- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2013

Lakisha Gaither shot a gun into the air to stop a fight involving her teenage daughter. That, no one disputes.

But just how dangerous the situation could have become, and whether the 35-year-old Woodbridge mother was justified in using the weapon, is where she and police now disagree.

The Washington Times reported Tuesday that Ms. Gaither was arrested and charged by Prince William County police with reckless use of a weapon, after she stood in the middle of her apartment complex parking lot and fired her handgun to scare away a teenage boy fighting her daughter.

But Prince William County police spokesman Officer Jonathan L. Perok said Thursday that after investigating the incident the reported “pummeling” of 15-year-old Brianna Stewart was neither one-sided nor was it a reason to fire a bullet into the air.

“It wasn’t a continued assault as far as what was reported to us,” Officer Perok said. “We didn’t have enough justification to press charges for that. The more pressing matter is the firearm being shot. Once you shoot a weapon, you own the bullet that comes out of that weapon. If you shoot that bullet into the air, you have no control over where it goes. There’s the risk of property damage, or hurting or killing someone. That defines reckless handling of a weapon.”

But Ms. Gaither is sticking by her account.

“He kept coming for her. That’s why I took action,” she said Thursday in response to the police department’s comments. “I saw him hit her. I wanted to go help her.”

The incident occurred Saturday in the 1900 block of Gableridge Turn in Woodbridge. It was first reported by WRC-TV.

Ms. Gaither said that after confronting a teenage girl and her mother in the neighborhood over a prior disagreement, she and Brianna began walking home. A group of about 10 boys approached them in the parking lot of their apartment complex. One boy began to swear and insult Ms. Gaither and her daughter, who stood up to the boy.

Ms. Gaither said rather than risk putting the both of them in further danger, she stepped back from the fight, walked to the middle of the parking, unholstered her gun and shot a single bullet straight up into the air.

Police confirmed the scuffle between Ms. Gaither’s daughter and another teenager but said Ms. Gaither’s most recent version of Saturday night’s events differs from the original report.

Officer Perok said the encounter only involved Ms. Gaither’s daughter and the 15-year-old boy, who was not named because he is a minor.

Ms. Gaither’s daughter was named for a related missing person report filed the day after the shooting incident. She was reunited with her mother Thursday afternoon.

According to police, Ms. Gaither and her daughter confronted the boy after learning he was involved in a series of rumors concerning Brianna.

“A verbal altercation between the two of them and him escalated,” Officer Perok said. “One of them threw the first punch and the other one retaliated. We don’t know who threw the first punch.”

Officer Perok said no noticeable injuries were reported. Ms. Gaither said Thursday her daughter had a black eye, and she would be filing assault charges on the boy.

“They have every right to,” Officer Perok said.

The concern for police, however, is how Ms. Gaither handled the confrontation.

“We’re not talking about her possession of the weapon. She lawfully possessed that weapon,” he said. “That does not mean it can be fired wherever and whenever.”

Ms. Gaither said she open carries her handgun “everywhere I go.”

Police reported that she brought the handgun with her when she went with her daughter to confront the teenager.

“If anyone feels that they need a weapon in order to go and confront someone, obviously the odds of the situation escalating are high and police should be involved prior to any incident taking place,” Officer Perok said.

• Meredith Somers can be reached at msomers@washingtontimes.com.

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