Student who brought gun to Md. high school could be released from jail

Clarksburg High School is in Montgomery County. (WTOP/John Domen)

WASHINGTON — The Montgomery County honor student who has been in jail since bringing a loaded gun to Clarksburg High School on Feb. 15 could be released from custody soon.

An emergency hearing is scheduled for Tuesday on whether Alwin Chen, 18, should remain in jail without bond. Though he has already had a bond hearing, the phrasing of the county’s prosecutor in characterizing evidence is prompting this emergency hearing to reconsider the bond status.

Pictured is the handgun recovered on Feb. 15 at Clarksburg High School. Alwin Chen, 18, of Germantown, Maryland, was charged after he brought the loaded handgun to school. (Courtesy Montgomery County police)

Attorneys for Chen are urging District Judge John Moffett to reconsider his decision last week to keep Chen held because of “profoundly incorrect information” that prosecutors presented, according to court documents obtained Monday by WTOP.

Montgomery County state’s attorneys, however, said that the teen still presents a threat to others, citing both Chen’s ability to assemble a gun as well as writings in his personal journal.

Chen was arrested a day after the Feb. 14 mass school shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida. At a bond hearing last week, Montgomery County prosecutors told Moffett that Chen posed a risk due to “a list of grievances” that had been found.

In those documents, however, defense attorneys argue that “there is no list of grievances.” To that point, they cite a Feb. 20 Montgomery County police statement that said the journal contained “no wording regarding any threat nor any expression of wanting to cause harm to anyone at the school in this journal.” (That police statement was also cited in a Feb. 20 letter to Clarksburg parents.)

Chen reportedly told police that he brought the weapon to school to protect himself from a mass shooting similar to the one in Florida.

Prosecutors, however, point out that “the defendant brought a loaded, handmade handgun to school on many occasions — likely every day — from December 2017 throughout February 2018.”

They also point out that a student had told police that Chen “also wears body armor to school sometimes.”

Chen’s writings in that journal, prosecutors said, also raise significant concern:

  • In a May 1, 2017, entry, Chen wrote: “I might start doing some vigilante operations. I don’t plan on killing people, but I’m surely going to hit evil people.”
  • In an April 24, 2017, entry, he wrote: “I’m lonely and worthless so, I don’t care. I am ready to die.”
  • And the journal’s first entry, which was undated, reads: “I can’t help but feel angry at myself and mad at the world. … I am an insane and terrible person.”

Chen’s attorneys — David Felsen and Jill Pogach Michaels — insist that the journal “makes no threat or expresses a desire to cause harm,” and that “there is no allegation that Mr. Chen made any threats.”

They are also arguing that all weapons have been removed from Chen’s home, and that grenades that allegedly had been found in Chen’s home were in fact replicas.

“It has now become clear that the State’s representations regarding ‘dangerousness’ were in significant error,” the defense attorneys wrote.

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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