How Police-Station Shooting Affected Locals

How Police-Station Shooting Affected Locals

Traffic detoured, schools locked down.

Monday afternoon's tragic shooting at the Sully District Police Station affected area roads, schools, businesses and residents.

Police officers armed with machine guns blocked off all the nearby intersections to keep the public safely away from an active crime scene, schools and businesses were locked down and local residents wondered what was happening.

Frank Maresca, owner of the Moe's restaurant across Westfields Boulevard from the police station, was driving on the bridge from Walney Road to Westfields, coming back from Lowe's around 3:30 p.m. He was headed to his business, but traffic had come to a standstill.

"ALL OF A sudden, an un-uniformed cop in an unmarked car came flying up, got out of his car and started directing people to get on Route 28," said Maresca. "I was already past the turnoff, and he banged on my car and said, 'Get out of here, get out of here now!'"

So Maresca drove over the median and onto Route 28 south. Then, he said, "I heard nine or 10 gunshots. I didn't know whether it was at the police station or the NRO. I called my manager and told him to lock the doors, and it was a long time before I knew what was going on."

Although school was over for the day, at nearby Westfield High, theater students were rehearsing for their upcoming production of "Oklahoma," and athletic teams were practicing in the gym. But once the shooting started, the school was under lockdown.

"One of our school buses coming home from a game was diverted to Stone [Middle School]," said Westfield Principal Mike Campbell. "It couldn't get through because of all the traffic, so [Stone Principal] Ken Gaudreault took the students in."

A male theater student said administrators and a few police officers came in and "very calmly explained the situation to us. It's really sad what's happened." Added Campbell: "The lockdown was over around 6:15 p.m., once police secured the scene and assured themselves there was only one shooter."

While the crime was in progress, though, residents tried to figure out what caused the loud noises they heard. And police had their hands full, fighting for their lives while trying to subdue a gunman in their own parking lot. Additionally, not knowing whether he had accomplices, they scoured the adjacent woods by foot and in the air for other potential assailants.

Karen Washburn, who lives in the neighboring Sully Station community, said her husband Kevin was standing at their mailbox when he heard rapid fire. "He said, 'Oh, my God, I think it sounded like gunfire,'" said Washburn. "Then he drove to Safeway [across Westfields Boulevard from the station], and people who'd gone to that shopping center got stuck and couldn't get out because police blocked it off."

"It was crazy," she continued. "We saw police standing in the median strip in front of the post office with rifles. An officer was talking to Kevin with his safety on. We saw a helicopter landing near [the restaurant] Texas Roadhouse and firetrucks and ambulances coming directly from the police station. And an unmarked truck kept going back and forth, backward on the road, and police officers with guns were hanging out the door."

KIM HOPKINS, who lives on Creek Branch Court, directly behind the police station and the woods, said a neighbor who lives a few doors down from her "got her back windows shot out" during the fray.

"The SWAT team was at the end of our court at 4 p.m.," said Hopkins. "When we heard a 'pop, pop, pop,' I thought it was firecrackers because you could see the smoke rolling through the court."

Saying this is supposed to be "quiet suburbia," Hopkins said she recently moved from one Centreville neighborhood to this one, thinking, 'Living behind a police station — what could be safer?'"

Brad May, owner of the Goddard School, a preschool and child-care facility near Moe's and Texas Roadhouse, said Monday's events caught everyone by surprise.

"We could actually hear the shots from our parking lot," he said. "We immediately put the school in lockdown and moved the children to the back of the building so they were away from any windows facing the incident. And we closed the blinds and confirmed that all the doors and windows were locked."

May said the parents were happy their children were safe and everyone was all right. "They had a hard time getting to us because the road was closed down," he said. "Some parents parked at the Safeway and walked over. Others had to sit in their cars waiting, but everybody understood. And we stayed open until 8 p.m. [90 minutes past the normal closing time] until the last children left."

He said the Goddard teachers handled the situation wonderfully and "the kids were troopers, as well. They didn't really know what was going on outside, but they got to visit their friends' classrooms and play some games."

Meanwhile, police identified the shooter as Michael Kennedy, 18, of 6200 Prince Way in Centreville's London Towne West community, and raced to his home, along with the Virginia State Police and the F.B.I. Then authorities evacuated the residents of Prince Way and Lady Madonna Court, at the end of that street, when they found an explosive device in a bedroom of Kennedy's home.

He'd attended Westfield High, where he worked on the school literary magazine, "Calliope," and was on the track team in 2004 when it won the state championship. "He graduated last year," said Campbell. "You never know what happens [afterward] ..."