Loudoun homeowner issued verbal warnings before firing at teen intruder


Left to right: Eden Gordley with friends Harshanie Bandara, Jasmin Nair and Adriana Rivera attend a memorial service celebrating Caleb Gordley's life in Sterling on Thursday. (Nikki Kahn/The Washington Post)

A Loudoun County teen who mistakenly entered a neighbor’s house about 2:30 a.m. Sunday ignored the homeowner’s verbal warnings and a warning shot and proceeded up the stairs toward the man, officials said.

As the teen, who had been drinking alcohol, passed the homeowner and headed toward a bedroom, the homeowner fired several more shots with his .40-caliber pistol, Loudoun County sheriff’s officials said. They said 16-year-old Caleb Gordley was struck in the left shoulder and died at the home.

The sheriff’s office on Thursday revealed the details about the shooting that was set in motion when Gordley made a fatal mistake. The Park View High School junior, who had sneaked out to a party, was trying to return home but accidentally entered a house two doors down from his own, his parents have said.

Gordley’s family and friends had planned a memorial Thursday for the teenager, who played basketball, football and baseball and, his family said, was well-liked by his classmates and teachers.

The home where the shooting occurred belongs to Donald West Wilder II. Wilder, who has been a volunteer firefighter for nearly two decades, has not responded to requests for comment.

See where the Sterling shooting took place.

The Wilders and Gordleys did not know each other, according to the sheriff’s office, which said both families have been cooperating with the investigation. Officials have not yet determined whether to pursue charges in the case.

Gordley left his Sterling home, on Pullman Court, late Saturday, his parents said. Hours later, his friends brought him home, and Gordley went to the Wilder house, which looks similar to his own, and climbed through a rear, unlocked window.

Wilder heard his burglar alarm, saw the teen inside and, officials said, confronted the teenager, at first giving “verbal warnings” before firing. The pistol was legally owned, and several shell casings and rounds were recovered at the scene.  

The sheriff’s office was continuing to investigate how Gordley and his friends obtained alcohol.

The case remained open pending a final report from the medical examiner’s office, and the results of the investigation were being reviewed by the commonwealth’s attorney, authorities said.

Caitlin Gibson covers Loudoun County for The Washington Post.
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