Teen on Trial in Killings of 2 Fairfax County High School Students Takes the Stand

Zachary Burkard is accused of killing a 16-year-old and 17-year-old at a home in Springfield, Virginia, in April 2021

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A teenager on trial in the killings of two Fairfax County high school students took the stand Tuesday and said he was defending a friend when he opened fire inside a Springfield, Virginia, home last year.

Zachary Burkard showed little emotion and calmly told his story as his defense attorney questioned him inside the courtroom. He told the jury he opened fire on April 25, 2021 because four teens had just beat up his friend and he was afraid they were all armed.

Ersheen Elaiaiser, 17, was shot twice in the chest and 16-year-old Calvin Van Pelt was shot once in the back at a home in the 8000 block of Winding Way Court, prosecutors said. Both teens died.

Burkard's only emotion Tuesday came when the attorney asked him if he meant to kill Elaiaiser.

"No!" he said, raising his voice.

Burkard said he was in an ongoing dispute with Elaiaiser and was at his friend Nick's house when he heard the 17-year-old was coming to the house with three others.

“I was scared. They said they would kill us. I was not prepared for this at all," Burkard told the court.


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Burkard admitted he had been dealing drugs and had taunted Elaiaiser in a video, which was shown to the jury.

He testified he was in a basement room when he heard his friend Nick get into a fight out in the garage.

“I opened the door. I was not planning to shoot anyone. I saw Nick on the ground with four people around him," Burkard said. “I raised the gun and I told them to get back. Nick looked like he was unconscious. I raised and dropped the gun several times. Then, Ersheen started racing toward me. I thought he would pull out a gun and shoot me. I was terrified."

On cross examination, Burkard admitted he made two videos in which he threatened Elaiaiser with guns and said the teen would be 6 feet under if he tried anything.

The prosecution is expected to rest its case Tuesday, with closing arguments expected Wednesday morning.

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