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Teen Arrested for Brandishing Fake Gun at Abingdon Elementary

by Katie Pyzyk April 5, 2012 at 11:45 am 6,720 81 Comments

(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) A teen with a fake gun threatened a group of children outside Abingdon Elementary School in Fairlington yesterday afternoon.

Students told police a male suspect approached them, carrying a gun with an orange tip. Police radio traffic reported that while displaying the weapon, which was at first thought to be real, the suspect asked the children if they were ready to die.

The suspect and children all left the scene. However, when police arrived, some of the children returned to describe the suspect and incident.

A short time later, police found a 17-year-old boy in the area matching the students’ description. The teen was arrested and charged with brandishing a firearm on school property, according to Arlington County Police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. Although he did not have the weapon with him at the time of the arrest, it was later recovered and revealed to be a BB gun.

Nobody was hurt during the incident. The suspect, who police say is an Arlington Public Schools student, was released to his parents.

  • Tabs

    “the suspect asked the children if they were ready to die”

    Omigod! Can’t he be charged with something stronger than “brandishing a firearm”?

    • PUP

      srsly, my first thought as well.

    • SomeGuy

      It doesn’t sound like he was actually brandishing a firearm. I haven’t read the language of the law on this one, but it could be an easy charge for a defense attorney to beat.

      • em

        The brandishing statute also applies to objects that look like firearms (ie: fake guns). It’s designed to cover situations where people use fake guns to rob people and stores and stuff, which is probably a more common situation than people using real guns.

        • Zoning Victim

          Yes, in fact, here is the title of the statute:

          “18.2-282. Pointing, holding, or brandishing firearm, air or gas operated weapon or object similar in appearance; penalty.”

          Because this happened at a school, it’s a Class 6 felony instead of a misdemeanor. For Class 6 felonies, the jury or court may choose imprisonment for one to five years or jail for up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500, either or both.

          The orange tip may work in his favor because of the part of the statute that states the weapon must be held “in such manner as to reasonably induce fear in the mind of another […] of being shot or injured,” but I seriously doubt it will since this was dealing with children and his statements plus the gun were obviously intended to induce fear over being shot in the minds of the children.

          Let’s hope he gets the help he so obviously needs no matter what sentence he receives. I hope the kids do, too; I’m sure the whole event was pretty traumatic for them.

          • SomeGuy

            Thanks Zoning Victim. I figured there was some broader language in there to help them relate the charge, but I didn’t have time to look up the statute. And I overlooked the clause in the article that said they eventually DID recover a “weapon.” The reported fake gun might have been easy to explain away without that material evidence.

          • Heather MC

            I am the mother of one of the boys the suspect pointed the gun at. My son is 10 years old and has never seen a gun. My Son did not see the orange tip he saw a GUN. When the suspect pointed the gun at my son and asked, “are you ready to die?” My son said, “Mommy I rode away as fast as I could because I was afraid he was going to shoot me in my back!”
            We didn’t know what kind of gun it was until after the police arrived, my son thought he was going to die, so anyone who thinks this is not a big deal, please think of my little boy and then think of a child you love believing some stanger is about to be shoot them in the back, and then you came back and tell me this was not a big deal. Because it is, it is a VERY BIG DEAL!

      • John Fontain

        SomeGuy – I hope you don’t rely on your knowledge of criminal law to put food on the table and a roof over your head.

        • SomeGuy

          Just as I hope you don’t use your winning personality for the same.

          • John Fontain

            Dang nab it, now my feel’ns are hurt!

          • MC 703

            You started it. Are you a legal expert or just an all around expert on everything?

          • awh hells bells

            He probably DVRs all the Nancy Grace episodes.

          • SomeGuy

            You nailed it MC 703. John Fontain is an expert in everything. In fact, he documented evidence of his expertise in legal strategy in the exchange shown here:

      • Heather MC

        I am the mother of one of the boys the suspect pointed the gun at. My son is 10 years old and has never seen a gun. My Son did not see the orange tip he saw a GUN. When the suspect pointed the gun at my son and asked, “are you ready to die?” My son said, “Mommy I rode away as fast as I could because I was afraid he was going to shoot me in my back!”
        We didn’t know what kind of gun it was until after the police arrived, my son thought he was going to die, so anyone who thinks this is not a big deal, please think of my little boy and then think of a child you love believing some stanger is about to be shoot them in the back, and then you came back and tell me this was not a big deal. Because it is, it is a VERY BIG DEAL!

  • Stitch_Jones

    In this instance, if this guy did this, any charge will do.

    • TGEoA

      Just enough to get him off the street and evaluated for mental stability

      • Arlingtoon

        No evaluation needed. He’s one sick puppy.

  • Ackbar

    if yo are going to brandish a handgun, at least paint the orange tip. How much is spraypaint? $3 dollars? lol NOOB!

  • Arlington Cat

    Wow. Abingdon didn’t need this.

    Glad they got him.

  • ALEC

    This is why we need to arm our children, so if they feel threatened they can stand their ground and shoot unarmed crazy people.

    • LP

      George Zimmerman? Is that you?

      • Banksy

        Just in case you didn’t get the joke, ALEC stands for the American Legislative Exchange Council, the right-wing group that, along with the NRA, wrote/pushed the stupid “Stand Your Ground” law in FL and other states…

        • Zoning Victim

          Stand your ground laws are neither stupid nor new. The SCOTUS has upheld several times since the late 1800’s that you have no duty to retreat in certain instances.

          I think a lot of people believe that you can actually start a fight and then end it with deadly force in stand your ground states, which is not the case. It simply means that if someone attacks you in a place you have a right to be, you do not have the duty to run away until you can’t run anymore before meeting force with force. A stand your ground law is also not a license to kill; the level of force you use against your assailant must still be appropriate for the situation. Many states already have stand your ground case law.

          • Banksy

            From the NYTimes, 03/20/2012:

            “Self-defense is now used more widely than it was under the old law,” said William Eddins, Pensacola’s state attorney and president of the Florida Prosecuting Attorneys Association. “It is a very broad law in terms of the availability of the defendant to try to take advantage of this law. It has created more litigation for the state in cases involving violence and in murder cases, in particular.”

            The state attorney in Tallahassee, Willie Meggs, who fought the law when it was proposed, said: “The consequences of the law have been devastating around the state. It’s almost insane what we are having to deal with.”

            It is increasingly used by gang members fighting gang members, drug dealers battling drug dealers and people involved in road rage encounters. Confrontations at a bar are also common: someone looks at someone the wrong way or bothers someone’s girlfriend.

            Under the old law, a person being threatened with a gun or a knife had a duty to try to get away from the situation, if possible. Now that person has a right to grab a gun (or knife, or ice pick, as happened in one case) and use it, without an attempt to retreat.

            SYG is a bad law.

          • drax

            So you’re saying that if someone comes at me with a gun, I should run first? Really? So I can get shot in the back?

            I will do what I can to avoid killing someone, but if I see a knife or ice pick or gun coming my way, I’ll probably consider it no longer avoidable.

          • Banksy

            It depends on the circumstances. I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate cases of self-defense, but true self-defense would have been legal anyway. SYG is so poorly written/thought-out that it is not making people safer. It is doing just the opposite. SYG gives cover to anyone with a weapon and a short temper, poor judgement, paranoia, and/or vigilante mindset to shoot.

            That paragraph was from the NYTimes article, BTW. It’s worth reading the entire thing: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/21/us/justice-department-opens-inquiry-in-killing-of-trayvon-martin.html

            There’s also an older (2010) article — about a different FL case — from the Tampa Bay Times: http://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/aftermath-of-deadly-shooting-in-valrico-leaves-community-bewildered/1124429

          • Zoning Victim

            It’s worth reading the actual law before making all of the ridiculous claims you make about it, too: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&Search_String&URL=0700-0799/0776/Sections/0776.013.html

          • drax

            Of course it depends on the circumstances. But in the circumstances you described, I’m probably going to shoot.

            I still don’t see how SYG and self-defense are any different in terms of “giving cover.”

          • Josh S

            Victim –

            Not sure you’re quoting the right law, that seems to deal only in cases of forced entry or attempts to forcefully remove someone.

            In any case, I don’t quite see how you can accuse Banksy of making ridiculous claims when he provides support from the NYTimes article that itself quotes various knowledgeable Florida officials with reason to have a good understanding of how the Stand Your Ground law is actually impacting arrests / prosecutions. Also, Banksy is hardly alone in finding serious flaws with the Stand Your Ground law, even from a basic logic / moral standpoint. I’ll add my own voice – the law unnecessarily promotes vigilantism. It allows individuals, in the heat of the moment, protection to make life or death decisions, without need to take steps to avoid further violence. The law should not promote this sort of behavior. If you want to argue that killing your assailant was your only choice, it should be a jury of your peers that makes a decision as to whether they agree with you. A remote legislature cannot know the circumstances of every instance so as to be able to throw a blanket pardon on everyone who kills someone else in the name of Standing Their Ground. As Banksy points out, self-defense already exists as a defense but it requires proof. Stand Your Ground seems to undermine the need to prove that the circumstances warranted taking someone else’s life.

          • Zoning Victim

            Why does it not surprise me that a prosecutor would think that drug dealers and gang members shouldn’t be able to defend themselves by the use of deadly force if someone tries to murder them?

            If someone twice your size charges you, should you have to turn and run and hope he isn’t also twice as fast as you or if he is, he’ll be satisfied with giving you a mild beatdown instead of beating you to death? The problem with not having an SYG law is that you don’t know if you can get away from someone who seems intent on killing you until you either make it or die; that one hell of a gamble.

            According to the Sun Sentinel, the years since the law was enacted, there have only been 39 justifiable homicides not attributed to law enforcement (388 killings in Florida were ruled justifiable homicides from 2007 through 2010 and 60% of those were by law enforcement), and the majority of justifiable homicides among civilians occurred during commission of a felony by the victim. The article didn’t state how many were at the home of the civilian shooter, which would have already fallen under the Castle Doctrine and been justifiable homicide without the SYG statute.

            SYG is only a bad law when you’re not the one being attacked.

          • Josh S

            Victim –

            It is self-serving of course, to mention a hypothetical case involving someone twice as large as you. But the law doesn’t mention the size of the assailant. What if the assailant is twice as small as you? Stand Your Ground doesn’t care. What if you bump into an old lady on the street and she starts to beat you with her cane? She theoretically could score some good hits on you and do some serious damage. Should you have the right to kill her or even incapacitate her?

          • Car-Free Diet

            ARLnow when you moderate my comment above, please tell me where I went over the line and violated community rules. Please remember I did not bring up the hot-topic of Stand Your Ground laws and the Zimmerman-Martin incident and try to tie it to this incident.

          • Always Right

            I think they are monitoring several people these days??? Guess they don’t want remarks.

          • MC 703

            The thing about SYG is that whoever survives the encounter has the luxury of invoking the doctrine. If you win you can say whatever you want to justify the murder and with no hard evidence to the contrary, you’re good to go.

          • drax

            That’s true without a stand your ground law though. Every state makes self-defense legal, so you could just claim you were in fear of your life.

          • Josh S

            But it’s going to be harder to prove self defense without a stand your ground law. Let’s say the attack occurs on the street. A logical and reasonable question would be – did you have means of escape? Could you have taken actions that would have ended the attack but stopped short of taking the other person’s life? If the answer is yes, then you should no longer be able to claim self-defense. But Stand Your Ground no longer requires that. I can maybe accept the reasoning if we are talking about your own residence. But on the street or in some other public place? It’s just too easy to imagine circumstances where escape is possible.

  • Wabbit

    I’ve often thought that all handguns should be made hot pink, or maybe with a Hello Kitty! paint job. If you REALLY think you need a gun for protection, then you shouldn’t mind what it looks like.

    • Stitch_Jones

      Does that mean if they were pink you would be satisfied with citizens owning the means to defend themselves?

      Somehow I doubt that.

      Incidentally, they do make hot pink handguns and they sell rather well.

      • Greg

        Uhh… in all seriousness, it should be illegal to sell a hot pink handgun. Any real gun designed so as to look like a toy should be banned.

        • Mind your own

          I love my pink handgun. It was a gift and the pink was a bit on a play on girls owning guns which we often make light of, but it is a very nice one and I like to go to the range with my bf and the rest of the time it stays very securely locked up, so butt out.

          • Greg

            You sound like a real responsible gun owner, but remember next time some kid blows his brains out with his mom’s pink gun, that’s partially on you.

          • Curious George

            Actually it would be all over the walls.

          • SomeGuy

            I’d say it’s also on Charles Darwin.

          • Josh S

            Then you would be misunderstanding Charles Darwin.

          • Zoning Victim

            It wouldn’t be partially on her anymore than it’d be partially on me.

          • Wabbit

            Question is, would your bf be a proud pink-gun owner? If the answer is, “no,” then methinks it’s more about being Clint Eastwood than personal safety.

            Point taken above re :not making guns look like toys, though.

      • KalashniKEV

        “Incidentally, they do make hot pink handguns and they sell rather well.”

        And a portion of those proceeds (from the pink Smith and Wesson M&P guns) goes to Susan Komen Foundation Breast Cancer charities.

        • Josh S


    • KalashniKEV

      That’s the way they do it in California:


  • novasteve

    I hate to say this, but with kids these days, it’s hard to believe them. They just might have wanted to get this guy in trouble, and it may have been their fake gun they just tossed somewhere.

    • John Fontain

      Criminals hope and pray to have at least one juror with this type of mentality on their jury at trial.

      “I know there was an actual gun and I know there were multiple witnesses who all told the police the same thing, but it MAY be that this is all just a big lie. So I’ll just go ahead and disregard the scale of probability and say not guilty because he may not have done it (no matter how remote the likelihood of his innocence is).”

  • Bender

    Orange tip?

    You mean like on a TOY gun? Like on a SQUIRT gun? Like the kind of “guns” that kids “brandish” all the time?

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      A kid would be kicked out of school for “brandishing” a toy gun.

      Semantics of that sort aside, I can’t imagine what trauma this did to the 5-11 year old kids that he confronted. They’re certainly old enough to understand, but may not be well versed in the “orange tip vs not orange tip” distinction.

      I sincerely hope someone in jail asks him the same question, only with greater weight behind it, so he can experience a little of his own brand of abject terror.

      • SomeGuy

        “I seriously hope…” he gets fair legal proceedings, in stark contrast to the “abject terror” people here would wish upon a man who hasn’t been convicted of anything.

        • Lee-n-Glebe

          I’ll bet the sky in your world is a pretty color. Rose, perhaps?

          • SomeGuy

            Would you prefer that he not get fair legal proceedings? Or are you suggesting that police never make mistakes? Or that kids are always right?

            Maybe you can help me see the sky through your obviously correctly calibrated lens.

          • Lee-n-Glebe

            You know and I know that this guy did exactly what he is accused of having done. Which is different than legal culpability. Perhaps I am being incredibly optimistic in assuming that he will be found officially guilty.

          • SomeGuy

            Nope. I don’t know that. And neither do you.

          • Josh S

            You base your certitude on 170 words written on a blog by somneone you don’t know referencing words spoken by other people you don’t know involving events that you weren’t involved in and didn’t witness?

            Wow. Frightening.

          • Josh S

            Actually, his sky is the same color as everyone else who lives here in the United States where people are innocent until proven guilty. If you like convicting people without a trial, there are any number of Banana Republics around the world where you would feel quite at home…..

    • Quoth the Raven

      So, is your point that a grown man brandishing an apparently toy gun while asking kids if they’re ready to die the same as kids playing cops and robbers or whatever?

    • drax

      Those stupid 5-11 year olds should know better when an adult stranger points a gun at them and asks if they want to die that they shouldn’t worry because, hey, there’s an orange tip!

      • Bender

        If someone made death threats, then he should be charged for making death threats, not for using a toy when making those threats.

    • Heather MC

      I am the Mother of one of the little boys this happen to. Just so you know My children don’t play with Guns, toys or the real thing. Or squirt guns. I think guns are not to be romantized or joked with and we have no use for them in our home. So there maybe children brandishing guns all the time, but not my boys!

  • second amendment

    Is it not my right to open carry / brandish?

    • drax

      Open carry and brandish are two very different things.

  • Responsible

    @second ammendment: the open carrying of a firearm is not brandishing in the Commonwealth of Virginia. There are numerous places you can find this information, to case law.

    • WeiQiang

      Interesting you point that out. Is it “brandishing” when a group of people strap on their iron and go to a public establishment to demonstrate that they have a right to open-carry the iron? I mean, if an individual routinely leaves the house and straps on the iron open-carry, it would seem like this is something they do regularly and couldn’t be perceived as brandishing.

      I seem to remember an event at a Starbucks in Manassas where folks – who hadn’t done it before – decided to show up en masse to legally open-carry their iron. It elicited some concern from the unarmed patrons, the police were called, and – of course – there was no offense because it’s legal to open carry. But, while legal, is this a form of brandishing?

      • drax

        Starbucks? Heck, I saw them open carrying inside the state capitol office buildings in Richmond, where it is also legal. They were making the same point.

        Brandishing means using the gun to threaten someone, beyond just carrying it. It means, basically, taking it in your hand, and maybe pointing it, in a threatening way. I guess you could consider carrying it in a holster a sort of threat – many people do because they’re not used to seeing it – but legally, that’s not brandishing.

  • Responsible

    Wow, lots of typos there, *amendment **to include case law

  • The Heart of Lyon Village

    The schools are on spring break this week?

    In any event, this is just one more reason why we should stop funding the schools in South Arlington. Those kids will eventually end up living in Arlington’s homeless shelter, on crack or in prison, so why waste tax payer funds today? Look at every adult living south of Route 50 and you can see those kids’ future.

    • Zoning Victim

      Hah, yeah, “every adult” who has a home south of Route 50 is a crack head with no future except prison or the homeless shelter; every single one of us. Especially those people in Shirlington, The Hallstead and my neighbor with his brand new BMW Z4; jail bound crack heads, all of ’em.

    • Lala

      Lyon Village, you and your attitude are exactly what is making Clarendon douchey. Give it a rest, you live in Lyon Village for crying out loud.

    • drax

      This guy is why we need to put homeless shelters as close to Lyon Village as possible.

    • Doug

      Whoa your comment is very ignorant. I come from a Highschool in South Alrington. It had one of the best scores for students in the Advanced Placement program and most of those students went off to study at awesome colleges not to live out in the streets. So its not wasting tax payer funds at all. I would laugh if your future children ended up going to the best school available and ended up bumming out for the rest of their lives. Success doesn’t have to do all that much with location, but more with the individual’s drive to succeed.

    • Josh S

      It was a poor attempt at a joke, I believe.

  • Arlington, Northside

    Another justification for why we moved out of that neighborhood a few years ago.

  • Shahbaz Mirza

    There is a major breakdown in CHILD SAFETY at ABINGDON ELEMENTARY.

    There is NO fencing to protect kids from strangers walking onto the property without ANY OVERSIGHT!




    • KalashniKEV


      I don’t know why I find this so funny… I can’t stop laughing…


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