GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJLA) - It wasn't the parties, the friends coming and going all hours of the day and night, or the skipped school that got the attention of neighbors in the North Potomac neighborhood. It was the SWAT team.
"My son ran in the house and said, 'Dad, did you see all the police next door?'" recounted John Bonilla, a neighbor who has known the Gettier family for sixteen years.
"When they said SWAT, I thought, this is more than a high school party, it's a really a big deal. When my dad showed me a mugshot of our neighbor, I had to pick my jaw off the floor," said Alex Poetzschke, walking his dog past the Gettier's house.
The Friday before, Montgomery County Police SWAT team members, Fire Arms Investigation Unit members, and Special Investigations detectives descended on the Gettier's home on Triple Crown Road. Detectives had been casing the home since July. Inside, they found Darel Gettier armed with two handguns, a stash of 43 other firearms, and seven people, five of them minors, smoking marijuana. One of them, according to charging documents, was Gettier's 16-year old son, Ethan.
"It's really sad because he and my son have been friends from the beginning and it really could've turned out differently for him," said Bonilla. "He's a strong kid who could've played football and would probably be talking to recruiters right now instead of this."
Ethan Gettier, a junior at Quince Orchard High School, faces the most serious charges: possession of a firearm by a minor, of marijuana, of drug paraphernalia, with intent to distribute controlled dangerous substances, and of a firearm in a drug trafficking crime. A guilty verdict on that charge alone would bring a maximum prison sentence of of 20 years.
Detectives report ample evidence, thanks to Ethan himself. He posted more than 600 potentially incriminating photographs on Instagram under the user name DatLife420, of drugs, alcohol, parties and weapons, including his father's M16 assault rifle with a note reading, "Had to clean my baby." The term "420" is understood among marijuana users to mean the time of day to smoke pot.
"Basically it refers to smoking weed for life," said a 19-year old friend of Ethan's who did not want to be identified. He criticized his friend for being "stupid" and posting public photographs of illegal activity.
"To smoke is one thing. To mess with firearms is something totally different," he said.