Man who tried to attack Virginia church faces new charge of attempted aggravated murder

The mugshot of Rui Jiang, a 35-year-old man who was arrested on September 24, 2023, after trying to bring weapons to a church that he had made threats against online.
The mugshot of Rui Jiang, a 35-year-old man who was arrested on September 24, 2023, after trying to bring weapons to a church that he had made threats against online. | Facebook/Prince William County Police Department

A man who allegedly tried to attack a church in Virginia during a worship service while carrying a gun and two knives now faces a new charge of attempted aggravated murder.

Rui Jiang, a 35-year-old Falls Church resident, was arrested outside Park Valley Church in Haymarket back in September after reportedly making online threats against the congregation.

The Prince William County Police Department announced Tuesday that it would be adding the charge of attempted aggravated murder to the previous charges of carrying a dangerous weapon to a place of worship and making threats of bodily harm.

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“The additional charge against the accused, identified as Rui JIANG, stems from the ongoing investigation and analysis of digital evidence obtained during the search warrant executed at his residence in Falls Church,” stated authorities.

“Based upon the recent analysis of the digital evidence, physical evidence collected at the time, and the social media postings on accounts used by the accused depicting the church with threatening language, indications were the accused intended to cause harm, injury, and death to the church congregation.”

The new charge was served to Jiang on Monday. He's being held at the Prince William Adult Detention Center, according to local authorities.

In September, according to police, Jiang made vague threats against Park Valley Church, which included posts to Instagram that a resident of Maryland alerted authorities to.

During Sunday worship, an off-duty police officer working an assignment at the church discovered Jiang’s vehicle parked at the church, while others saw him on the property.

Jiang had entered the church but was detained without violence by the off-duty officer and church staff members. He was found carrying a legally purchased handgun, an extra ammunition magazine, and two knives.

Prince William authorities had worked alongside the Fairfax County Police Department and the Anne Arundel County Police Department of Maryland to coordinate their efforts.

In a statement, Fairfax County authorities explained that they and other police departments “acted swiftly” and thus “were able to stop a potential active shooter.”

“Since the arrest, detectives from our Threat Assessment Management Unit have been assigned to assist with the investigation,” said FCPD back in September. “TAM detectives assisted with the execution of a search warrant at Jiang’s home.”

“Evidence supporting Jiang’s intent to cause harm was recovered from the scene. Detectives will work with our multidisciplinary team to determine the appropriate resources for threat mitigation and management of the case.”

Last week, the United States Department of Homeland Security released a guide titled “Physical Security Performance Goals for Faith-Based Communities” that is meant to help churches improve their security.

Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, wrote in the guide that she hoped that it would “establish or improve security practices that keep your house of worship and congregants safe and secure.”

“CISA remains fully committed to its longstanding partnership with faith-based leaders to advance the protection of houses of worship while preserving their open and welcoming environments,” Easterly wrote.

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