to be meth. The Prince George’s County Police Department assisted with the search.

The man and woman were arrested by the FCPD’s Fugitive Track and Apprehension Squad. They’re both being held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bond and face charges of robbery and the use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

The woman has also been charged with crimes related to transporting and possessing drugs, including transportation of over an ounce of a Schedule I/II substance into Virginia, possession of a firearm with Schedule I/II narcotics, possession of ammunition by a convicted felon, possession of a firearm by a non-violent convicted felon, and possession with intent to distribute Schedule I/II narcotics.

Image via Google Maps

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A Virginia State Police vehicle (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Virginia State Police are seeking witnesses in a possible shooting incident that occurred this morning (Thursday) near the I-495 and Dulles Toll Road interchange in Tysons.

Troopers responded at 6:08 a.m. to a driver stopped in the shoulder along the Capital Beltway’s northbound lanes near the exit to the toll road’s westbound lanes, according to the VSP and scanner traffic on Open MHz.

The driver wasn’t injured, but he reported that his vehicle “had a bullet hole in its passenger side,” state police said.

Starting around 10:30 a.m., the VSP closed all northbound lanes on the Beltway at Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) to the toll road as it investigates the shooting.

“State police has requested the closure so we can search for any possible evidence connected to the vehicle that was shot,” a VSP spokesperson said.

The closure was expected to last 30 to 45 minutes.

State police are seeking potential witnesses, asking anyone who saw “suspicious activity in this area between 5:50 a.m. and 6:05 a.m.” to reach out by phone at 804-750-8798 or by email at questions@vsp.virginia.gov.

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Fairfax County police helicopter (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:45 a.m.) Fairfax County police have arrested two men who allegedly broke into a house in the McLean area earlier this week and robbed and assaulted its residents at gunpoint.

Officers were called to the 1300 block of Spring Hill Road — just north of Tysons and the Dulles Toll Road — at 5:45 a.m. on Monday (Nov. 27) when a 911 caller reported that at least one stranger was in her house “screaming about money,” according to the dispatch on Open MHz.

An investigation found that three people “forcibly entered” the residence and “demanded money” while brandishing a gun, the Fairfax County Police Department said today (Friday).

“The men assaulted two victims inside the home then ran from the residence,” the police department said in a news release. “One victim was taken to the hospital for injuries considered not life-threatening.”

Officers located one of the suspects — identified as 32-year-old Lorton resident Jaquan Ross — that day with help from a helicopter and K9 unit. Ross was spotted by the chopper “attempting to conceal himself by laying on the ground,” according to the FCPD.

Ross has been charged with three counts each of abduction and robbery, burglary, malicious wounding, and use of a firearm while committing a felony.

The subsequent investigation led detectives to identify Elijah Thomas, 24, of Dumfries as one of the other men involved in the robbery, the FCPD says. He was arrested yesterday (Thursday) and faces the same charges as Ross, with the addition of one count of being a felon in possession of a gun.

Police say the third person involved in the incident was also a man, but they’re still working to identify him.

Though the 911 caller described the intruders as strangers, the FCPD says detectives don’t believe the robbery was committed at random.

“During the investigation, certain facts and circumstances led investigators to believe this was not a random act,” the police department said in a statement to FFXnow. “The case is still currently under investigation and detectives are actively following leads.”

Ross and Thomas are both in custody without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. After an arraignment on Tuesday (Nov. 28), Ross will get a preliminary hearing on Feb. 28, 2024, while Thomas was arraigned today and scheduled for a preliminary hearing on March 4, according to court records.

The entrance to Kilmer Middle School (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 2:25 p.m.) Kilmer Middle School in Tysons has stepped up the presence of its security team today (Friday) in response to an alleged threat of gun violence heard during a fight.

In a message sent to parents at 3:10 p.m. yesterday (Thursday), principal Steven McFarlane said the school had been “made aware of an alleged threat of gun violence that was overheard by students during a fight” that afternoon.

The incident prompted an investigation by the school’s Office of Safety and Security and the Fairfax County Police Department, which jointly determined that there was “no direct threat” at the time.

“Out of an abundance of caution, tomorrow we’ll have extra Safety and Security presence to ensure our students feel safe,” McFarlane said in the email.

According to the FCPD, its school resource officer at Kilmer began an investigation after someone reported overhearing one of two students involved in “an altercation” say that they “may bring a gun to school.”

The police department initially told FFXnow that it was determined “no threat to bring a gun to school was made,” but a spokesperson later clarified that the investigation is still ongoing.

“The students involved have been identified,” the FCPD told FFXnow by email. “There is no active threat to the school at this time. FCPS will conduct their own risk assessment with the student(s) as a follow-up.”

FCPS didn’t return a request for additional comment.

According to McFarlane, the investigation included a risk assessment. Fairfax County Public Schools requires a team of school staff to conduct an assessment “when a student makes an explicit or implicit threat or demonstrates concerning behaviors that may pose a danger to the safety of school staff or students.”

McFarlane’s full message is below:

November 30, 2023

Dear Parents and Guardians,

We have been made aware of an alleged threat of gun violence that was overheard by students during a fight this afternoon. Fairfax County Police and our Office of Safety and Security are involved in the investigation, which includes a risk assessment. It has been determined that there is no direct threat to the school at this time. Out of an abundance of caution, tomorrow we’ll have extra Safety and Security presence to ensure our students feel safe.

The safety of our students is our primary concern, and we will always investigate these incidents as soon as we are made aware. The first step that you should take if your child shares a safety concern with you is to contact authorities. If your safety concern is an emergency, please call 911. FCPS Office of Safety and Security also has a safety tip line that you can access anonymously online, by text or by phone.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Steven McFarlane

Principal

Image via Google Maps

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

Gunshots were reportedly fired near Snakden Branch Trail in the Glade area of Reston shortly after midnight.

Police responded to the 2300 block of Middle Creek Lane around 12:22 a.m. after several callers reported hearing the sound of multiple gunshots in the area, according to scanner traffic on Open MHz.

A dispatcher told responding officers that at least one caller confirmed they saw a person firing the gun. An area resident said they saw “a muzzle flash about a hundred feet behind his house,” an officer reported at 12:28 a.m.

A spokesperson for the Fairfax County Police Department said evidence was recovered from the scene, but no injured persons were located.

“Detectives from our criminal investigation division are assuming the investigation,” FCPD wrote in a statement.

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The Fairfax County Adult Detention Center (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A Tysons man who got arrested for allegedly possessing illegal guns is now also facing child pornography charges.

The Fairfax County Police Department announced yesterday (Tuesday) that its detectives have obtained warrants charging 31-year-old Craig Strasbourger with three counts of possessing child sexual abuse material, one count of soliciting a minor, and one count of possessing animal sexual abuse material.

Police say they started investigating Strasbourger after getting a tip in September from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about “sexual communication with an underage individual from Kentucky.”

The communications came from an internet provider address that was traced to Strasbourger’s home on Robin Way Court, according to the FCPD.

Strasbourger was first arrested on Nov. 16 after police found four rifles that had been “unlawfully modified” while searching his residence. He was charged with four counts of unlawful possession of the firearms, which were described as “illegal machine guns” in the FCPD’s initial news release.

During the search, detectives also found “various computer devices” that were evaluated, leading to the new porn charges, according to police.

After the gun charges, Strasbourger was released on a $4,000 secured bond, but he was arrested again on Monday (Nov. 27) and is now in custody at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. A preliminary court hearing on all charges has been scheduled for Feb. 20, 2024.

A Tysons resident was arrested after police found machine guns his home (courtesy FCPD)

Fairfax County police confiscated multiple machine guns last week from a Tysons man who was suspected of sending sexual messages to a juvenile.

Detectives began investigating Craig Strasbourger, 31, after receiving a tip in September from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline, which gets reports of child sexual exploitation incidents, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

The tip indicated that Strasbourger “was suspected to be engaging in sexual communication with a juvenile from Kentucky,” the FCPD said in a news release on Friday (Nov. 17).

Detectives and the department’s SWAT team executed a search warrant for Strasbourger’s house on Robin Way Court on Thursday (Nov. 16), leading to his arrest.

“During the operation, detectives confiscated four illegal machine guns and various electronic devices from the premises,” the FCPD said.

Strasbourger has been charged with four counts of unlawful possession of a machine gun. He was initially held at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center but later got released on a $4,000 secured bond, according to police.

Additional charges could be filed in connection with the electronic devices, which are being reviewed by detectives, the police department said.

Machine guns are allowed in Virginia, but they must be registered with the Virginia State Police. Under the Uniform Machine Gun Act, possession for an “offensive or aggressive purpose” is a Class 4 felony, which carries potential sentences of two to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $100,000.

The FCPD didn’t immediately elaborate on what made the machine guns found at Strasbourger’s house illegal, but the state law says an aggressive or offensive purpose is presumed if:

  • The gun isn’t registered
  • Shells are found in its “immediate vicinity”
  • The person has been convicted of a violent crime
  • Or the person doesn’t own or rent the property where the gun was found

Per Fairfax County General District Court records, Strasbourger is scheduled to appear for an arraignment at 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 27 and a preliminary hearing at 2 p.m. on Feb. 20, 2024.

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McDonald’s at 5600 Franconia Road in Rose Hill (via Google Maps)

Two teens were arrested yesterday (Tuesday) for allegedly firing a gun inside the bathroom of a McDonald’s near Edison High School.

Fairfax County police responded to the fast-food restaurant at 5600 Franconia Road in Rose Hill for a “suspicious noise” heard around noon, according to scanner traffic on Open MHz. A caller reported that a gun had been fired in the men’s bathroom, and someone “ran out” and got into a black sedan, a dispatcher said.

“No one was injured and several juveniles were seen leaving the business after the sound of the gunshot,” the Fairfax County Police Department said in a news release. “A witness provided a description of a vehicle seen leaving the scene.”

An officer reported that a hole was found in the bathroom, per the police scanner.

According to the FCPD, officers were able to “quickly” locate the vehicle and take multiple individuals into custody. An officer said on the scanner that two people and at least one weapon were found in the car.

Some of the individuals involved were identified as students at Edison High School, where another teen returned after the gunshot incident, police said. The teen was located with help from a school resource officer and Fairfax County Public Schools security.

Officers immediately coordinated with the SRO, quickly located the involved juvenile, and took him into custody at 2:11 p.m. Officers worked with FCPS security to review surveillance footage. During this review, the juvenile was seen entering a bathroom. A search of this bathroom discovered a firearm concealed above a ceiling tile.

The teen who allegedly hid the gun has been charged with carrying a concealed weapon and possession of a firearm on school property. One of the other teens faces chargees of reckless discharge of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon and brandishing, the FCPD announced.

Police described the ongoing investigation as “fluid.”

“Detectives are continuing to investigate the circumstances of the discharge in the McDonalds bathroom,” the police department said.

Photo via Google Maps

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