Alexandria, VA

What an intense week in Alexandria.

Our top story was on the massive power outages that affected tens of thousands of residents on Friday, October 23. Without providing specifics, Dominion Energy told City Council this week that outages in Alexandria and Arlington were “unique,” and caused by a piece of equipment that failed at its Glebe Road substation. City Councilors responded that there have been at least eight outages since May.

Monday started with news that an Alexandria Police officer was shot in Old Town and that the 27-year-old suspect was found shot to death near a construction site.

Police were called to the Holiday Inn & Suites in Old Town North after reports that shots were fired in the lobby of the hotel. Police chased two suspects on foot and a shootout ensued. The officer was shot in the lower body and was later released, and the other suspect later turned himself in to police.

On the coronavirus front, there are now 74 deaths in Alexandria and there are now or have been more than 4,200 cases since the pandemic began in March. Latino residents continue to lead the case count. This week the Alexandria Health Department reported that majority of recent coronavirus cases in Alexandria might be the result of contacts at home, indoor gatherings and eating out.

Restaurant-wise, we reported the soft opening of a new chicken joint in North Old Town.

Additionally, the Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies art installation at Waterfront Park will be taken down next month at Waterfront Park, and the installation will temporarily be moved outside of Old Town Pool (1609 Cameron Street).

We also reported that more than 50% of Alexandria voters have already cast their ballots.

Additionally, more than 240 people participated in our weekly poll. With Halloween on Saturday, this week we asked about trick-or-treating plans, and 38% of respondents are not celebrating Halloween this year, 31% are not trick-or-treating but have other plans, 17% plan to trick-or-treat with modifications, and 14% plan to trick-or-treat as usual.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories of the week in Alexandria:

  1. BREAKING: Massive Power Outage Reported in Alexandria
  2. BREAKING: Virginia State Police Seek Alexandria Man After Police Shootout
  3. School Board Shelves Plan to Reopen Schools in 2021, Students with Disabilities Transitioning Back Next Month
  4. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  5. Here’s Where Alexandria Residents Might be Getting COVID-19
  6. BREAKING: Shooting Suspect In Custody, Police Announce
  7. Police: Man Killed in Car Crash on N. Van Dorn Street
  8. Identity Released of Old Town North Suspect Killed in Shootout
  9. Police: Shots Fired in Braddock Area on Monday Night
  10. The Chewish Deli Opens New Location in Old Town
  11. Police Assist Man With Psychotic Episode in West End

Happy Halloween!

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A number of Alexandria residents with political signs supporting Democrat Joe Biden for president have received disturbing anonymous letters in the mail stating that Biden is a pedophile, and that anyone who votes for him is condoning pedophilia.

“You may have preciously heard about or seen video clips/photos documenting Joe Biden’s ‘sniffing’ obsession,” reads a typed letter from ‘A Concerned American’. “It’s likely you thought he was creepy, but laughed it off. But have you actually watched the videos of Joe Biden inappropriately kissing, groping, and even grinding (yes, grinding) on small children?!”

The letter lists links to Youtube videos.

The letter continues, “I assume you don’t support pedophilia — no normal person would. But, if you’re rooting for a pedophile to be the next leader of the free world — despite the videos — I hate to say it, you do condone pedophilia and the inappropriate touching, and groping of small children.”

One Alexandrian who has two Biden signs in their front yard received the letter in the mail on October 25. The letter has a Northern Virginia postmark and no return address. The resident said a number of neighbors with Biden signs have also gotten the same letter.

“I voted long ago by mail like most people,” the resident told ALXnow. “This would never deter me from voting.”

Clarence Tong, chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee, is advising residents who receive the letters to contact the Alexandria Police non-emergency number at 703-746-4444.

“This is very disturbing,” Tong said. “We encourage anyone who receives harassing behavior like this to report it to the Alexandria Police Department.”

Photo via Alexandria Democratic Committee/Facebook

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Alexandria’s Police Chief Michael L. Brown is concerned that establishing a community police review board with independent investigative authority will create considerable legal problems for his department.

Last month, City Council sent back the city manager’s initial proposal for the board. Council requested that there be an option to include an auditor/independent investigator with subpoena power. Council unanimously directed staff to draw up the proposal during a period of social unrest in the wake of the George Floyd murder at the hands of the Minneapolis police, and Brown and his officers participated in protests around the city.

Brown previously said in June that such a review board has a negative connotation, and last month a police union called the board “superfluous“.

“I’m not afraid of oversight,” Brown said in an Agenda Alexandria discussion on Monday, October 26. “The concern I had at that point in time, we were in the middle of a national narrative against police. And when you look at policing as a whole, there are problematic police officers, there are problematic agencies. I do not believe the Alexandria police department is one of those.”

Brown added:

It’s not because we’re afraid of an independent investigator. It’s a legal issue, because if you get into situations, for example, that you violate Garrity Rules or other kinds of rules related to collective bargaining where you can’t get the facts of the case because of people doing it the wrong way, you may not be able to do criminal prosecution and the like. As a police agency, we need to get the facts of how things went, and the facts will tell us what we need to procedurally and otherwise. There’s a very fine line about what we can do as an employer. We can compel testimony. If you issue a subpoena to somebody they can invoke their Fifth Amendment right, and when you do that you sometimes run into all sorts of legal and constitutional issues. Now, if the folks that set up an independent review are able to understand that and not step on those who may not jeopardize situations where we have discipline and may not jeopardize potential criminal prosecution.

Sarah Graham Taylor, the city’s legislative director, is drafting the proposal for council to consider. She said that there are some rules regarding investigative authority in police review boards around the country.

“Most oversight bodies that have subpoena power, including places like Berkeley and San Francisco, are actually prohibited from undertaking any investigation until the any pending criminal charges against an officer have been adjudicated or unless they received permission from their district attorney or in our case, our Commonwealth’s Attorney to proceed with the investigation,” Taylor said.

Ingris Moran of Tenants & Workers United said that the community wants answers regarding police conduct, since 64% of all arrests last year in the city were of Black men.

“I think at this point our community members want truth,” Moran said. “They want answers. And so I think this overall is going to be a good opportunity at least have that first step to see how we can have our community in control have more community control and see what’s really going on in the city of Alexandria.”

City Council will discuss the updated proposal on November 10.

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Herndon-based Wooboi Hot Chicken is hosting a small “soft opening” today at a new location opening in North Old Town (531 Montgomery Street).

The soft opening is scheduled to run from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. though those who want to try the chicken should lean towards the earlier side, as Wooboi Hot Chicken said there is a limited supply today.

“We have 100 chicken breasts and 400 tenders to sell!” the restaurant said.

Today and tomorrow, the location is cash-only. The restaurant said on Facebook that at the grand opening on Monday, they will accept cards, cash, and apple pay.

Sandwiches or a basket of chicken tenders are $8.99 ($10 with tax included, for purposes of planning how much cash to bring) and sides are $3.99 ($4.50 with tax).

Photo via Wooboi Hot Chicken/Facebook

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The owner of an SUV that crashed into a truck in the West End in August reported that his vehicle was stolen before a hit-and-run.

On the evening of August 13, a passerby reported to police that an unattended silver-colored GMC Acadia crashed into a parked Ford F-150 in the 5700 block of Reading Avenue in the West End.

The Acadia was left unattended in the travel lane with damage to its front passenger side, and the F-150 was damaged on its driver’s side rear end, according to a police search warrant affidavit.

The Acadia was not empty.

“During the inventory of the vehicle, a white Apple iPhone was located in the driver’s seat, later placed into the Alexandria Police Department’s Property and Evidence Room,” according to police.

The responding officers left a note when they were not able to contact the owner of the Acadia at his home. The next day, though, the owner told police that he had not been driving his SUV, and “subsequently reported his vehicle had been stolen,” according to the search warrant.

Map via Google Maps

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Even at 15 years old, Jasmine the Chihuahua is spry and can smell treats from the other end of the room.

A native of Florida, Jasmine she spent some quality time with the True and Faithful Pet Rescue Mission before making Alexandria her home.

“Jasmine is partially blind and partially deaf, but she doesn’t let it slow her down,” said Gina Hardter, spokesperson for the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria. “She’s a speedy gal who loves to explore and spend quality time in the yard and on walks.”

If you are interested in learning more about Jasmine, or scheduling time to meet her by appointment virtually or in person, visit AlexandriaAnimals.org/Adopt-By-Appointment for more information.

Photos via AWLA

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The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for Alexandria until Thursday night (October 29) as the remnants of Tropical Storm Zeta move through the region.

“Heavy rainfall from Zeta could lead to some flooding of small streams, creeks, and urban areas,” warned NWS. “Rain amounts of two- to-three inches are expected with locally higher amounts possible, especially in the metro areas.”

Alexandria was plagued by severe flooding after numerous rain events over the summer, prompting the City Council last month to ask for an update from staff on $750 million on stormwater management mitigation efforts.

According to NWS:

Scattered incidents of flooding due to heavy rain are possible. Clogged drains due to leaf debris may cause additional flooding concerns, especially in urban areas.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

  • Do not enter or cross flowing water or water of unknown depth.
  • Stay away or be swept away.
  • River banks and culverts can become unstable and unsafe.

A Flood Watch means there is a potential for flooding based on current forecasts. You should monitor later forecasts and be alert for possible flood warnings. Those living in areas prone to flooding should be prepared to take action should flooding develop.

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The number of continued claims for unemployment in Alexandria took a large dip for the week ending October 17, with 538 fewer continued claims than the previous week.

For the week ending October 17, the city had 2,353 continued claims, which was down 19% from the previous week’s 2,891 continued claims. There were also 2,885 continued claims for the week ending October 3; 3,282 continued claims for the week ending Sept. 26; 3,053 claims for the week ending Sept. 19 and 4,036 continued claims for the week ending Sept. 12.

The week ending October 17 is the 31st week since the pandemic began in Virginia.

There were 163 initial claims for the week ending October 17, which is an increase of 38 claims over the previous week. There were also 139 initial claims for the week ending October 3; 107 initial claims for the week ending Sept. 26; 125 initial claims for the week ending Sept. 19; 120 initial claims for the week ending Sept. 12 and 155 initial claims for the week ending Sept. 5.

Throughout Virginia there were 11,365 initial claims, a 25% increase, for the week ending October 17. That makes it the largest week of initial claims since August 22, according to the Virginia Employment Commission. There were also 129,300 continued claims, a 9.1% decrease, from the previous week.

According to VEC:

The locality with the most initial unemployment claims this week was Prince William County which saw 964 initial filings. Richmond City and Fairfax County followed with 760 and 736 initial claims respectively. Of the 133 counties and independent cities in the Commonwealth, 98 localities saw an increase in the number of filings compared to the week before. The locality with the largest increase in claims was Prince William County which had an additional 372 initial claims compared to the previous week.

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In the market to buy a business? Sometimes it can be easier than starting from scratch.

We took a look through Alexandria listings of the website BizBuySell and found a number of businesses for sale. Many are restaurants, which have been heavily impacted the last several months due to the pandemic.

The website aggregates numerous business sale listings. The names of the businesses and their locations are generally left out of the listing.

Reasons for selling, when provided, typically do not mention economic hardship, but more often involve the owner retiring or not having time to actively manage the business.

Here are some that are currently listed in Alexandria:

  1. Absentee-Owner Gourmet Pizza & Italian With Loyal Following — “This high-visibility restaurant has long been a destination and neighborhood favorite with locals – it continues to enjoy a following as a gourmet take-out option for pizza and all Italian cuisine favorites. Purchased in 2019 as a decades-old chef-owned establishment, the new owner invested in a complete turn around, nearly doubling sales and converting the business model to absentee ownership. Owner has refrained from applying for PPP or other SBA loans so that new owner might be able to take advantage of those opportunities.”
  2. Beautiful Hair & Nail Spa for Sale/ Price Reduced — “Great opportunity!!! Serious Inquiries only. Beautiful and well established Hair & Nail Spa for Sale in a very busy shopping center. Seller is retiring after many successful years in the business. Beautiful & Very efficiently designed. 6 years old Spa. Established, loyal customers. Reasonable rent & excellent location. 10 Hair stations, 5 Dryers, 3 Shampoo stations, 8 Manicure Tables, 8 Pedicure chairs, 3 Waxing rooms, 2 Facial Rooms, 1 Body scrub. There is plenty of room to expand. Room to grow by improving social media and other marketing and adding massage service.”
  3. Sandwich Shop/Deli — “I have a client who is ready to retire and has a sandwich shop/deli ready to sell. NO BROKERS. Substantial net positive cash flow after 31 years in business. Excellent old town location. Extended Lease. Business currently operates 6 days per week for breakfast and lunch until 6 so opportunity to extend hours and days under current SUP. No alcohol but license possible. Delivery and growing catering business add to profits.”
  4. Coffee Cafe — “Coffee cafe in heavy traffic shopping center of Alexandria VA. This coffee shop was established in 2019 and has tons of potential. All the furniture, fixtures and equipment are in perfect condition. Can be converted to fit most menus. The current owner has decided to get out of the food/drink industry and go back to his full time profession. We are now looking for a new owner to take this turn key establishment to the next level. Priced for quick sale.”
  5. Profitable Sandwich Shop & Deli — “Established in 1955, this well known deli located in a prime location of Alexandria VA is for sale to any qualified buyer. Surrounded by retail and residential on a main road with heavy walking traffic. This restaurant has a very strong following and highly rated on google reviews. The restaurant was completely renovated in 2016 with all brand new furniture, fixtures & high end equipment. The current owner averages a $50,000 cash flow while working limited hours. Do to family circumstances, the owner needs to sell. We are now looking for a new owner/operator to bring this business to the next level.”
  6. Restaurant & Bar Approved for Hookah — “With a capacity of 370, this 2 level establishment is perfect for private events, birthdays or work outings. The first floor is separated into two rooms with a dining area, bar and dance floor with stage/DJ booth while the 2nd room has a large bar, DJ booth and dance floor. The top floor is used for the current owners office, as well as storage, bathrooms and employee lounge.”
  7. 5 Days Open Deli in Office Complex — “Italian gourmet deli sandwich shop running 5 days (7AM ~9PM). Nestled in a well known office and residential complex.”
  8. Established & Well-Known Hair Salon in Old Town Alexandria — “Great opportunity to own a well-known hair salon that has been established for over 30 years in Old Town Alexandria. The business is ideally located on a prominent thoroughfare with excellent street visibility. The salon owners have done an excellent job building a successful salon with reliable revenue and cash flow over the years. There is a stable client base, but there is also plenty of room to grow and expand the business.”
  9. Asian Restaurant and Sushi Bar for Sale — “Established Business for Sale. Owner is looking to retire from business. All equipment is owned and in good condition, except the dishwasher is leased. Asking price is negotiable, send your offers!”
  10. Specialty Gift & Souvenir Boutique in the Heart of Old Town Alexandria — “Unique opportunity to own a specialty gift and souvenir shop in the heart of the Old Town Alexandria. The boutique is located in a high traffic part of Old Town and has been a destination shopping destination to both locals and tourists for decades.”

See more Alexandria listings here.

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With a week to go before the Nov. 3 election, more than 50% of registered Alexandria voters have cast their ballots.

At the close of business on October 26, the Alexandria Office of Voter Registrations and Elections reported 24,739 absentee ballots by mail and 27,150 in-person absentee ballots cast — totaling at 51,889 votes out of 103,000 registered voters in the city.

“In the 2016 election, we had a total of just over 20,000 voters vote in-person absentee, and by mail absentee,” Angie Maniglia Turner, the city’s general registrar and director of elections, told ALXnow. “We have not been working remotely, so it’s just been a lot of social distancing. The city’s been very supportive in making sure we have lots of space to get that social distancing to protect all our volunteers and staff.”

On the ballot for Nov. 3 is the race for president and vice president, a U.S. Senate and Congressional seat and two proposed Constitutional Amendments.

The city recently added three voting locations for in-person absentee voting, and the deadline to vote in-person absentee is 5 p.m. on October 31.

What To Expect On Election Day

Voters on November 3 should expect to find foot markers to encourage social distancing inside and outside polling precincts. Other changes include:

  • Polling officers will be separated from voters by plexiglass, and will not touch any identification
  • Voters will be required to wear face masks, and the Alexandria Medical Reserve Corps will be on-hand to make sure masks are worn properly. They will also have free masks
  • Voters who can’t go into a polling precinct can vote curbside
  • Ballots will be placed in one-time use manila folders

Door Knocking, Campaign Literature And Politics

The pandemic changed the game for Alexandria Democrats and Republicans in their outreach efforts. But both groups are still door knocking and dropping literature at homes around the city. There is one major difference, aside from politics, about election night plans: Democrats will have virtual election night watch parties, while Republicans are still planning on the traditional route of watching the returns inside a yet-to-be-chosen Alexandria restaurant.

“COVID kind of turned campaigning on its head,” Clarence Tong, chair of the Alexandria Democratic Committee, told ALXnow. “We adapted to that with voter engagement on the phones, and canvassing, lit drops and mailers… There has never been more voter enthusiasm than this year, and I think a lot of it’s in response to Trump.”

Sean Lenehan, chair of the Alexandria GOP, said that there is a “silent majority” of Republican voters in Alexandria.

“I think a lot of people that are voting and supporting the president are just avoiding political conversations with their neighbors,” Lenehan said. “They want to keep things neighborly, but at the end of the day we’ll see the numbers come through.”

Alexandria has overwhelmingly voted for Democratic candidates for president for decades, including 76% for Hillary Clinton in 2016, and 70% for Barack Obama in 2012. Alexandria has also chosen a Democrat for the 8th Congressional District seat since former U.S. Rep. Jim Moran defeated incumbent Republican Rep. Stanford Parris in 1990.

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Dominion Energy representatives say that the massive power outages that affected thousands of homes in Alexandria and Arlington last Friday (October 23) were “unique,” and caused by a piece of equipment that failed at its Glebe Road substation.

“This was a unique. Typically, you might experience an outage on one single circuit,” Tim Sargeant, Dominion Energy’s external affairs manager in Northern Virginia, told City Council on Tuesday night. “Needless to say the outage occurred on multiple circuits.”

Sargeant reported that at around 7 p.m., a piece of equipment at the station failed, which caused an outage to 16,504 customers.

“Electric service was restored to 11,247 customers within one minute with the remaining customers restored in increments ranging from 53 minutes to 80 minutes,” Sargeant said. “After the first restoration, approximately 8,000 customers experienced multiple moments of brief service interruptions during the next two hours.”

Then at around 9:15 p.m., another outage affected 8,017 customers after Dominion rerouted electric service to other circuits.

“The additional load on the circuit triggered protective devices that interrupted service as a precaution, as service was restored one of those customers in increments of 18 minutes, 14 minutes, and seven minutes,” Sargeant said, adding that Dominion will send the city a report on recent outages.

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman said that power outages in Alexandria have been too frequent.

Mayor Justin Wilson, for instance, listed outages on social media on May 10June 17, July 7, July 22, August 2, August 8, October 12 and October 17.

“That does seem like a lot of outages for a pretty short amount of time,” Chapman said. “We definitely want our residents to believe that they have reliable power.”

Wilson said that he getting carryout at a restaurant on Mount Vernon Avenue when the lights went out.

“I did watch two restaurants right in front of me close down, because they just gave up because of power going on and off and customer after customer walking up and being told to go away,” Wilson said. “To have a Friday night off, it’s heartbreaking for them. That’s a lot of lost revenue.”

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Door-to-door greeting and candy distribution is a classic staple of Halloween night, but the City of Alexandria and health officials warn it might be one of the worst activities to do amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The City of Alexandria proposed celebrating with alternatives, like scavenger hunts around the home or Halloween movie night with the family. A classic Del Ray celebration has already committed to going virtual. Others have proposed maintaining trick-or-treating but with modifications to encourage distancing.

If you plan on going door-to-door, though, know that many responders to another ALXnow poll said they would likely not distribute candy this year.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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