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Police stop mass shooting plot at Virginia church minutes beforehand

Police said the suspect had made his way into Park Valley Church with a loaded handgun, extra ammunition and two folding knives before being stopped.
Police lights on a cruiser.
Posted at 11:20 AM, Sep 27, 2023

A man who authorities said was minutes away from carrying out a mass shooting plot at a church in Northern Virginia was arrested on Sunday. 

Prince William County Police said the suspect, identified as 35-year-old Rui Jiang, had made his way into Park Valley Church with a loaded handgun, extra ammunition and two folding knives before he was stopped by an officer. 

Church services were going on at the time, but no injuries were reported, police said. 

According to the incident report, a citizen in Laurel, Maryland, called police after they saw “concerning posts” on Jiang’s Instagram in which he made threats of violence and included images of a location that investigators were able to later determine was the church in Haymarket — located about an hour away from Laurel. 

Law enforcement in Maryland were able to find a residence tied to the suspect in Falls Church, Virginia. They alerted the Fairfax County Police Department, who responded to the home for a welfare check but did not find Jiang there, the incident report stated. 

Simultaneously, Prince William County Police were notified about the investigation since the church was located in their jurisdiction. 

An off-duty, uniformed Prince William County officer found the suspect’s car in the church parking lot after receiving a description, but Jiang was not in it, police said. 

Around the same time, staff at the church had spotted a person they deemed suspicious, later determined to be Jiang, and began to monitor him, according to the incident report. 

Jiang apparently entered the church building through a back door, but the off-duty officer and church staff were able to work together to stop him at the entrance of the church around 10 a.m., police said. 

Fairfax County Police Department Chief Kevin Davis told NBC Washington Jiang was minutes — maybe even seconds — away from carrying out his murder plot. 

Police said Jiang had a concealed weapon permit and the gun he had on him was not reported stolen. 

Officers searched his home in Falls Church and took documents and electronic devices, but no additional guns were found. 

Davis told NBC Washington a kill manifesto was found at the home, and Jiang articulated he didn't know anyone at the church but planned to take many lives. 

Jiang was arrested and charged with threats of bodily harm and carrying a dangerous weapon to a place of religious worship, which is a misdemeanor in Virginia. He is being held without bond.