Virginia man charged with attempted church shooting left note for potential victims' families

The mugshot of Rui Jiang, a 35-year-old man 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 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 federal grand jury in Virginia has indicted Rui Jiang, 35, of Falls Church, for attempting to obstruct religious practice at Park Valley Church in Haymarket with a planned shooting. The charges, announced by the U.S. Department of Justice, include attempted murder with a dangerous weapon, threats and firearms violations.

Jiang’s arrest on Sept. 24, 2023, followed his online threats against the church, identified by police after a tip from a concerned citizen, the Justice Department said in a statement about Jiang’s indictment. Found at the church’s entrance with a semiautomatic handgun and two full magazines, Jiang was detained during Sunday services.

Agents who conducted a search of his apartment found letters apologizing to the families of the “men about to be slain,” indicating premeditated intent. “To the families of those men about to be slain — I am sorry for what I have done and about to do. May your tears not be cried in vain, but to celebrate how your loved ones had lived,” it read in part. 

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The indictment carries a potential sentence ranging from five years to life in prison. The case is being prosecuted by the Eastern District of Virginia, with the involvement of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

The Daily Wire reported on Jiang’s previous interactions with law enforcement, noting that he had been charged earlier in February for related threats. An FBI affidavit included in the court documents described Jiang’s social media posts, which featured derogatory remarks about God and the church, including a photo of a Bible being desecrated and messages forecasting retribution against government officials and churchgoers.

“Put the Bible on the floor next to the bathroom. Now everytime I take a p---, I have to step on it. #f- God,” reads one of the posts.

“The officer observed multiple pictures posted to the account, including one burning a Bible in a frying pan on top of a stove, one with a Bible placed on the bathroom floor, and threatening messages against a church and the government,” reads the FBI affidavit. “There were also pictures of a silhouette target with bullet holes in it with the hashtag ‘f- God,’ as well as pictures from inside a white vehicle parked in a church parking lot at night.”

Despite the evidence and his preparedness to carry out the attack, Jiang denied intending to harm anyone in a police interview, calling the situation a misunderstanding. However, the combination of his online threats, the discovered letters and his armed presence at the church led to the serious charges against him.

The case against Jiang is proceeding in federal court, with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nicholas Durham and Troy A. Edwards Jr., and Trial Attorney Kyle Boynton leading the prosecution.

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