'God Had a Hand on Us': Police Prevent Mass Shooting at Virginia Church in the Nick of Time
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A church in Northern Virginia is giving thanks after an off-duty police officer stopped a potential mass shooting with just moments to spare.
It happened at Park Valley Church in Haymarket, Virginia, about 40 miles west of Washington D.C.
A police officer arrested the heavily armed suspect in the church vestibule with members already gathered for Sunday morning service.
Police say 35-year-old Rui Jiang had a loaded handgun, an extra magazine, and two knives.
Earlier that morning he allegedly posted threatening messages on social media from the church parking lot. It prompted a woman in Anne Arundel County, Maryland – about an hour east of the church in Haymarket – to call police.
"What she saw concerned her enough to call the Anne Arundel Police Department and say, 'Hey, I think something really bad is going to happen,'" Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said.
Officers first went to Jiang's home and discovered he was not there. They then broadcast a call to respond to the church.
An off-duty policeman who works security guard at Park Valley heard the alert and made the arrest.
"This was a thwarted diabolical plot to kill churchgoers in Haymarket, Virginia," said Davis. "We put our hands on him literally in the nick of time."
Davis said Jiang was just minutes from killing someone.
Authorities believed he did not know anyone in the congregation, but they discovered a manifesto with disturbing writings at his home.
However, Pastor Barry White told CNN that Jiang had worshiped at the church over the summer.
"It was an imminent disaster, you know, that could have happened here, that didn't," he said.
Jiang posted photos to Instagram of a gun being pointed at a computer screen showing the spire of a white church building.
"They're still trying to figure out the connection as to why, you know, he would choose our church," said White. He told the outlet that Jiang believed some government workers attended the church.
The pastor of Park Valley says he's thankful to God for His protection.
"As bad as it was, it was a victory," said White. "Somebody saw something, said something. Then you had all these police organizations that worked flawlessly together."
"I believe God had a hand on us," he added. "These kinds of events don't normally play out this way."
Jiang was charged with threats of bodily harm and carrying a dangerous weapon in a place of religious worship.
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