Local Commentary

A Penny For Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church

Bailey’s Crossroads residents may recall a horrifying incident in January 2005, when gunfire erupted during an armed robbery at a check-cashing store on Columbia Pike. As Mason District Police Officer First Class Lance T. Guckenberger responded to an alarm, the robber allowed the store manager to leave with instructions to tell him that everything was fine. Instead, the terrified manager fled screaming from the building, and was led swiftly to safety by Officer Guckenberger behind his unmarked police cruiser. The suspect walked out of the store, his gun drawn; the officer pushed the store manager underneath the trunk of the car to keep her protected, never taking his eyes off the robber.

The suspect, refusing police commands, fired his weapon at the officer. Returning fire, Officer Guckenberger also managed to update the dispatch center and call for back up. The suspect attempted to sneak away from the scene by crouching behind another vehicle and then slowly walking or crawling from the area. The officer ordered the suspect to surrender, but he continued to try to escape, still gripping his gun. Recognizing an armed criminal as an immediate threat to public safety, Officer Guckenberger established a sound position, fired once, and struck the robber in the leg. The suspect was handcuffed, treated for his injuries, and later was convicted of attempted capital murder of a police officer and sentenced to life in prison. Overall, the suspect fired eight shots at Officer Guckenberger, but neither he nor the store manager was injured.

Last week, the Virginia Association of Police Chiefs announced that Officer Guckenberger was honored with the Association’s highest honor, the Award for Valor. The award recognizes a law enforcement officer who, in the line of duty, performs an act of extraordinary heroism while engaged with an adversary at imminent personal risk. Earlier this year, Officer Guckenberger received a Silver Valor Award at Fairfax County’s Annual Valor Awards luncheon, co-sponsored by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce. Colonel David M. Rohrer, Chief of Police for Fairfax County, comment-ing on Officer Guckenberger’s courage, bravery, and professionalism, said that he is a “role model for others and an example of our fine police officers.”

The First Annual J.E.B. Stuart Educational Foundation Golf Tournament will be held on Friday, September 15, at the Reston National Golf Course in Reston. Registration begins at 8 a.m.; the shotgun start will be at 9 a.m. Proceeds from the tournament will benefit the foundation’s scholarship program for needy students.

The J.E.B. Stuart Educational Foundation was created by a group of committed individuals who volunteer their time to raise scholarship money for needy students at J.E.B. Stuart High School in the Falls Church area of Fairfax County. Stuart High School has been honored nationally for its achievements in helping a diverse student body succeed in a challenging world. A recent Stuart principal, Mel Riddile, was selected as the National Secondary School Principal of the Year for 2006 by Met Life.

Tournament sponsorships for corporate ($400), individual ($175), and gold ($750 – includes corporate sponsorship plus a foursome) levels are available, and each sponsor will have a sign placed at a designated hole. Donations for the silent auction also are being sought, and volunteers are needed to make the event a success. Contact foundation director Robin Fetsch at robin@fetsch.com, or call 703/532-8818 for more information about how you or your company can participate.