Gun fired at child in Tiger Valley purchased in Front Royal 

New information obtained by the Rappahannock News adds detail to how Thighe Kavanagh obtained the firearm that was used in a malicious wounding on July 24, 2019, when a child was shot at a Tiger Valley residence outside Washington. 

The child was treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Fauquier Hospital in Warrenton, and she and her brother were placed in foster care.

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 was later charged in January 2020 with an additional felony — possession of a firearm or ammunition by a convicted felon.

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. According to the criminal complaint filed by Front Royal Police Department Detective D. Fogle, while watching a surveillance video of the Rural King transaction with Rappahannock County Sheriff’s Office Investigator James Jones, the two discovered that Thighe “assisted with the purchase and assisted with picking the ammo for the weapon …

“Thighe is seen leaving the store with the ammo in hand …Thighe Kavanagh is a multiple time convicted felon and is precluded from possessing a firearm and/or ammunition.”

Following the July 2019 incident, Edmund Kavanagh’s neighbors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that they had reported to Rappahannock County Sheriff Connie Compton that they had heard gunshots from Kavanagh’s house on several occasions prior to the July 24 incident.

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Thighe’s Warrenton attorney at the time, Nikki Marshall, said in a petition to the court that she also contacted the Rappahannock Sheriff’s office after Thighe asked for the return of his father’s firearm that had been removed from senior Kavanagh’s house. 

After the July 24 shooting, this newspaper asked Compton why there had been no follow-up concern about Kavanagh. She replied that until the shooting he’d done nothing illegal that she could arrest him for. 

“We have lots of convicted felons living here, but they haven’t done anything,” the sheriff said.” 

A hearing in the possession case was scheduled for last Tuesday, October 13, in Warren County General District Court in Front Royal. During a recess, RCSO Investigator Jones told the Rappahannock News that the video showed Thighe completing the gun purchase application, but his father purchasing the gun.

Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney John Bell had planned to present the store’s surveillance video at the hearing, but the session 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 Kavanagh 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 Front Royal, 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.”

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.

“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: “The information you have asked for is confidential per administrative code.”

Haas also described what is known as a “straw purchase” — when someone who can pass a background check buys a gun for someone who cannot, such as a convicted felon like Thighe Kavanagh. So far, no additional charges have been filed.

Kavanagh, 53, has been held in the Rappahannock Shenandoah Warren Regional Jail awaiting trial since the July 2019 shooting.