A Loudoun County man who fatally shot a teenager and wounded a man at his daughter's graduation party last weekend acted in self-defense after one of the pair fired first, the man's attorney said yesterday.
Herndon lawyer John Partridge said his client, Eddie Bennett, of Sterling, felt he had no choice but to shoot to protect his wife and daughter and their guests Saturday night.
"It's a classic case of self-defense," Partridge said. "But for Mr. Bennett's actions, Herndon would be another Columbine. They wish this didn't happen and the party just went on."
Herndon police, who are investigating the shooting, say they expect to pass their findings by the end of the week to the Fairfax County commonwealth's attorney's office, which will decide whether to file charges in the case.
Partridge said the party for Bennett's daughter, who graduates from Park View High School today, was held a few days before her graduation because the family was able to rent the Four Seasons community clubhouse and swimming pool at 1201 Herndon Pkwy.
Partridge said Bennett had called the police early in the evening because crowds of youngsters were congregating around the clubhouse. Bennett's brother told The Washington Post on Sunday that several party-crashers were asked to leave but later returned with guns and threatened at least one family member.
The party was winding down when the youths came back, Partridge said. They weren't friends of Bennett's daughter, he said.
Bennett was "doing the typical father job of picking up the chairs and putting the barbecue in the truck to help his wife and daughter clean up when they came in, guns blazing," Partridge said.
Herndon police said 16-year-old James H. Randall, of Reston, was shot in the chest. He died Sunday morning at Inova Fairfax Hospital. The man wounded in the incident, a 21-year-old Reston resident, was upgraded yesterday from critical to serious condition at Inova Fairfax. Police have not released his name.
Investigators confiscated two 9mm pistols from the scene of the shooting, according to Herndon police Capt. Darryl C. Smith. One of the guns apparently belonged to the wounded Reston man, Smith said, and the other gun belonged to someone connected with the party. Smith would not say whether the second gun belonged to Bennett.
Police said at least five shots were fired but would not say whether more than one person fired shots.
Partridge said that he doesn't know if Bennett has a concealed-weapon permit but that his client often carries a gun because he is concerned about security at his job.
"It's just habit," Partridge said. "He works in the auto business and works late hours. It's second nature, like putting his wallet in his pocket."
The funeral for Randall is scheduled for this morning at Heritage Fellowship United Church of Christ in Reston. His father, James Randall, said his son had dropped out of South Lakes High School but had earned an equivalency diploma and hoped to attend community college next fall.
Police were first called to the party at 10:17 p.m. Saturday, Smith said, on a report of disorderly conduct and fighting in the parking lot. They returned at 11:55 p.m. and found 80 to 100 people in the parking lot and an undetermined number inside the clubhouse and pool area, Smith said. Partygoers came from Loudoun County, Arlington and Reston, Smith said.
"This is a family that didn't ask for this," Partridge said. "I think the commonwealth attorney's office is going to determine this is justifiable homicide. They just want to go back and retreat and pretend it never happened."