Virginia Man Arrested After Bringing Weapons to Church Service

A tip about troubling social media posts led to the arrest of a Virginia man who was found with a loaded handgun and other weapons at a church over the weekend during a service, the authorities said.

Rui Jiang, 35, of Fairfax County, was arrested on Sunday at the Park Valley Church in Haymarket, Virginia, the Prince William County Police Department said in a statement after an investigation in conjunction with the police departments in Fairfax and Anne Arundel Counties.

Mr. Jiang was charged with threats of bodily harm and carrying a dangerous weapon to a place of worship, the statement said. There were no indications that he threatened anyone on site, the police said. Mr. Jiang “was determined to have a concealed weapon permit, and the firearm was not reported stolen,” the Prince William County Police said.

The identity of Mr. Jiang’s lawyer was not immediately clear.

The episode highlighted how places of worship have become targets of deadly mass shootings nationwide in recent years, including at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 and at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, the year before.

The Park Valley church and its executive pastor, Tim White, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

The investigation began over the weekend, when a resident of Laurel, Md., reported “vague threats of violence” in posts on Instagram and alerted the Anne Arundel County Police Department. Several of the messages showed an image of Mr. Jiang pointing a firearm at pictures of churches, the authorities said.

The Anne Arundel County Police then reached out to the authorities in Fairfax County, where Mr. Jiang lived, for a welfare check, but he was not home when officers arrived, the Fairfax County Police Department said in a separate statement.

However, investigators obtained a description of his vehicle, and the Prince William County Police were able to track him to the area near the Park Valley Church, the police said.

An off-duty police officer who was working a detail at the church saw a vehicle that matched the description of Mr. Jiang’s in the church parking lot, the police said.

“At around the same time, staff at the church were monitoring a suspicious person who was determined to be the accused who was on the premises,” the Prince William County Police said in the statement, adding that Mr. Jiang had “apparently entered the building through a separate door.”

The off-duty officer and members of the church’s staff worked together to detain Mr. Jiang near the church’s entrance without incident. Morning services were being held at the time but were not disrupted, a spokesman for the Prince William County Police said. No one was injured.

During Mr. Jiang’s arrest, police officers found that he had a loaded handgun, an additional magazine, a folding knife and a folding “‘credit card’ style knife,” the Prince William County Police Department said in its statement.

Mr. Jiang was being held without bond. His next court hearing is set for Oct. 11 in Prince William County General District Court.

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