Alexandria, VA

Update at 11 a.m. — Police arrested a 32-year-old suspect who barricaded herself into her one-bedroom apartment in the Notch 8 apartments in Potomac Yard, at around 3 a.m. after she fell asleep, according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.

“During the overnight hours the suspect was taken into custody after she appeared to fall asleep,” Ballantine told ALXnow.

The Fairfax County Police special operations unit took over for the night shift and made the arrest, Ballantine said. He added that the suspect was not physically injured, has not been charged with a crime and was transported to a local hospital to be evaluated.

The suspect, who allegedly fired shots at police twice, was confirmed as a resident of the apartment and was found to be alone when she was arrested, Ballantine said. Her identity has not yet been released.

Update at 12:00 a.m. — Alexandria police have breached the door of an apartment where a woman has barricaded herself in, although no contact with the woman has been initiated, according to police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.

The woman, who has allegedly fired a weapon three times since police responded to a domestic violence call for service in the area, is apparently alone, Ballantine said, and is not responding to police.

“We have not been in the apartment,” Ballantine told residents at a nearby apartment building who were sheltering in place. ” If we did it was only to unlock it and then that’s as far as we got. It’s a very fluid situation and very dangerous. And we’re trying to get as many people not in there as possible.”

Ballantine added that an explosion outside of the apartment building earlier today was a controlled detonation of a police flash grenade. An officer pulled the pin on one while inside the apartment building, and it was later detonated outside.

“They didn’t use it so they had to come out and dispose of it,” Ballantine told ALXnow. “They did it outside and it was a controlled disposal of it.”

The woman also allegedly fired a single shot on Friday afternoon — but not at police, Ballantine said. This morning, Alexandria police were fired upon this morning after knocking on her door, and then again at the special operations team. The identity of the woman has not yet been released, and the city’s hostage negotiation team has been trying to reach out to her all day, Ballantine said.

Ballantine said that the department will continue updating the public on its Twitter page.

Update at 2:35 p.m. — A hostage negotiation team is trying to communicate with an armed woman who allegedly fired several shots at police and is in her fourth-floor apartment in the 2900 block of Main Line Boulevard in the Potomac Yard area, according to police.

Police responded to a domestic violence service call at 9:23 a.m. after a neighbor reported a man and a woman arguing, according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine. When two police officers knocked on the door of the apartment, they were fired on and retreated, then called for backup.

Ballantine said that the Special Operations Team then knocked on the door and more shots were fired “in all directions.”

Earlier: A woman has barricaded herself in an apartment in the 2900 block of Main Line Boulevard and fired gunshots at police

The barricade situation is at the Notch 8 apartments, and residents have been evacuated. Residents told ALXnow that they heard “an explosion” and multiple shots fired on the fourth floor of the apartment building.

A video sent anonymously to ALXnow showed police outside the building setting off a device that could have been responsible for the explosion residents heard.

The Target at Potomac Yard (3101 Richmond Highway) near the building is closed

The situation is currently stable, as police are attempting to contact the woman.

“At this point, an unknown person has barricaded themselves in and they are shooting at police,” Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow. “This is an active incident.”

Police have warned residents to avoid the area. Firefighters and paramedics are staging in the area as a precaution.

The apartment is above the Giant grocery store, near Route 1.

Jay Westcott contributed to this story

Map via Google Maps / Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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The Alexandria Health Department is investigating three new positive cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus, the city announced in an update on Tuesday night.

There are now five confirmed cases in the city at this time. The first was identified on March 11 and the second on March 15.

According to the city, “One patient was tested in New York but provided a residence address in Alexandria; another recently traveled internationally; and another came in close contact with a confirmed case in Washington, D.C. Any patient who tests positive for COVID-19 is notified and asked to self-isolate.”

The city said investigators will find out who the individuals had close contact with, and will ask them to self-quarantine and to monitor their health.

The City Council will conduct an emergency meeting at City Hall on Wednesday to discuss the coronavirus response efforts. The meeting will take place at 8 p.m. in the City Council Chamber on the 2nd floor of City Hall (301 King St.), and will be preceded by a budget work session at 7 p.m.

Council declared a state of emergency, and Mayor Justin Wilson said that a number of actions would follow. On Tuesday, Wilson sent a number of COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives to the city manager’s office and wrote that “over $100 million of annual City revenue is at risk (Dining Tax, Transient Lodging Tax, Business License Tax and Sales Tax).”

The city also made the following changes to parking regulations and curbside trash collection:

  • Parking – Effective immediately, the City will suspend enforcement of parking restrictions for residential street sweeping and for the prohibition on vehicles parking on the street for more than 72 hours. All other posted parking restrictions, including residential permit time limits and parking meters, remain in effect. Residents may continue to apply for guest parking permits online. The City will also begin working in commercial corridors to establish temporary curbside loading and pickup to assist with an increase in pickup and delivery services.
  • Trash and Recycling –  To protect the health and safety of collection teams, residents should make sure all trash and recycling placed curbside is either contained within a can or cart, or in a tied or sealed plastic bag. Loose trash set out curbside for collection will not be collected.
  • Yard Waste – The City is suspending yard waste, bulk material, and metal curbside collection, effective immediately, for a period of at least two weeks. This change allows crews to continue to prioritize and safely collect residential refuse and recycling. Residents are encouraged to compost yard waste at home or wait to place it curbside until service returns to normal. Smaller amounts of yard waste may be collected with trash, but residents should expect larger volumes to be left uncollected.
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An adult woman is dead after falling off the Seminary Road overpass to Van Dorn Street in the city’s West End, according to Alexandria Police.

Police were notified that the woman fell off the overpass, which does not have a sidewalk, at around 5:15 p.m. She was declared dead at the hospital and her identity has not yet been released.

“It is unknown if this was accidental or if this was intentional,” Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow.

The incident shut down the area of Van Dorn Street and Kenmore Avenue.

Image via Google Maps

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Virginia State Police have arrested a Danville teen and charged him with obstruction of justice and as an accessory after the fact in the deaths of two people, including an Alexandria resident. last month in Southern Virginia.

The 17-year-old was arrested on Thursday, March 12, by officers with the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office.

This is the second arrest in connection with the murder of Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Maryland. The couple were found shot dead near their crashed car on Feb. 8 along Route 58 in Halifax County.

Mohamed A. Aly, an 18-year-old senior at T.C. Williams High School, was arrested at school last month and charged with committing the murders. The former varsity football player is currently being held in the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Halifax.

The murders are being investigated by the Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney, FBI Richmond Field Office, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the Danville Police Department.

The full press release from Virginia State Police is below.

As the investigation continues into February’s double homicide in Halifax County, a second individual now faces charges related to the case. On Thursday (March 12, 2020), the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office took a 17-year-old Danville, Va. male into custody. The juvenile has been charged in Halifax County with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of accessory after the fact.

The juvenile petitions are in relation to the Feb. 8, 2020 murders of two individuals on Route 58 in Halifax County near Melon Road. At 2:51 a.m., a silver 2009 Nissan Maxima was located in the median with Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, Va., and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Md., found deceased and lying in the grass nearby. Both had suffered gunshot wounds.

On Feb. 13, 2020, state police arrested Mohamed A. Aly, 18, of Alexandria, Va., on two counts of first degree murder and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of felony. Aly is still being held at the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Halifax, Va.

State police continues to work with the Halifax County Commonwealth’s Attorney, FBI Richmond Field Office, ATF, Danville Police Department, and several local law enforcement agencies on the homicide investigation.

As the investigation remains ongoing at this time, the Virginia State Police is still encouraging anyone with information about this incident or individuals involved to contact us at 434-352-7128 or #77 on a cell phone or to email [email protected]. Anonymous calls are welcome.

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(Updated at 7 p.m.) Alexandria City Public Schools will be closing Monday until April 14 — after spring break — due to the coronavirus outbreak, Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. announced in an email at noon on Friday.

Although the Alexandria Health Department is not recommending schools to close at this time, multiple issues are impacting the ability for our schools to function effectively and efficiently,” Hutchings wrote. “Therefore, all ACPS schools will be closed as of Monday, March 16, 2020. We are currently planning to close until after spring break (April 6-13, 2020) and will continue to monitor the situation throughout this period of time.”

ACPS has a plan to feed students on free and reduced lunch. Starting Monday, the school system will provide free emergency meals for “any child under 18 and any family who needs it.”

According to the school system, there are two ways to access food while schools are closed:

  • Individual Meals to Go: Any child between the ages of 2 and 18 – whether or not they are eligible for Free or Reduced Price Meals – can pick up a meal to go in a bag. Stop by the Chinquapin Drive side of T.C. Williams High School (door 14) between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. to pick up a meal-to-go. You do not need to fill out any forms to pick up a meal-to-go.
  • Family Meal Packs: You can order a family meal pack online and pick it up at the drive through pick-up point outside Chinquapin Recreation Center (Chinquapin Drive side of T.C. Williams High School, door 14) between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m the following day. If transportation is an issue, please remember to check the box to request meal delivery. Fill out the form to request a family meal pack: https://www.acps.k12.va.us/emergency-mealform

ALXnow was the first to report the closure on Friday morning, and the news comes a day after Hutchings appeared in a web conference with city and health officials, saying that the school system was not closing and was closely monitoring the pandemic.

Fairfax County closed schools Friday and cancelled all school trips and extracurricular activities. Loudoun County closed its schools from Thursday until March 20. Arlington Public Schools have cancelled or postponed non-essential events, schools in the District will be closed the remainder of the month starting March 16, and all public schools in Maryland are closing from March 16 through March 27.

Additionally, Bishop Ireton High School announced that it would be closed on Friday.

The city reported its first presumptive positive case of coronavirus on Wednesday night, and earlier this week Hutchings reported that some students and staff at five schools were self-isolating in their respective homes.

The full message to parents is below.

Dear ACPS Families,

During the past several days we have heard concerns from parents and staff about keeping our schools open while the coronavirus response escalates in our region and around the country. Please know the safety and well being of our young people is always the top priority in ACPS. The mental, physical and emotional health of our students is at the forefront of our decision-making during this coronavirus situation.  

At this time, we have no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in our schools, and the Alexandria Health Department has not determined community-spread of the coronavirus in the City of Alexandria. We have a number of staff and students who are self-quarantining and will be out for several weeks. Closures in our region are also impacting our ability to fully staff our schools. 

Although the Alexandria Health Department is not recommending schools to close at this time, multiple issues are impacting the ability for our schools to function effectively and efficiently. 

Therefore, all ACPS schools will be closed as of Monday, March 16, 2020. We are currently planning to close until after spring break (April 13, 2020) and will continue to monitor the situation throughout this period of time. 

Our food services team is making arrangements for students to be provided meals while schools remain closed. Additional details will be sent later today. 

During our closure, a daily update will be sent out via ACPS Express around 1 p.m to all families and community members who are signed up to receive these updates. Sign up for ACPS Express now. There will be a webinar at 3 p.m. every day to answer questions from families. We will send more information with specific details about this on Monday, March 16, 2020.

Please make sure your contact information is current in our system so that you can receive all correspondence from the school division during this time. Please contact your registrar today if you need to update your contact information in our system. For more details, see the FAQ on the ACPS website, information below or visit our coronavirus webpage at www.acps.k12.va.us/coronavirus.

We thank you for your support during this difficult time and appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve our students and staff throughout this closure. More details about operations during closure will be provided later today. Daily updates will begin on Monday, March 16, 2020. 

Sincerely,

Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools

PARENT FAQs 

What work will be happening in our school facilities while schools are closed?
Every building will be deep cleaned while schools are closed. Other contracted work will continue as planned.

How can I get internet access at home?
Sign up for Comcast Internet Essentials. Visit www.internetessentials.com.

  • Comcast is offering a FREE 60 day service and then $9.95/month
  • New customers receive a free self-install kit that includes a cable modem with a Wi-Fi router.  There will be no term contract or credit check and no shipping fee.
  • For assistance call 1-855-846-8376 for English and 1-855-765-6995 for Spanish.

How do I continue to get updates?
Make sure your contact information is up to date and you are able to receive information at this critical time. 

Any member of the community can sign up to receive updates via ACPS Express. Sign up for ACPS Express now. An update will be shared via ACPS Express daily at 1 p.m.
An outline of emergency communication methods can be found on the ACPS website.

How will my child learn while schools are closed?
Instructional packets are going home today for elementary school students. Those students who have access to Chromebooks will be taking them home today. Instructional packets will be posted on the ACPS website for easy access.

Will there be other instructional supports?
ACPS-TV will be running educational content from 9 a.m. through noon each day. More information will be sent out on Monday.

Will there be continued access to food?
ACPS School Nutrition Services is continuing to develop a plan for providing food for students in need. Further information about meal availability will be communicated in the near future. 

Families in need may also contact our local food pantry at https://www.alive-inc.org/ or 703-837-9300.

What should I do if someone in our family experiences coronavirus-like symptoms?
Individuals who need medical care should contact their primary care physician to report their illness or contact Neighborhood Health.

Will Rec and/or Campagna programs be open?
Please check their websites: https://www.alexandriava.gov/Recreation and https://www.campagnacenter.org.

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The intersection of N. Jordan and Duke Street, near the Foxchase shopping center, is closed due to a serious pedestrian crash.

“A pedestrian was struck,” said Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine. “It’s serious enough that they’ve called in the reconstruction team.”

Ballantine said the person struck was an adult male. On social media, police urged drivers to avoid the area.

Via social media, a witness reported that the man was bleeding from the head after being struck.

The incident comes just three days after another pedestrian was struck at Duke Street and Diagonal Road and a month after Alexandria artist Alfredo DaSilva was killed while crossing Duke Street at an intersection not far from today’s scene. Earlier this week a driver was charged with a deadly pedestrian crash on Duke Street in November.

A petition to reduce the speed limit on a portion of Duke Street east of Jordan Street from 35 to 25 mph has garnered just over 100 signatures.

Map via Google Maps

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(Updated at 7 p.m.) A T.C. Williams student was arrested at the school today (Thursday) and charged in the killing of two people on a rural Virginia Highway, NBC 4 first reported.

Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Maryland, were found shot to death along Route 58 in southern Virginia over the weekend.

The Alexandria Police Department confirmed to ALXnow that its officers were on scene at the high school for the arrest of a T.C. student. The case is being investigated by Virginia State Police, an APD spokesman said.

State police released the following press release about the arrest late Thursday afternoon.

An 18-year-old Alexandria male has been arrested and charged in Saturday’s double homicide in Halifax County. On Thursday (Feb. 13, 2020) morning, the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office took Mohamed A. Aly into custody without incident in Alexandria, Va. Aly has been charged with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Aly will be held at the Blue Ridge Regional Jail in Halifax, Va.

At 2:51 a.m. Saturday (Feb. 8), Virginia State Police responded to Route 58 in Halifax County near Melon Road. A silver 2009 Nissan Maxima was located in the median with Ntombo Joel Bianda, 21, of Alexandria, Va., and Ayanna Munne Maertens Griffin, 19, of Germantown, Md., found deceased and lying in the grass nearby. Both had suffered gunshot wounds.

“State police personnel have been working around the clock pursuing multiple leads related to this homicide investigation,” said Capt. David O. Cooper II, Commander of the Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Appomattox Field Office. “We cannot thank the public enough for providing the tips and information necessary to aid our special agents with effecting an arrest so quickly.”

Since Saturday, the FBI Richmond Field Office, ATF and several other local law enforcement agencies have been assisting state police with the homicide investigation. State police has also been assisted with various evidentiary searches in Halifax County by K9 teams from the Virginia Department of Corrections and Bedford County Sheriff’s Office.

As the investigation remains ongoing at this time, the Virginia State Police is still encouraging anyone with information about this incident or individuals involved to contact us at 434-352-7128 or #77 on a cell phone or to email [email protected]. Anonymous calls are welcome.

A student at T.C. Williams tells ALXnow that the suspect, Mohamed Aly, “was telling all his friends” about the slaying. That account could not be immediately confirmed by police.

Aly was a popular student and a player on the varsity football team, and a few of his T.C. classmates expressed support for him on Snapchat Thursday night.

Via Twitter, T.C.’s athletic director discouraged players from speaking to members of the media.

Just after 5 p.m., principal Peter Balas sent the following email to T.C. Williams families, acknowledging the arrest and saying that counselors will be available at the school “over the next few days.”

Dear T.C. Williams Parents and Guardians,

We are writing to inform you that a T.C. Williams High School student was arrested today for his alleged involvement in a crime that occurred outside of the City of Alexandria and our community. We are complying with authorities as they conduct their ongoing investigation, and we are referring all questions to Virginia State Police. It is ACPS policy to not comment on an active police investigation.

This situation was handled today according to protocol, and the safety and security of our students and staff were never at risk. Protecting members of our school community is always our top priority, and we take any matter relating to the safety of our schools very seriously. As a precautionary measure, additional security will be in place at the school tomorrow.

We should expect that there will be a variety of reactions to what has occurred, and the most important thing we can do is to be supportive and encourage an open expression of emotions. Counselors will be available for students and staff members at the school over the next few days. We encourage your child to reach out for support as needed. We will be monitoring students carefully over the next few weeks. If you feel that your child or family needs assistance, please contact the school administration at 703-824-6800, and we will do everything we can to help you.

Sincerely,

Peter Balas
Principal
T.C. Williams High School

A GoFundMe page has been set up to raise money for Bianda’s memorial fund. So far it has raised just over $7,000.

James Cullum contributed to this report

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(Updated at 9:10 p.m.) A serious crash blocked N. Van Dorn Street just west of Seminary Road Wednesday morning.

The two-vehicle crash happened at the intersection of Van Dorn and Kenmore Avenue around 7:20 a.m. One person was trapped in a vehicle after the wreck but was later freed and brought to a local hospital, according to the Alexandria fire union.

In all, three people suffered non-life-threatening injuries.

Traffic was detoured around the crash scene, leading to major delays on eastbound N. Van Dorn Street, starting around Landmark Mall.

DASH says its AT5 bus was affected by the detour. A second crash was also reported on Van Dorn, to the west of the crash with entrapment.

As of 9:30 a.m. first responders were working to reopen portions of the roadway.

More via social media:

https://twitter.com/DASHBus/status/1219982019419103233

Map via Google Maps

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(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) A two-alarm apartment fire at 250 S. Van Dorn Street drew a large emergency response Thursday morning.

The fire was reported on the top floor of a four-story apartment building in the Landmark area, across from the Van Dorn Plaza shopping center, around 10:30 a.m. Smoke could be seen coming from the roof area, according to initial reports.

Firefighters from Alexandria, Fairfax County and Arlington responded to the scene. The fire was extinguished shortly before 11 a.m.

Thus far no injuries have been reported, but residents of several apartments are expected to be displaced due to fire, water and smoke damage.

Amid the Van Dorn Street fire response, AFD alo responded to a small fire at a school in Old Town. The two simultaneous structure fire calls required some Arlington fire units to help fill in at Alexandria fire stations.

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Firefighters from Alexandria, Arlington and surrounding jurisdictions responded Friday night to a two-alarm fire in the Del Ray area.

The fire on the 400 block of E. Bellefonte Avenue was first reported just before 10 p.m. Arriving firefighters encountered heavy fire and sounded a second alarm.

The fire has since been extinguished, though a large emergency response remains on scene.

No injuries were reported. The Alexandria fire union said via Twitter that the fire is believed to have broken out in a dryer.

“Fire began in a dryer and extended through the walls into the cockloft area,” IAFF Local 2141 said via Twitter. “Crews worked quickly to keep the fire from spreading to multiple units.”

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(Updated at 3:10 p.m.) Firefighters from Alexandria and Arlington battled a house fire in the North Ridge neighborhood this afternoon.

Dark smoke was seen coming from a home on the 2900 block of Mayer Place around 1:45 p.m. Arriving firefighters reported finding an active fire on the first floor of the split level home, prompting additional units to be dispatched to the scene.

As of 2 p.m. the fire was reported to be under control and firefighters were working to ventilate smoke from the structure.

Initial reports suggest a dog was found deceased inside the home. The family later arrived at the house and could be seen grieving over the dog, which was placed in a stretcher by firefighters.

Editor’s note: Readers may find some photos within the gallery mildly disturbing.

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(Updated 1:30 p.m.) A chase by the Virginia State Police ended with a crash at the intersection of Fort Williams Parkway and Seminary Road

The car being chased wrecked shortly after noon and Virginia State Police took the suspect into custody “without incident,” according to Lt. Courtney Ballantine, a spokesman for the Alexandria Police Department.

The intersection was closed as of 1 p.m., but Ballantine said it should reopen shortly.

Police said Virginia State Police involvement meant the pursuit almost certainly started on one of the nearby interstates — the intersection is a mile away from I-395 — but the details on where and how the chase began were unclear.

Photo via Google Maps

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