Newsletter

An alleged carjacking that turned fatal last Friday derailed that week’s Top Stories post, but the weekly roundup returns.

That carjacking, unsurprisingly, was the top story of this past week.  Jordan Poteat, an 18-year old from Maryland, was killed by the driver of the vehicle. Another alleged carjacker, 18-year-old Mikell Morris, was injured and arrested, and two juvenile males, both 15 years of age, were also arrested and charged with carjacking. Poteat’s mother told local news stations that her son didn’t deserve to die, regardless of his alleged crime.

There weren’t many other happy stories in the roundup of top stories. The city is planning around a Metro shutdownagain — and two people were killed in a crash on the Beltway early Friday morning. Both the city and local advocacy groups are scrambling to prepare for a wave of evictions that could take place as protections expire in June.

On the bright site, some local restauranteurs found a trove of baby formula and donated it to a local non-profit and the Freedom House Museum is finally set to reopen.

Top stories

  1. UPDATED: One killed at Potomac Yard gas station shooting
  2. Two killed in Beltway crash in Alexandria
  3. Police: Three teenagers arrested after fatal Potomac Yard carjacking
  4. Virginia State Police identify two men killed in I-495 crash near Telegraph Road
  5. City of Alexandria lays out Metro replacement plans for fall shutdown
  6. Police: D.C. man pointed gun at woman after getting locked out of West End apartment
  7. Alexandria Hyundai owner says special use permit puts dealership’s future on the line
  8. Resident advocacy group racing against time to prevent wave of Southern Towers evictions
  9. Juvenile assaulted and robbed by four males near Seminary Plaza Shopping Center
  10. Man arrested for allegedly threatening to kill West End woman over lost money and jewelry
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Alexandria’s Homegrown Restaurant Group just stumbled across a proverbial goldmine of infant baby formula, and on Friday morning (May 20) they donated 10 cases of Similac Advance to ALIVE!.

It could take months before Alexandria grocery store shelves are stocked with infant formula, as communities around the country are struggling through the shortage.

HRG’s Bill Blackburn was inspired to find the formula after reading a Washington Post article about a restaurant owner who found a stash through his commercial food supply chain.

Blackburn made a call and found that his distributor had 10 cases of Similac Advance. It cost $1,000, which was paid for by HRG, Alexandria Celebrates Women and the Del Ray Business Association.

“Homegrown Restaurant Group is proud to partner with these organizations to provide this much-needed baby formula to ALIVE! during this crisis,” Blackburn said.

ALIVE! Executive Director Jennifer Ayers said that the nonprofit needed the formula and is grateful.

“Once again neighbors have demonstrated that if there’s a need in this community that we can work together to help other neighbors,” Ayers said.

Courtesy photo

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Cars travel westbound I-495 on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge (via Google Maps)

Work to expand the I-495 Express Lanes to the north is only just warming up, but the Virginia Department of Transportation is now turning its attention to the southern end of the Capital Beltway.

The I-495 Southside Express Lanes environmental study is evaluating possible express lane additions on an 11-mile stretch of the corridor east of the I-395 interchange in Springfield to Maryland Route 210 in Prince George’s County.

Crossing over the Potomac River, the corridor currently has two to five lanes typically, though a divided highway splits local and pass-thru routes. There is also a portion with six lanes, but the corridor overall has no express lanes presently.

VDOT presented its proposal at a virtual meeting yesterday (Wednesday), kicking off a series of meetings during a public comment period that’s slated to end June 6.

In-person meetings will take place tonight in Maryland, Monday (May 23) at John R. Lewis High School in Springfield, and the Nannie J. Lee Memorial Recreation Center in Alexandria on May 25.

The study is seeking to reduce congestion, address safety concerns and provide other improvements.

“In the morning, there is significant congestion going in the westbound direction, or from Maryland towards Virginia,” Abi Lerner, a VDOT engineer for megaprojects, said during the virtual meeting.

495 express lanes extension, image via VDOT

According to VDOT’s weekday data for the interstate, there’s approximately two hours of congestion in the morning from around 6:30 to 9, Lerner said. In 2019, average travel speeds could be as low as 30 mph during peak commuting times.

In Virginia, there’s significant congestion for an even longer time frame from approximately 3 to 7 p.m. for traffic going eastbound to the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge.

Expressing several concerns, resident Poul Hertel asked for the public comment deadline to be extended to June 18. VDOT said that would be considered and updated, if possible, on its project page.

The study is also evaluating whether express lane exit and entry connections could be added, an idea that drew mixed reactions.

“It’s very distressing to see that you have exit points into Old Town Alexandria,” Hertel said. “I would strongly urge you to remove that from your list.”

Meanwhile, multiple Maryland residents weighed in, with Prince George’s County Councilmember Jolene Ivey noting the area’s opposition to toll lanes there.

Lerner responded that whatever VDOT ultimately recommends “is going to require buy-in…from the Maryland side” of the Beltway.

Oxon Hill resident Howard Herrnstadt said it seems that a small number of affluent and time-stressed motorists use existing express lanes, questioning how the infrastructure expense would be justified.

Lerner said VDOT has seen significant usage of the express lanes for carpooling, which enables drivers to use them for free, but he was unable to provide data. Herrnstadt challenged that narrative.

According to VDOT, the proposed changes wouldn’t interfere with the possibility of light rail in the future, which the Woodrow Wilson bridge was designed to accommodate.

The study will inform any recommendations, including no changes, or potential projects in the future. VDOT plans to present options this fall or winter and finish its review in the fall of 2023 or winter of 2024.

Photo via Google Maps

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A 37-year-old Maryland man is being held without bond after allegedly sexually assaulting a girl younger than 13 years old in the Braddock area.

The incident occurred at around 9 p.m. on May 9 near Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority properties in the 1300 block of Madison Street, which is close to the Braddock Road Metro station.

Police found the suspect, Damien Curtis Talbert, of Prince George’s County, unconscious but breathing as he was pinned to the ground by multiple witnesses.

The witnesses told police they stopped him from allegedly sexually assaulting the juvenile girl, and that a gun fell out of Talbert’s clothing during the incident, according to a search warrant affidavit. A Taurus G3C 9mm pistol was found on the ground about five feet from the suspect.

The juvenile victim did not seek medical attention, police said.

About 20 minutes before the incident, police were alerted of a fight between two men a short distance away at 1000 Colonial Avenue. Before the fight, one of the men involved admitted to handing his gun to Talbert.

Talbert was charged with possession of a weapon by a convicted felon, sexual battery of a victim under the age of 13 and assault and battery. He goes to court for the offenses on June 1.

The Alexandria Sexual Assault Center and Domestic Violence Program is available 24/7 to listen and help at 703-746-4911.

“If you are a neighbor and know that an abusive incident is occurring, call the police immediately,” the city said. “Calling the police is simply the most effective way to protect the victim and children from immediate harm.”

Via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Local non-profits donate school supplies — “On Wednesday May 18, 2022, the entrance of Francis C. Hammond Middle School was flooded with backpacks of school, hygiene, and arts and crafts supplies.” [Zebra]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 89 and low of 66. Sunrise at 5:53 am and sunset at 8:20 pm. [Weather.gov]

Julie Carey celebrates 30 years at NBC — “Broadcast journalist and Alexandria resident Julie Carey is celebrating 30 years at WRC-TV this spring, the last six as Northern Virginia bureau chief.” [Alexandria Living Magazine]

A glimpse into Old Presbyterian Meeting House’s past — “Driving through Old Town, tourists might miss one of the oldest places in the city, the Old Presbyterian Meeting House.” [Alexandria Times]

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Alexandria’s Part 1 crime rate is up, and it’s mostly due to an increase in larcenies and thefts from cars.

Police released the city’s Part 1 crime statistics for 2022 on Tuesday, and included are the reported numbers of homicides, rapes, robberies, grand larcenies from vehicles, and aggravated assaults.

Overall, crimes against people and property in the city are up 7%, when compared to the first five months of last year.

There has been one homicide in 2022 — a 25-year-old man who was found dead on the sidewalk in the West End in March. There were two homicides in the city in 2021 and four homicides in 2020.

Below are Part 1 crimes for the period of January 1 – May 11 for the years 2020, 2021, and 2022:

Crime Type 2020 2021 2022
Homicide 0 0 1
Rape 5 2 1
Robbery 32 34 34
Aggravated Assault 73 76 63
Burglary 46 81 54
Larceny 791 753 845
Grand Larceny from Auto 91 77 98
Total 1,038 1,023 1,096

Larcenies are on the rise, with 845 incidents reported in the first five months of the year — a 12% increase over last year. Thefts from automobiles are also up 27%, with 98 incidents reported.

The city saw a 19% increase in Part 1 crime in 2020, which then fell by 2% in 2021:

Crime Type 2020 2021 Change
Homicide 4 2 -2
Rape 14 9 -5
Robbery 88 83 -5
Aggravated Assault 208 241 33
Burglary 126 186 60
Larceny 2,475 2,420 -55
Grand Larceny from Auto 357 268 -89
Total 3,272 3,209 -63 (-2%)
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Terrier mix Carlie might be a handful, but she makes up for it with positive energy.

The three-year-old’s adoption fees have also been pre-paid by a generous donor, and the Animal Welfare of Alexandria says she is a smart dog capable of learning lots of tricks.

“Carlie loves her toys, especially the ones that can be as rough and tumble as she is,” AWLA spokesperson Gina Hardter told ALXnow.

To learn more about Carlie, email [email protected] or call 703-746-4774.

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A 13-year-old boy was robbed by a group of males in the 4600 block of Kenmore Avenue on May 12 (Thursday).

The incident occurred at around 4 p.m. near the near Seminary Plaza Shopping Center. The victim was injured in the incident and refused medical attention. A personal item was stolen.

Four males, likely juveniles, committed the offense and did not use weapons, Alexandria Police told ALXnow.

There have been no arrests and the incident remains under investigation.

There have been a number of recent assault by mob incidents in Alexandria. On May 6, a gang of juveniles jumped a 16-year-old male at the Bradlee Shopping Center, and on April 24 four men robbed a man of his wallet in Arlandria.

Anyone with information on this incident is urged to call the Alexandria Police Department at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

Via Google Maps

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With a potential wave of evictions incoming next month, a group representing tenants of Southern Towers is trying to indirectly pressure the building’s owner into giving residents a reprieve.

The 2,261-unit Southern Towers complex at 4901 Seminary Road is one of the last bastions of market-rate affordable housing — housing that’s affordable without being set at a certain level by agreement with the local government. The West End building was purchased in 2020 by California-based real estate company CIM Group.

While there were some eviction protections put in place during the pandemic, CIM Group still pursued eviction proceedings against some residents, and tenant advocacy group African Communities Together has expressed concerns those evictions could escalate now that Virginia Rent Relief Program (RRP) has closed its application process.

The RRP was created during the pandemic to keep families in place as job loss impacted local residents’ ability to pay rent. But with the application window closing, the City of Alexandria said in a release that eviction protections put in place with that program will expire starting on June 1.

Bert Bayou, director of African Communities Together, said affordable housing advocates are scrambling to put together protections for residents.

“This came as a surprise,” said Bayou. “We were expecting this program to continue. This came so quickly and was a shock to the community that it was ending on May 15. We were still trying to get data on how many people used this program for rent relief but still not provided by the state.”

Bayou said that many of Southern Towers’ residents are service-industry employees or Uber drivers who work in jobs that haven’t fully returned to pre-pandemic levels.

“We know this community, we’ve been in this community for many years,” Bayou said. “These are service workers, hospitality workers, Uber drivers. Most of the jobs are dependent on federal workers coming back and they either haven’t or is still part-time. When this is over, when the eviction moratorium ends, we’re going to see a floodgate opening on evictions. It’s going to be massive.”

Bayou said in April 2021, African Communities Together did a study that found CIM Group had started 541 eviction proceedings since buying the property in 2020, and Bayou said they’ve seen another 50 or so since then.

ALXnow reached out to CIM Group to comment or confirm these numbers but received no response.

“They own around 9% of the apartment units in the city,” Bayou said, “but their eviction filings were about 25% of the total. That’s higher than any other landlord in the city.”

Bayou said they’ve tried to reach out to CIM Group to work out a way to offer rent relief for residents of Southern Towers who are still out of work, but that the real estate company will only negotiate with individual residents rather than with tenant groups.

“What we could do is for tenants to sit down collectively with CIM to address this and other issues, but CIM as a multi-billion dollar landlord could sit down and work with tenants not to be evicted and be homeless,” Bayou said. “CIM could do this. They’ve raised hundreds of millions of dollars when they purchased the building. When they come to the city, there has to be some compassion from the landlord to talk to tenants.”

Instead, Bayou said they’re trying to target CIM Group’s investors to try to get them to apply pressure on the real estate company to come to the table. It is, admittedly, a long shot. It’s been one week since African Communities Together started to reach out to investors, and so far the few responses the group has received are from investors that say they’re no longer involved with CIM Group and haven’t been for years.

“They are real estate investors, but there are a good number of public pension funds that have invested in CIM,” Bayou said. “Those are the ones we are really focusing on. Most of the union members for which this pension is being invested would not support this kind of investment.”

African Communities Together is part of the city’s Eviction Prevention Task Force that’s been working on alternative rent relief programs, but it can’t fully replace the statewide program. The city is offering assistance like temporary housing and storage units, but can’t intervene to prevent evictions.

“There is some assistance available through the city for temporary housing and storage units and other assistance,” Bayou said. “I think that’s where we’ll be looking if this happens, but we’re trying not to think about that. We’re trying to keep tenants in their homes. If they lose this apartment building, there’s basically no affordable housing for them.”

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Alexandria Police have released the identities of the two men killed on Insterstate 495 near Telegraph Road on May 12.

Abdellah Bougrine, 54, of Alexandria, and Driss Bougrine, 59, of Fairfax, died after being hit by vehicles after the 2016 Toyota Corolla they were driving stopped in the middle of the road. The two men got out of the Toyota and were then hit moments later by two vehicles.

“(The) male driver and male passenger exited the Toyota and were outside of it when the Toyota was struck moments later by a westbound 2000 Ford Ranger pickup truck,” Virginia State Police said in a release. “Both the driver and passenger were also struck. The impact of the crash caused the Toyota to run off the right side of the interstate and into the guardrail. The Ford came to rest on the left shoulder. A westbound 2008 Mazda Miata also struck one of the men.”

A GoFundMe campaign for the men raised $15,500, and is no longer accepting donations.

No charges have been filed, and the crash remains under investigation, according to VSP.

Via VDOT

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