Prosecutors: Rifles, tactical vest, journal, found at home of teen who took gun to Md. HS
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Md. (WJLA) - Multiple firearms, including a shotgun and two rifles, ammunition, replica grenades, a ballistic vest, and a journal were located at the home of the student accused of bringing a loaded handgun and knife to Clarksburg High School last week.
The alarming revelation was made during a bond review for Alwin Chen, 18, in Montgomery County District Court Tuesday afternoon. Chen appeared via closed-circuit television (CCTV) wearing glasses and a green jail jumpsuit. He spoke with his legal team by telephone briefly, but otherwise kept quiet during the roughly 15-minute hearing.
Prosecutors with the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office announced that Chen also had a "list of grievances" in his possession when pulled from an AP Psychology class Thursday afternoon. The list reportedly named students and matters pertaining to Clarksburg High School.
"The list of grievances against students and school, possibly a motive for why he was going to use the gun," assistant state's attorney Frank Lazzaro asserted in open court. "This is about as dangerous of a situation that the court could possibly imagine."
During police questioning, authorities say Chen changed his story. He initially stated he was going to "target practice" after school let out, but then explained he brought the two weapons to class for protective purposes because students had been harassing and bullying him.
Prosecutors also divulged that Chen had taken a gun to school on at least one prior occasion. However, they would not elaborate about when that offense occurred -or- if that information came to light before or after Chen's arrest.
On Thursday evening, authorities served a search warrant at the Germantown townhouse along Gunners Drive where Chen lived with his parents. Montgomery County Police say they uncovered the following items while scouring the residence:
Two rifles, two handguns, shotgun,
Inert (replica) grenades
Replica electrical firing device (referred to as a clacker) - NOTE: In open court, an officer stated they seized a "detonator for a C-4 land mine." That appears to have been an incorrect statement.
Journal, which reportedly made no "threat nor any expression of wanting to cause harm to anyone at the school." NOTE: This journal appears to be different than the "list of grievances" prosecutors repeatedly mentioned in court.
“He had written down a list of grievances and reasons why he brought the gun to school with him," Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy stated Tuesday at the base of the courthouse steps. “He indicated that he had some difficulties with some other students in school, and because of those difficulties, he brought that gun to school.”
Defense attorneys David Felsen and Jill Michaels painted a very different picture of their teenage client, who is involved in sports and on the honor roll. In fact, Chen’s scholastic accomplishments had already generated “letters of acceptance” at universities in Florida and Maryland.
“Mr. Chen is a scholarship-worthy student," Felsen remarked. “There is no allegation that he presented a danger.”
Felsen underscored that Chen has no prior criminal record, has career goals of becoming a police officer and/or joining the military, and had no intention of harming his fellow classmates or school staff.
"There is no hint of any mental health issue at all. In fact, I would refer the court to the principal who spoke about this client, and he said, 'There were no warning signs that Mr. Chen might bring a gun to school.' He called Chen a 'good student' who has come to school every day, doing the things that we tell kids to do – ‘Join the athletics team, join the clubs, get involved with school. That's what he was doing.’”
Reporters asked Felsen and Michaels about the prosecution's eyebrow-raising claims of a "list of grievances" allegedly found in Chen's possession at the time of his arrest. Their pointed response: bologna.
“As we understand it, those are not accurate descriptions of what was in the document," Felsen remarked. "We look forward to seeing it.”
As for the cache of weapons and mock explosives seized by police last week, Felsen claimed the items belong to a resident who is "legally authorized" to own such firearms, and added that it was "appropriate for these items to be in this house."
“People in Maryland are allowed to have weapons, and the fact that weapons exist in a home, does not make someone guilty of anything and doesn’t make somebody a danger," Felsen asserted.
Swayed by the alleged facts laid out by prosecutors in court, Montgomery County District Court Judge John Moffett denied Chen's bond and ordered that the 18-year-old undergo a mental health evaluation. The procedure will likely be completed within a week, at which point a new court date will be scheduled.
"I can't find any meaningful, legitimate reason to carry a handgun to school, much less a loaded handgun,” Judge Moffett remarked. "In this day and age, individuals with access to weapons, that pose a serious imminent danger or threat to the community, are not tagged with a neon sign or warning signs. In fact, they often blend into our community unnoticed.”
Both of Chen's parents were present in the courtroom, but did not care to comment to members of the media. Their son faces up to 11 years in prison.