News

Hillwood Ave. Standoff Ends After 29 Hours With Arrest & No Injuries

Regional Police Units Hailed for Safe Outcome

Late Wednesday afternoon, City of Falls Church officials issued a statement formally identifying the subject of the 29-hour standoff on Hillwood Avenue with regional police units as James Vincent Rackowski, 57, whose family resides at the address.

hillwood2FALLS CHURCH POLICE Officer Dmitri Issaev stands watch at the police line cordoning off Hillwood Avenue in F.C. while public safety units from Falls Church, Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria piled into the area to deal with a standoff that began as Monday afternoon’s rush hour began. (Photo: News-Press)

Regional Police Units Hailed for Safe Outcome

Late Wednesday afternoon, City of Falls Church officials issued a statement formally identifying the subject of the 29-hour standoff on Hillwood Avenue with regional police units as James Vincent Rackowski, 57, whose family resides at the address.

They reported that Rackowski had doused himself with gasoline, brandished a gun to police and threatened to burn down the house. Early in the standoff, he fired three gunshots with no injuries. Felled by a TASER gun when he came down the stairs Tuesday night, he was apprehended and will be charged with discharging a firearm within a building.

The incident, which began at 4 p.m. Monday and was resolved with Rackowski’s arrest at 9 p.m. Tuesday, caused a major disruption in areas surrounding the usually docile, upscale Hillwood Avenue neighborhood. The tree-lined Hillwood was cordoned off for almost its entire length, as were side feeder streets, and Fairfax and Alexendria SWAT and other units joined Falls Church police to fill the street with large mobile vehicles.

Residents inside the police perimeter were told to remain in their homes, and movement to and from the homes was curtailed.

Rush hour traffic customarily moving through the neighborhood, located near the Seven Corners intersection of Routes 50, 29 and 7, was severely stifled both Monday and Tuesday. Hillwood Avenue is commonly used by motorists as a connector between Routes 50 and 29, two heavily trafficked commuter routes.

Falls Church officials issued a release early Tuesday night urging anyone living in the cordoned off area to spend the night elsewhere, listing a number of area motels and hotels. It was released at 8:47 p.m., minutes before Rackowski was arrested.

An “all clear” was given by Falls Church police and fire officials to the City’s Communications Director, Susan Finarelli in a small gaggle that included Falls Church Vice Mayor David Snyder an hour after the apprehension about 10 p.m.

Snyder reported the development to the News-Press at that time, praising the successful, injury-free outcome of the incident and the cooperation between area public safety units.

He e-mailed a short statement, reading, “This excellent outcome is the direct result of excellent public safety work. Each and every one of our police, sheriffs, fire and public works employees deserve our heartfelt thanks. The response and support from the region proves that we are second to none in our ability to respond to public safety challenges and the help from our neighbors is much appreciated. Finally, we thank our citizens for their patience and support even though their lives were disrupted.”

A formal City press release on the resolution of the matter followed at 12:19 a.m. and Rackowski’s identity was announced yesterday afternoon.

According to News-Press sources, the Rackowski family, including James, lived at the residence in the 600 block of Hillwood for many years. James Rackowski’s mother, Helen Rackowski, died in February, and more recently his elderly father fell and was being considered for a move to a nursing home. When selling the property was discussed, requiring James to move out, the conditions provoking the incident existed.

The official Falls Church City account of the incident is as follows:

“Falls Church City Police Department received a call for a domestic disturbance in the 600 block of Hillwood Ave. shortly after 4 p.m. on Monday, June 25. Falls Church Police responded to the scene and were met by a woman in front of the house. She told police that her brother, the 57-year-old Rackowski, had doused himself with gasoline and that he was going to set himself and the house on fire. She also said that her father, who is the homeowner, was in the house as well.

“One officer observed the subject run up the stairs inside the house and open a second floor window. The officer then engaged him in conversation while two other officers entered the house and removed the father.

“As the officer approached the house, the subject told him not to come any closer and displayed a handgun. The officers who were extracting the father indicated that there was a strong odor of gasoline in the house. A perimeter was established and attempts were made to talk to the subject. About 6 p.m., at least three gunshots were heard coming from inside the residence. No one was injured or suffered gunshot wounds from those shots.

“Falls Church Police activated the Falls Church Emergency Services Unit (ESU) and requested mutual aid from Fairfax County Police Department and the City of Falls Church Sheriff’s Office.

“The incident escalated as the subject became more agitated. Additional mutual aid units were called throughout the 29 hour standoff to include City of Alexandria Police Department, Arlington County Police Department, Arlington and Fairfax Fire and EMS, regional SWAT teams, and the continued efforts Fairfax County Police.

“Conversations were established with Rackowski and it was requested that he surrender himself. During the incident combinations of Oleoresin Capsicum (also known as pepper spray) and other chemicals was launched into the house. Additionally, a recorded message from family members was projected over a directional speaker for the subject. The priority of the Falls Church Police was preservation of life.

“Just before 9 p.m. on Tuesday June 26, the subject came down the stairs. A TASER was deployed to control the subject and take him into custody. He was immediately treated and transported to the Inova Fairfax Hospital where he remained for treatment of injuries and psychological evaluation.
“Rackowski will be charged with discharging a firearm within a building.”

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