Thighe Joseph Kavanagh

Gun used in Tiger Valley malicious wounding purchased at Front Royal Rural King

Thighe Kavanagh was scheduled to appear in Warren County General District Court on Tuesday on a felony charge of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. The charge is just another stemming from a shooting incident of a child on July 24, 2019 in Tiger Valley outside Washington. The child was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Fauquier Hospital in Warrenton.

Previous felony charges from the incident include aggravated malicious wounding, use of a firearm in a felony, reckless use of a gun causing permanent injury, malicious shooting near an occupied building, disregarding the life of a child, and seriously injuring a child. The most serious charge carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison; two others carry sentences of two to ten years in prison.

Kavanagh, 53, has been held in the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail awaiting trial since the shooting.

The Warren County charge revolves around the purchase of the firearm used in the July 2019 incident. On May 24, 2019, Kavanagh and his father, long time Washington resident Edmund Kavanagh, entered the Rural King in Front Royal with the intention to buy a gun. Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Investigator Jim Jones told the Rappahannock News during a court recess on Tuesday that Thighe had completed the gun purchase application, but his father purchased the gun.

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On Tuesday, Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell had planned to present the store’s surveillance video showing the purchase transaction. But the hearing was rescheduled when the court reporter requested by Kavanagh’s Winchester attorney Krystal Ann Omps failed to appear. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown and scheduling mix-ups, the hearing had already been continued six times since Thighe was charged in January of this year. A September 9 appearance was continued because a key witness was absent. The next appearance is set for December 15.

The witness, Robert Henry, 25, of Winchester appeared for the Tuesday hearing and told this newspaper during a court recess that he was the Rural King clerk who sold the gun to the Kavanaghs. He didn’t remember who completed the application and described the purchase as “like any other gun transaction.”

Attempts to obtain a copy of the purchase application have been unsuccessful. Lori Haas, a spokesperson for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, a nonprofit gun control organization based in Washington, DC, explained the Virginia purchase process in a phone call Tuesday evening.

“The Rural King has a federal firearms license to sell guns,” Haas said. “They are required to run background checks on firearm purchases.” In Virginia the application first goes to the Virginia State Police, who forward it on to the FBI. The entire automated investigation process takes three minutes. The application submitted in Edmund Kavanagh’s name was approved.

In response to an inquiry from this paper for a copy of the application, Virginia State Police Superintendent Gary Settle wrote in an email Tuesday, “The information you have asked for is confidential per administrative code. ... However, I have asked my folks to verify and respond back to you accordingly.”

Later in the day, the VSP emailed this response: “The materials you are seeking constitute records maintained by the Department of State Police as required under § 18.2-308.2:4 F of the Code of Virginia. Those records are made confidential under 19VAC30-230-20.

“The Department has evaluated your request and, pursuant to § 2.2-3704, is withholding the information based on the statute.”