Alexandria, VA

This was a big week for Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the Alexandria School Board’s decision to reopen schools for students with disabilities, while the future reopening of school for elementary, middle and high schoolers remains in doubt.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that the only feasible option for reopening schools — based on distancing and staffing constraints — would be for students to rotate to in-person schooling only one day per week. Hutchings also appeared on CNN and said that ACPS is not likely to fully reopen until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.

We also reported that the Alexandria City Council approved plans for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and the North Potomac Yard development plan, virtually paving the way for the college to open its doors to hundreds of students by 2024.

“This is a very significant set of decisions for the city, and is really going to shape, not just a portion of our city, but really the entirety of our city for a long period of time to come,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.

On the coronavirus front, there are now 75 deaths in Alexandria and there are now or have been more than 4,100 cases since the pandemic began in March. Latino residents continue to lead the case count.

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine were in the city on Monday to unveil a team of new zero emission DASH electric buses.

We also reported that the City Council unanimously approved naming the 1000 block of Montgomery Street in Old Town “Earl F. Lloyd Way” in honor of the first Black man to ever play in the National Basketball Association.

Restaurant-wise, we spoke with one of the owners of a pizza and burger joint that is taking over the former location of Pizzeria Paradiso on lower King Street. The Chewish Deli is also now open in Old Town, and the owner of Del Ray Boccato says that his gelato shop will soon open.

Additionally, more than 175 people participated in our weekly poll. With the November 3 election around the corner, this week we asked about voting plans, and 65% of respondents voted by mail/absentee, 31% plan to vote on election day, and 4% are not voting.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. School Board Shelves Plan to Reopen Schools in 2021, Students with Disabilities Transitioning Back Next Month
  2. City Releasing Torpedo Factory Draft Action Plan Today
  3. City Council Approves Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and North Potomac Yard Development Plan
  4. Alexandria Student Called N-Word in Online Forum, and Not By Another Student
  5. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  6. The Chewish Deli Opens New Location in Old Town
  7. One Arrested After Attempted Armed Robbery in Alexandria’s West End
  8. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  9. Female Suspect Flees, Nothing Taken in Attempted Old Town Bank Robbery
  10. Alexandria and Arlington Want a New Future for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center
  11. Alexandria Courthouse Deep Cleaned After Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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The Alexandria Courthouse was deep cleaned last weekend after an employee of the General District Court tested positive to COVID-19, according to the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office.

“On Friday October 16, 2020 the Alexandria General District Court was notified that an employee tested positive for COVID-19,” Undersheriff Tim Gleeson of the Judicial and Special Operations Bureau told ALXnow in an email.

Gleeson said that the court “immediately” asked for help from the Virginia Supreme Court and the Alexandria Health Department. He also said that this is the first time anyone in the courthouse has tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began in March.

“Following the Health Department’s guidance, the remaining Court dockets of the day were continued to later dates in order to get the Court deep cleaned,” Gleeson said. “The deep cleaning of the General District Court, including all courtrooms, public spaces, and workspaces was completed on Friday afternoon.”

Court operations continued on Monday, October 19.

As previously reported, thousands of cases have been continued in Alexandria due to the pandemic.

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It’s the end of a busy week in Alexandria.

Once again, crime and public safety stories were the most read on ALXnow.

On Friday, we found that the 19-year-old man arrested for the September 30 West End murder of John Harding Pope was released on bail just eight days before the murder. Pope’s death is the second murder of the year. In the first murder, Ibrahim Bouaichi was out on bail when he allegedly killed his former girlfriend.

On Thursday, the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office confirmed that two suspected ISIS terrorists are now in the city jail. Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh also made their initial appearances at the Eastern District of Virginia federal courthouse in Alexandria.

On the pandemic front, there are now 73 COVID-19 deaths in the city, and the Virginia Department of Health projects there will be 20,000 more cases statewide by Thanksgiving. The city also announced that residents impacted by the pandemic might also be eligible to receive $100-$400 in grocery gift cards.

On the school front, T.C. Williams High School’s student newspaper Theogony broke the story that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Jr. now sends one of his children to a private high school in the city.

Meanwhile, Alexandria was named the fifth best small city in U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler and made Forbes’ Weekend Getaway list.

Nearly 200 readers also participated in our weekly poll on passing out Halloween candy, and 60% said they would not hand out candy, 29% said they are doing modified trick-or-treating and 11% said they will hand out candy like usual.

If you need a good laugh, this Sunday at 8 p.m. there will be more COVID-friendly stand-up comedy in Old Town.

Here are ALXnow’s top stories this week in Alexandria:

  1. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  2. BREAKING: Former Alexandria Nurse Jesse Bjerke Sentenced 65 Years For Raping Lifeguards at Gunpoint
  3. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  4. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  5. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  6. Man Dies After Crash on N. Washington Street in Old Town
  7. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  8. Delaware Woman Charged for Three Hit-And-Runs in Old Town and Driving Under the Influence
  9. Man Shot on Quantrell Avenue in City’s Second Murder of 2020
  10. Students, Parents Ask School Board to Not Renew Agreement Allowing Police at Alexandria City Public Schools
  11. Homeowner Shot in Targeted Del Ray Home Invasion

Have a safe weekend!

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The 19-year-old man arrested for the September 30 West End murder of John Harding Pope was released on bond just eight days before Pope was killed.

Tavon Marquis Lanier was arrested  Sept. 22 for allegedly breaking into his girlfriend’s apartment, stalking and threatening her and was released on bond by the magistrate’s office.

“By law, he was entitled to a magistrate’s decision on bail, which occurred in the magistrate’s office while in police custody,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter told ALXnow. “My office by law has no role to play and was not present during that hearing, nor was the defense attorney. The magistrate, based upon what was being told to him by the police officer who made the arrest, determined to release the individual on bail.”

Lanier was convicted last year of identify theft, a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 60 days in jail with 55 days suspended. He was set to appear in court on December 4 to provide an update on his progress.

The 47-year-old Pope was shot to death at his home in the 5900 block of Quantrell Avenue in the Mayflower Square apartment complex. He later died at the hospital. Neighbors described the suspect as a light-skinned young man with tattoos on his face.

Pope’s murder is the second homicide this year in Alexandria. Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Ryan Clinch at 703-746-6673.

The first homicide occurred a mile-and-a-half away on July 29. In that case, the suspect, Ibrahim Bouaichi, was released on bail and allegedly killed his former girlfriend while awaiting trial. He later killed himself while on the run from police.

Photo via Facebook

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A 39-year-old Arlington man has been sentenced to 65 years in prison for raping two lifeguards at gunpoint in Alexandria and Fairfax County.

Jesse Bjerke, a former nurse at Inova Alexandria Hospital, pleaded guilty last year to raping a lifeguard at a condominium complex swimming pool in the 200 block of Pickett Street on Labor Day weekend in 2016, as well as raping another woman in Fairfax County on August 1, 2014.

“The judgement shows an understanding for the violence and the pre-planning that went into these atrocious crimes,” said Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter. “I think it will serve our community since he can’t be a predator on any other woman.”

Alexandria Police were able to locate Bjerke using genetic geneology.

“A DNA profile was developed from the sperm located within the victim, but a search revealed no match in law enforcement databases,” according to the city. “After traditional attempts to identify a suspect were unsuccessful and all leads had been exhausted, the Alexandria Police Department contracted with Parabon® Nanolabs to have the suspect’s DNA analyzed using genetic genealogy. Parabon® investigators used a public access site called GEDmatch to search for relatives of the suspect. Using the list of relatives and the strength of the relationship, Parabon® was able to suggest one suspect for further investigation: Jesse Bjerke, the defendant.”

As part of a plea agreement to avoid the death penalty, Bjerke admitted to raping a lifeguard in Fairfax in 2014, and both cases were tried simultaneously.

“When he is 65, he can apply for geriatric release,” Porter said. “But with my experience with violent crime that’s unlikely.”

Porter congratulated the police on finding the suspect.

“The police department really should be praised and did an outstanding job in corroborating that we have the right man,” he said. “And, of course, that led to a very solid case from an evidence standpoint, which in turn led to him taking responsibility for his crime.”

A description from the city of the 2016 incident is below the jump.

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Morning Notes

Gov. Ralph Northam and First Lady Test Positive For COVID-19 — “Gov. Ralph Northam and his wife, Pamela, have both tested positive for COVID-19, according to a Sept. 25 news release from the governor’s office.” [Alex Times]

Beyer Says Trump is Taking Dramatic Steps Toward Abolishing Obamacare — “No Supreme Court nominee has ever been confirmed so close to the election. Why are Senate Republicans in such a hurry to break their 2016 promises? They want the Court to side with Trump, strike down the Affordable Care Act, and wreck your healthcare. The case hits in November.” [Twitter]

Mayor Says Drive-Thru Flu Vaccine Was Successful —  “Thanks to our Health Dept, @AlexandriaVAPD @AlexandriaVAFD @AlexVASheriff & our Medical Reserve Corps volunteers for administering 840 flu vaccines today in an extremely well-organized operation. [Twitter]

Local Entrepreneurs Bring Back King Street Flower Displays — “The petunias, lantana, dragon wing begonias and blue scaevola adorning King Streets lamps are all thanks to the efforts of T.C. Williams grads and local entrepreneurs Teddy Kim and Andy Reid, with backing from Alexandria Lighting and Avanti Holdings.” [Alexandria Living]

City Installs Panels Recognizing Landmark Supreme Court Case — “The law office of Bernard Cohen and Philip Hirschkop was here at 110 N. Royal Street on June 12, 1967, the day they were notified that their Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia had been decided unanimously in their favor. The plaintiffs, Mildred and Richard Loving, had sued the Commonwealth of Virginia for its ban on interracial marriage. The day after the decision was announced, the Lovings held a press conference in the office of their attorneys in Suite 300. The ruling by the Supreme Court not only voided Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law but legalized interracial marriage throughout the country.” [Zebra]

Today’s Weather — “Partly cloudy (during the day). A few clouds from time to time (at night). Slight chance of a rain shower. Low 69F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.High 82F. Winds S at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Assistant City Manager for Public Private Partnerships — “The City wishes to rely less on its AAA/Aaa rated general obligation bond issuing capacity and to expand its efforts in the P3 area in a cost effective and responsible manner and requires a professional with substantial experience in P3 program design and delivery, particularly as it implements its $2.1 billion 10-year capital improvement program. Over the last decade these functions have been largely carried out by the City Manager in his current capacity, and in his prior position as a Deputy City Manager.” [Indeed]

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There will be a candlelight vigil for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Old Town on Thursday night.

Ginsburg passed away at the age of 87 on September 18. She and served on the court for 27 years.

“We will meet in Market Square to pay tribute to the life and work of RBG,” the organizers wrote in the event announcement. “Battery operated candles will be distributed, and speakers will lead us in a moment of silence to reflect on RBG’s life, work, and service.”

The vigil will start at Market Square (301 King Street) at 7 p.m., and at 7:30 p.m. the group will walk down King Street to the Wrought, Knit, Labors, Legacies art installation at Waterfront Park.

The vigil will end at 8:15 p.m.

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Morning Notes

Virginia Tech Announces Advisory Board for Innovation Campus — “The board consists of company leaders along with several tech pioneers. Members include Sanju Bansal, founder and CEO of Hunch Analytics; Dave Calhoun, president and CEO of Boeing; Ted Colbert, executive vice president of Boeing; Joe DeSimone, professor at Stanford University and executive chairman and co-founder of Carbon; Lynne Doughtie, former chairman and CEO of KPMG; Regina Dugan, CEO of Wellcome Leap; Steve Mollenkopf, CEO of Qualcomm; Russ Ramsey, board chair of Greater Washington Partnership; Kathy Warden, CEO, of Northrop Grumman Corporation; Glenn Youngkin, co-chief executive officer of The Carlyle Group.” [Patch]

Beyer: Trump and Republicans Should Feel Same Urgency With COVID-19 as Ginsburg Replacement — “Imagine if Donald Trump and Senate Republicans felt this urgency about responding to a pandemic that has now killed over 200,000 Americans. 4 months ago the House passed a bill to help American families and boost the economy. Mitch McConnell said he didn’t feel any ‘urgency.'” [Twitter]

Volunteers Honored in Virtual Ceremony — “On Saturday, August 29, New Hope Housing (NHH) – an Alexandria nonprofit that helps homeless families and individuals – recognized a group of volunteers at its Annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast.” [Zebra]

Little Theatre of Alexandria Auditioning for ‘A Christmas Carol’ — “LTA’s A Christmas Carol for 2020 will be the most unique ever. It will feature live, virtual, and animated elements. We are looking for a family who can portray Mr. Cratchit, Mrs. Cratchit, and Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim will also portray Turkey Boy and Boy Scrooge. These three characters will participate in Zoom rehearsals in October and three rehearsals at LTA in early November, with a taping date of Saturday, November 15.” [Facebook]

Tall Ship Providence Gets Repaired — “Our Providence team has had a very busy weekend! While in the boat yard, they have sanded the hull to prepare it for a new coat of paint and performed other routine maintenance in preparation for the scheduled Coast Guard inspection.” [Facebook]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny skies (during the day). High 72F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph. Clear skies (at night). Low 54F. Winds WNW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Global Trade Group Command Media Manager — “Manage of Global Trade Group (GTG) Command Media throughout the lifecycle of drafting to final posting in the corporate electronic library. Reviews draft policies and procedures submitted by corporate trade segments/functions and non-trade functions to ensure alignment with corporate GTG trade-related command media. Recommends changes to ensure alignment with GTG trade policies and procedures. Maintains GTG
records relating to trade policies and procedures, tracks status of all command media submitted to GTG by the Policy Review Board (PRB) and ensures suspense deadlines are met.” [Indeed]

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It was a busy week in Alexandria.

Alexandria Police apprehended the suspect in the city’s only murder this year, and he is currently in the hospital suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Additionally, violent crime events are happening throughout the city, and in the Parker Gray neighborhood of Old Town and in the West End in particular. This week saw the fourth shooting in Old Town in less than a month.

The number of coronavirus cases continues to climb, as well, and the president of Inova Alexandria Hospital discussed some of her concerns in the days ahead.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. BREAKING: Alexandria Police Ask for Public Help in Finding Man Wanted for Murder
  2. Alexandria’s COVID-19 Death Count at 60, Hospital Concerned About Rising Cases
  3. BREAKING: Police Investigating Homicide in West End Residential Community
  4. BREAKING: Murder Suspect Was Released After COVID-19 Court Delay, Allegedly Kills Former Girlfriend Before Trial
  5. Alexandria Police Chief Criticized by Staff Over Officer Fired for Unjustified Use of Force
  6. Activists Protest at Alexandria Home of Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf
  7. Police Investigate Fourth Shots Fired Call in Old Town in Less Than a Month
  8. ACPS to Cut Down 150-Year-Old Tree This Month to Make Way for Concession Stand
  9. Man Injured in Violent Carjacking in Old Town
  10. BREAKING: ACPS Announces Online-Only School in the Fall
  11. West End Silver Diner Opens Next Week but Harris Teeter Won’t Open Until Next Year

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via Alexandria Police Department

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Ibrahim Bouaichi, the Maryland man suspected of murdering Karla Elizabeth Dominguez Gonzalez in the West End last week, was released from jail on bond earlier this year while awaiting trial on charges that he attacked and raped her last fall, according to court records.

Gonzalez was shot and killed on July 29 at around 6 a.m. outside her home on S. Greenmount Drive in the West End. Soon after her death, Alexandria Police identified Bouaichi as a suspect and said that he was armed and dangerous.

It is the first homicide in Alexandria this year.

On August 5, the 33-year-old Bouaichi fled from police after being tracked down in Prince George’s County, Maryland. He crashed the car he was driving after a brief chase with Alexandria police officers attached to the FBI’s regional Violent Crimes Task Force, and was found to have shot himself, police said.

He is currently in the hospital with life-threatening injuries.

“Officers approaching the vehicle found Bouaichi with a self-inflicted gunshot wound,” Alexandria police said in a news release. “He was transported to a hospital, where he is currently receiving medical treatment.”

Bouaichi paid a $2,500 premium on a $25,000 bond on April 9 ($5,000 per charge for five charges) in exchange for agreeing to stand in court from May 4-6 for burglary, abduction, sodomy by force threat, strangulation and rape. According to court records, he said that he had a four-month-long relationship with Gonzalez.

Recently retired Alexandria Chief Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins approved Bouaichi’s bond after he served nearly six months in the Alexandria jail for the violent incident that allegedly occurred on October 9, 2019.

Bouaichi attended his bond hearing virtually from jail, according to court records.

“The two individuals involved were boyfriend/girlfriend and there is a substantial defense here,” Bouaichi’s attorneys wrote in the bond motion. “Mr. Bouaichi can be released under any appropriate conditions to live with his mother and father at their home in Maryland. He has a solid record of employment, graduated high school, attended college and is not a flight risk. He has retained counsel and is absolutely devoted to working with his attorneys to establish his innocence.” Read More

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Sami Bourma doesn’t know what he’s going to do. At 2 p.m. today, the unemployed father of two children and resident at Southern Towers had an eviction hearing at the Alexandria Courthouse.

Two hours prior to that, Bourma and a number of his friends and neighbors stood outside the courthouse in Old Town and, for the second time this month, protested in asking Governor Ralph Northam to cancel evictions.

“I had three jobs before the pandemic, organizing for my local Union 23, as a cook and as an Uber driver,” Bourma told ALXnow. “How can I pay the rent if I don’t have an income? I don’t know what I’m going to do. That’s why I’m protesting today.”

Last week, the city also approved additional funds to help poor residents pay their rent while unemployment in the city remains high.

On Tuesday (July 14), Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring stated that lower courts can grant continuances on evictions, and that there are a number of state and federal protections in place so that people can stay in their home during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has taken a very real toll on Virginia’s economy and tens of thousands of Virginians, many of whom are hourly workers, have found themselves without a source of income during these difficult times,” Herring said. “We are still in the middle of a state of emergency and a public health crisis and it’s so important for Virginians to be able to stay in their homes to keep themselves, their families, and their communities safe.”

Northam’s request to extend the moratorium to later this month was denied by the Supreme Court of Virginia.

Jonathan Krall with Grassroots Alexandria was at the protest, and said that the continuances should be granted.

“You shouldn’t be putting people out on the street,” Krall said. “That doesn’t help the economy and doesn’t help the tenants or the landlords. People are starting to get evicted, and this is a major problem.”

Evelin Urrutia, the executive director of Tenants & Workers United, said that the Latino population in the city is hurting.

“We’ve been suffering with a housing problem, and the pandemic just made it worse and we are seeing it happen,” Urrutia said. “We have many families who are behind two or three months on the rent, and they won’t be able to catch up.”

For Bourma, the issue has become one of survival. After speaking with ALXnow, he walked back over to the two dozen protestors and took the megaphone to lead a chant.

“No money, no rent!” he shouted into the megaphone.

Staff photos by James Cullum

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The July 4 holiday weekend is here, and it’s hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Not only has the year flown by, but so has the last week.

Alexandria joined the rest of Virginia in entering into the third phase of its reopening, the oldest resident in the city turned 109, a police officer was charged with assault and battery for a January arrest

Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:

  1. Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
  2. Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
  3. New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
  4. Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
  5. Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
  6. Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
  7. New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
  10. Reminder: Next Phase of Reopening Starts Tomorrow but Indoor Mask Requirement Still In Effect

Be safe this weekend, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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