A Virginia church service took a terrifying turn when a man was apprehended for bringing a loaded firearm and knives into the congregation on a Sunday morning. The arrest came in the wake of “vague threats” that he had posted on Instagram, triggering a multi-state investigation, according to law enforcement.
The individual in question, 35-year-old Rui Jiang, hailing from Falls Church, located near Arlington, found himself facing charges of making threats of bodily harm and carrying a dangerous weapon into a place of worship, as confirmed by the Prince William Police Department in an official statement.
Events unfolded when officers were summoned to Park Valley Church in Haymarket, approximately 40 miles southwest of Falls Church, shortly after 10 a.m. They received a tip regarding a “potential threat of violence.” This initial alert originated out of state, with authorities in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, receiving a report from a concerned resident in Laurel who had come across “suspicious and troubling” Instagram posts by the suspect. The exact circumstances under which the Maryland resident encountered these posts, or whether they had any prior knowledge of the suspect, remained unclear.
“In these online postings, the suspect made veiled threats of violence, some of which featured images of a location later identified as Park Valley Church,” disclosed the Prince William County police.
Swiftly pinpointing a potential address for Jiang in Falls Church, officers from Fairfax County were dispatched to the residence. Regrettably, he was not found there.
As the investigation persisted, Prince William County authorities were apprised of the situation and promptly dispatched officers to Park Valley Church. An off-duty plainclothes officer and members of the church staff successfully located the suspect and detained him without any untoward incidents near the church’s entrance.
Subsequent investigations unveiled that Jiang had gained access to the premises through a separate entrance and had been inside the church prior to his apprehension. At the time, the church was hosting its regular services, police affirmed.
Upon searching the suspect, law enforcement discovered he was carrying a loaded handgun, an additional magazine, a folding knife, and a folding “credit card” style knife. Importantly, Jiang possessed a concealed weapon permit, and the firearm in his possession had not been reported as stolen.
Following the issuance of an Emergency Substantial Risk Order and the acquisition of a search warrant, documents and electronic items connected to the suspect were seized from his associated residence, the police disclosed.
Jiang was placed in custody without bail, according to law enforcement. They also urged anyone who may have had prior interactions with Jiang leading up to the incident on Sunday to contact Prince William County police at 703-792-7000.