He did “more fishing than schoolwork” in his younger years, and the passion born of fighting fish on the line still charges up his world, but that passion is bounded now by an attention to detail that goes far beyond tying lures or stalking Rockfish on the Potomac.
Court Security Officer Chris O’Neil’s life seems to be a succession of jobs and interests with one common denominator: exacting attention to detail. In the world of courtroom security that is a necessary characteristic.
Tying a lure is half the fun for O’Neil, the other half is giving the lure to a friend knowing a “fifty pound Rockfish” will eventually take it. Just as the most fun he had in his career was the painstaking investigation that it takes to track down a fugitive. “I’d almost do it for free,” he said. “It’s hard to explain,” he said of finding fugitives. “It’s like finding the pieces of a puzzle and putting them all together.”
Now in charge of courtroom security at the Culpeper Courthouse, O’Neil began as a technician for Xerox Copiers after he graduated from the Fairfax County school system in 1985. In 1988 he was working on a copier at the Fairfax County Jail “when they kinda recruited me.” Life was never the same.
He began working in the Fairfax County Jail and from there his career moved upwards as he trained with U.S. Marshals, taught at the Fairfax Law Enforcement Academy and worked with the FBI Joint Fugitive Task Force among other things. Later in his career he was the liaison for the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office during the the county’s jail expansion. “I’d like to take that experience and help with Culpeper’s jail,” he said.
O’Neil moved to Culpeper in 2003.
“I liked the rural character of the area,” he said. “It fit me.”
When he retired from the Fairfax Sheriff’s Department Jan. 11 of this year, after 27 years of service, “the last thing I thought I would do is start working again,” he said.
But Culpeper Sheriff Scott Jenkins had other ideas and he recruited O’Neil to come work with the Sheriff’s Office. Now the man who was on the advance team for the Lee/Malvo sniper trial is working courthouse security as a First Sergeant for Culpeper.
“I like the fact that we get the benefit of all the training and experience Chris has – at no cost to the county taxpayers,” Jenkins said. “I’ve known him for years,” Jenkins said. “His is the sort of ethics and professionalism we want in our office.”
First Sergeant, Courtroom Security
Married: Two daughters
Hobbies: Salt water fishing and lure tying, hunting, shooting, blacksmithing, collecting Americana antiques.