Judge holds high school student without bond following disturbing journal entry made public
ROCKVILLE — A Montgomery County District Court judge ruled Tuesday that authorities will continue to hold an 18-year-old high school student without bond after he brought a loaded handgun to school.
District Court Judge John C. Moffett said defendant Alwin Chen, 18, of Clarksburg High School would remain in jail without bond to ensure the safety of the community.
Moffett said information found in Chen’s private journal helped him to make the decision.
Police found Chen’s journal when they searched his home following his arrest. Assistant State’s Attorney Frank Lazzaro said Chen included sentiments about shooting evil people in the journal. Lazzaro said Chen wrote more than once in a journal entry dated May 2, 2017 he wants to kill criminals such as serial killers or gang members.
Chen in a journal entry dated April 24, 2016 “compared himself to a vigilante comic book hero known as the Punisher “because I am almost a psychopath.’ Later in the entry, he writes ‘someone ought to put a bullet in my head for my wrong doings and thoughts,’” Lazzaro wrote.
Police arrested Chen at school Feb. 15 in connection with possession of a handgun, possession of a firearm by a person under age 21 and possession of a firearm on school property after he brought a loaded Glock 19 handgun to school.
A student told school security Feb. 15, the day after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that Chen talked about guns often and that he may have a loaded gun on campus.
“Every student at Clarksburg High School was placed in danger and the defendant continues to present a danger to the public today,” Lazzaro said in his response to the defense’s motion for modification of Chen’s bond.
Chen’s trial is scheduled for the end of March.
Lazzaro said in a document dated Feb. 23, Chen following his arrest told police he had brought the Glock 19 handgun to school on multiple occasions, including the date of his arrest, describing it as a regular occurrence. He told police he built the gun from parts he purchased online using tools he bought at Home Depot. He would carry it either in his backpack or on a belt holster attached to his belt.
Lazzaro said in court documents that the officers took Chen to the front office and asked what was in the backpack. He told them it contained a loaded Glock 19 handgun. The officers removed the gun from the backpack and the school resource officer arrested him for bringing the gun to school. The officers also found a two-page document in Chen’s backpack. In the handwritten document Chen wrote reasons why he is “‘upset about a lot of things.’ The defendant wrote, ‘I believe I am mentally insane…. And anti-social’ and further wrote he feels an ‘unnatural anxiety.’”
Lazzaro said Chen told police in a recorded interview he carried the weapon with him for protection.
“The defendant repeatedly stated that the reason he regularly brought the gun to school was to protect himself and other students in case there was a school shooting,” Lazzaro wrote in a court document dated Feb. 23.
Lazzaro said Chen was a risk to the community, and therefore requested Chen to be held without bond, which Moffett later ruled.
Defense attorney Jill Michaels and her co-defense attorney David Felson requested the second bond hearing for Chen because Michaels said Lazzaro presented inaccurate information when he mentioned a grievance list.
Michaels said after the hearing Tuesday she respected Moffett’s decision to hold Chen without bond. She added she disagreed with Moffett as to whether Chen was dangerous. She added that she and Felsen were glad Moffett could clarify the record in that a “list of grievances” did not exist.
“There was no grievance; there was no list of grievances,” Michaels said.
Lazzaro wrote in court documents that when a student told the school security officer Chen might have a gun on him, which launched the police investigation, the student also said Chen sometimes wore body armor. Chen said during an interview with police he wore body armor once as part of a Halloween costume, Lazzaro added.
Lazzaro said Chen told police in a recorded interview that “he learned how to use firearms by asking his father to take him to gun ranges, which he did frequently.
Lazzaro said students were in danger when Chen had the gun at school.
“The danger is not ameliorated by the fact the police seized the defendant’s gun and the guns he had access to in the home because the defendant is capable of assembling his own handguns,” Lazzaro wrote. “Thus, he will always have access to firearms no matter what bond conditions the Court may consider releasing him under. Given those facts, what the defendant wrote in his journal, and the note found in his backpack with the gun is alarming and supports a finding that he presents an unacceptable danger to the community.”