A 23-year Fairfax County police officer was charged yesterday with robbing a bank in Burke last month, and police officials said they are investigating his possible involvement in several other bank robberies in Fairfax and neighboring jurisdictions.
Jeffrey Ralph Hand, 43, a patrol officer assigned to West Springfield High School, was arrested before 8 a.m. as he arrived for work at the West Springfield police station. He was charged with bank robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.
Police officials said it was the first time in the department's history that an officer has been arrested in connection with such a serious crime.
"We are looking into the possibility that he committed other bank robberies with similar characteristics," said Maj. Frederick Ellis, commander of the department's criminal investigations bureau.
Ellis did not elaborate, but a court affidavit filed by a police investigator also links Hand to a Feb. 26 bank robbery in Burke and a Sept. 18 bank robbery in Fredericksburg, Va.
"These developments come as a deep and distressing shock and disappointment to the more than 1,000 other police officers dedicated to serving and protecting the citizens of Fairfax County," said Lt. Col. David R. Franklin, deputy chief of administration, announcing Hand's arrest at a news conference.
Franklin would not say whether police know of a possible motive. Hand has no previous criminal record, according to law enforcement officials, and his colleagues said they were shocked at the news.
Hand, a resident of Fauquier County, Va., is being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. Through a jail official, he declined a request to be interviewed. Officials said they did not know if he had hired an attorney.
Hand was charged in the May 22 robbery of Central Fidelity National Bank, 5815 Burke Centre Parkway. According to the court affidavit filed by a Fairfax police detective, a man armed with a shotgun entered the bank and ordered bank employees to fill up a trash bag. The affidavit said the suspect escaped with $71,782 and drove off in gray 1988 Mazda pickup truck. It said he was wearing camouflage pants, a white hooded sweat shirt and a dark face mask.
An "identical" suspect and vehicle were involved in the Feb. 26 robbery of a Central Fidelity Bank at 9516 Old Keene Mill Rd. in Burke, the affidavit said. It said that police were given a similar description of the suspect in the Sept. 18 bank robbery of the National Bank of Fredericksburg. The affidavit said the suspect in that incident was driving a red Chevrolet Cavalier registered to Lori Dee Hand, who is Jeffrey Hand's wife.
Police said that Lori Hand, who works in the Fairfax police department's records office, is not a suspect in any bank robbery. She was not at work yesterday and could not be reached for comment.
Police said they spotted a gray Mazda truck Wednesday at a Merchant's Tire and Auto Center in Springfield. After Hand paid for a tire purchase there with a $50 bill, police said, they recovered the bill and found its serial number showed it was taken during the May 22 robbery.
If convicted, Hand could serve five years to life on the robbery charge and would face a mandatory sentence of three years for the weapons charge. He has been placed on administrative leave with pay.
At West Springfield High School yesterday, Principal David G. Smith announced the arrest over the public address system. Smith cautioned his listeners that "in our system," Hand is innocent until proven guilty.
Hand started his assignment as a resource officer at the 2,150-student school in 1995. School resource officers typically investigate crimes such as students bringing weapons to school and gang activities.
Lynn Pendley, a former Fairfax County police officer who is a safety and security specialist at the school, said there was no indication that Hand was troubled by financial or domestic difficulties.
"Our reaction was total shock," said Pendley, who shared an office with Hand at the school.
"The thing that gets me is what it does to the department."
Reaction among students ranged from teenage shrugs to disgust.
"Everyone was surprised, but I don't think anyone was upset," said Stefanie Fenix, 18, a senior.
Said Robert Bean, another 18 year-old senior, "This is the guy we're supposed to look up to and respect?" Parents, too, expressed dismay at the allegations.
"Maybe I'm too old-fashioned, but I think police officers should be role models," said Harriet Solomon, the parent of a 17-year-old junior at West Springfield. "It's too bad when you have your school associated with something like that."