City of Falls Church Police Chief Mary Gavin told the News-Press in an interview Wednesday that the City’s State Theatre live music venue, always eager, she said, to cooperate with police, had “robust” security, including a magnetometer to detect guns at the entrance for its “go-go” concert Sunday night, and it was supplemented by five uniformed Falls Church police officers in marked police cars.
However, that did not prevent a “brazen person” from taking a fight, which broke out inside the theater early Monday, to the parking lot outside at the end of the concert, and firing a gun that struck three patrons with non-life threatening wounds. It is not known for certain that the assailant was a single person, although, Chief Gavin said, the ammunition residue was consistent with that. Some bullet fragments were found in the wall of the adjacent restaurant, Clare and Don’s Beach Shack.
Chief Gavin said, “This was a brazen act by one individual outside the theater. The incident was not as much about security as it was about the specific person who brought a weapon outside and fired it into the crowd. Five uniformed police officers and eight security personnel did not deter this incident and no other security measures would have probably deterred this shooting.”
Gavin offered few new details of the incident in her phone interview with the News-Press, beyond the update report that the City of Falls Church released Tuesday. All three people struck by the gunfire were taken to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.
In the latest official release Tuesday, police said they responded to a call around 1:45 a.m. Monday, January 18, to reports of a fight as the crowd exited the theater after a show. While on the scene, police report 15 to 20 shots were heard being fired from the street and the adjacent public parking lot behind Clare and Don’s Beach Shack and Argia’s restaurants.
Despite being at the scene during the incident, police were unable to identify the shooter. The still-at-large suspect is described as a 5 ft. 8 in. slender male wearing dark clothing. But no further information, including photos or surveillance video, has been available to date.
It is not known if there has ever been another time in the history of Falls Church where three persons suffered gunshot injuries from one incident.
Falls Church City Councilman David Snyder, the former mayor and vice-mayor who has been the most vocal person on the Council advocating for gun control, issued a statement saying, “This is an absolute outrage. It must never happen again. Any involved persons or businesses must be held to account and the City must take whatever steps are necessary to prevent such violent events in the future. Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our community.”
All the victims early Monday, all adult males, were taken to hospitals. Police reported one victim went into the theater for help while the other two drove or were driven to a hospital in Frederick, Maryland.
The show, a go-go concert taking place at the State Theatre was billed as “Love, Peace and Unity” on the venue’s website.
Chief Gavin said that added security was in place for the concert because of the large crowd and because go-go and hip-hop concerts throughout the region have been known to draw outbreaks of violence. In the case of the State Theatre concert, she noted, the crowd was not young, but more middle aged with a “lot of out-of-towners.”
She said the State Theatre, exclusively a live music venue for almost two decades, has “always been very security conscious,” and cooperative with local police. “They often call us to ask for security advice, and always listen to us,” the chief said.
Falls Church Police ask anyone with information to call them at 703-248-5053 (TTY 711).