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Shooting Death May Be Linked To Drug Operation, Police Say

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Originally published March 21, 2001, in the Prince William edition.

Prince William County police believe the slaying last week of a 21-year-old Bristow man might be linked to his involvement in a drug operation that he ran out of his home, according to authorities and court papers.

Police said they seized more than $300,000 in marijuana and “ecstasy” pills from Daniel Robert Petrole Jr.’s home since his death late Thursday night. Police Chief Charlie T. Deane said Monday that police found more than 50 pounds of marijuana and more than 2,000 ecstasy pills, the largest ecstasy seizure ever in the county.

“It certainly was a significant operation,” Deane said. “The victim’s involvement with the drug trade clearly has been a major focus of our investigation from the start.”

Petrole’s roommate, Walter Paul Gunning Jr., 22, has been charged with three counts of possession with intent to distribute marijuana and ecstasy. Sources close to the investigation said authorities believe the pair had been receiving shipments of hundreds of pounds of high-grade marijuana from the West Coast. Police found $50,000 in cash in their home.

Petrole was found dead in his car outside the home on Hadrians Court, and authorities said he was shot about 10 times. Police said it is likely that Petrole knew his attacker, who pulled up in a red, four-door car and shot Petrole through his passenger-side window.

According to court records obtained Monday, the suspect or suspects had trouble leaving the neighborhood, at one point having to turn around on a dead-end street. Witnesses reported that the car left the area with its headlights off.

Police said that it appeared that there might have been some sort of collision between the two cars and that at one point they were looking into the possibility of a road-rage type incident, but have all but ruled that out.

Deane said that detectives have been focusing on relationships Petrole made through his drug operations and that the detectives worked with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to trace a gun found near the scene to a man in Centreville. According to a search warrant filed in Fairfax County Circuit Court on Monday, the Centreville man allegedly used the gun to collect drug debts and sometimes loaned the gun to others for similar missions.

The Centreville man told police that his gun was stolen during a recent party, but he has allegedly made conflicting statements about the gun to other people. Police found the 9mm semiautomatic pistol at the intersection of Braemar Parkway and Burghead Drive, its serial numbers scraped off. ATF agents were able to restore the serial numbers and track the sale of the weapon.

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