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:
- Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
- Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
- New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
- Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
- Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
- Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
- New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
- Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
- City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
- 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
Alexandria Police Officer Jonathan Griffin has been charged with assault and battery for an unjustified use of force against a handcuffed resident in January, according to the city.
Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said that 32-year-old, who was dismissed from the department after the incident, was charged with one count of assault and battery. The charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor and the maximum penalty is a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.
The incident occurred on January 27, and Griffin arrested the victim for a health evaluation, according to a city release. Griffin joined the department in 2012 and was assigned to the Community Oriented Policing Unit.
“While escorting the individual in handcuffs, Officer Griffin used force to take the individual to the ground. The individual sustained multiple injuries on the front of his body as a result of the action,” the city said. “A subsequent investigation found that no force was necessary or justified.”
Griffin was placed on administrative leave on June 3 and was notified on June 26 that he was going to be fired and his case had been sent to Porter’s office, according to the city. His termination is expected to be finalized this month. Additionally, three supervisors who “failed to investigate the use of force promptly enough have also been disciplined,” the city noted.
Griffin was booked at the Alexandria Jail and was released pending his arraignment at the Alexandria Courthouse on August 4.
This is no surprise to us that these occurrences are happening in our city. We continue to demand to Alexandria City…
Photo via Alexandria Sheriff’s Office
Rally for Rent Relief Today at Courthouse — “Join us to demand that Governor Northam stop evictions and redirect $1 billion for rent relief. Wednesday, July 1 at 11 am outside the Alexandria Courthouse.” [Facebook]
Longtime Alexandria Firefighter Retires — “AFD would like to congratulate Captain Sam Parker on his retirement after over 33 years of dedicated service to the citizens of Alexandria. We wish him all the best as he begins his next chapter!” [Twitter]
Le Refuge Restaurant Reopening — “🍴🍷BONJOUR🍷🍴!!!! We are very excited to announce that we are reopening MONDAY JULY 6TH!!! Thank you so much for your patience and understanding,We cannot wait to see everyone!!!” [Facebook]
Pedego Electric Bikes Closed Next Week — “Pedego Alexandria will be closed from July 5th through July 12th for a much needed and highly anticipated family vacation! Feel free to call and leave a message or send us an email and we will get back to you when we can.” [Facebook]
Kidcreate Studio Crafts New Approach — “Kidcreate Studio hosted its grand opening March 14 — the day after Alexandria and Fairfax County closed schools to slow the spread of coronavirus.” [Alexandria Living]
New Job: Experienced Sushi Chef — “Kaizen Tavern is looking for a Sushi Chef to join the team. We offer a great salary, benefits and the opportunity to grow a business together. The position is meant for a skilled, passionate chef. Work with a dedicated team of culinary and hospitality professionals, who are committed to providing the absolute best experience for their guests.” [Indeed]
Alexandria Among Top Cities Where Women Find Success — “Here in Alexandria, more than two-thirds of women have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. The median income of women is more than $75,800. In addition, almost one-third (31.3 percent) of local businesses are owned by women.” [Alexandria Living]
Mayor Supports Governor Extending Rent Moratorium — “The extraordinary financial pressure facing residents of Alexandria who are experiencing unemployment or loss of income continues. Today, I supported the Governor of Virginia’s efforts to extend the moratorium on evictions to allow state/local rent relief programs to assist.” [Facebook]
Circuit Court Judge Nolan Dawkins Retires — “People in Alexandria turned out Friday to celebrate the retirement of the circuit court’s first Black judge. News4’s Northern Virginia bureau chief Julie Carey reports.” [News4]
Volunteer Alexandria Makes 7,000 Face Masks — “This week, Griffin, Jenelle, and Caroline helped bag masks. Griffin and Jenell even helped two days in a row! So far, volunteers have completed 17 orders totaling 7,000 masks that will be going to local nonprofits.” [Facebook]
Together We Bake is Taking Orders — “Orders are now available for contactless pick-up! You can pick up your orders Tuesday’s and Thursday’s between 10:30 and 3. Please allow 24 hours for your order to be processed.” [Facebook]
City Needs Employers for Job Fair — “WDC is seeking employers to participate in the Virginia Careerworks Alexandria/Arlington Virtual Job Fair on Wednesday, July 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Participation is free. Employers must register by July 6.” [Facebook]
New Job: Pet Care Specialist at Barkley Square — “We are looking for dedicated animal lovers to join our growing company! We offer a competitive benefits package including health insurance, supplemental insurance, IRA, and smartphone for full-time VIP client routes. Applicants MUST have a car, internet access, and basic computer skills to be considered for employment. We conduct a thorough background check before hiring.” [Indeed]
Beyer Lauds Supreme Court LGBT Decision — “This is such a big step forward. Employers shouldn’t be able to fire people because of who they are or who they love. After a long and difficult struggle by activists and civil rights organization, an historic decision and a great moment for the country.” [Twitter]
Former Mayor Silberberg Marched in D.C. on Saturday — “All around me, there were poignant reminders of all that had transpired in this location in recent days and weeks — handmade signs attached to the remaining fence and bouquets of flowers. And then that evening, there was breaking news about another tragedy, this time in Atlanta. Heartbreaking.” [Facebook]
Twig Junior Auxiliary Donates $100K to Inova Alexandria Hospital — “The Twig Junior Auxiliary of Inova Alexandria Hospital presented a check for $100,000 to Dr. Rina Bansal for the Inova COVID-19 Emergency Preparedness Fund during a May 22 ceremony held outside the hospital’s entrance.” [Gazette]
Feed The Fight ALX Gives Out 5K Meals to Health Care Workers — “Thank you for your continued support, and please continue to follow us in the coming months on Instagram @FeedtheFightALX. We are so grateful to all of our hospital teams and restaurant partners.” [Facebook]
City Recycles 700 Tons of Glass in First Year of Recycling Program — “The City just hit the 1-year mark for the glass recycling program. In that time, 700 tons of glass (1,410,560 lbs) has been recycled through the purple can glass drop-off program. You crushed it Alexandria!” [Facebook]
‘Mind The Mat’ Owner Gets Creative During Pandemic — “I was trying to be this super-serious fitness instructor on camera, and it was not working.” [Washington Post]
Recreation Centers Opening With Modified Schedule June 20 — “These changes are in place to follow the second phase of reopening. Senior-only hours will be introduced to help protect vulnerable persons on the community while providing an opportunity for exercise.” [Zebra]
Scholarship Fund Honoring Awardees With Individualized Social Media Posts — “We’ll be profiling a student each day this week…as they share their joy and gratitude with the Alexandria Community!” [Facebook]
Center for Alexandria’s Children Receives Face Mask Donation — “We received another donation of 100 adult masks and 100 children’s masks for our Learn & PlayGroup families! We are so grateful to Brooksie & Cas and Jenna Adams for investing so much time and energy into making so many great masks.” [Facebook]
Deal: Rent a Pedego Electric Bike, Get Second Rental Half Off — “Pedego Electric Bikes has the perfect solution for cabin fever. Rent one bike and get the second rental 50% off. Enjoy the outdoors, flowers and sunshine with the safest bikes and equipment from Pedego. This offer will be available until further notice.” [Visit Alexandria]
New Job: HR/Office Manager — “Small but busy security company in need of an experienced HR professional who can really multitask. Candidate should be comfortable screening, interviewing and on-boarding applicants.” [Indeed]
Governor Announces Moratorium on Rent Evictions — “The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Virginia has granted my request for a temporary moratorium on all eviction proceedings in the Commonwealth through June 28–this action will help keep thousands of Virginia families in their homes amid the ongoing public health crisis.” [Facebook]
Alexandria’s Noah Lyles Reaching National Stardom — “Lyles, who turned 22 last week, might be on the cusp of his own full bloom, from track and field’s next big thing to the face of the sport in America.” [Washington Post]
Frank Fannon Named Living Legend of Alexandria — “From his volunteer position at Agenda: Alexandria, long-time resident and chairman Frank Fannon stays on top of issues that matter to the residents of the city without directly taking sides.” [Zebra]
Office of Historic Alexandria Offering Survey Over Digital Program — “Please take a few minutes to fill out this survey about what you would like to see from OHA digitally in the coming months.” [Facebook]
Port City Brewing Co. Hosting BeerYoga — “BeerYoga classes return virtually with Melody Abella starting weekly this June! It’s a donation-based class and 100% of the money raised from the June classes will go to AGLA – Serving Northern Virginia LGBTQ and Allies in honor of PRIDE month.” [Facebook]
Video: Bishop Ireton High School Creating Diversity & Inclusion Council — “Good morning from the Bishop Ireton Head of School, Kathleen McNutt, on Monday, June 8, 2020 featuring a special message about racial justice and Bishop Ireton’s plans to create a Diversity & Inclusion Council.” [Facebook]
Alexandria Library to Offer Curbside Service — “Residents may be able to start picking up previous holds curbside starting, likely, on June 15.” [Alexandria Living]
Hilton Alexandria Mark Center Hosting Weddings for $1,000 — ” Wedding must take place by December 31, 2020. Offer does not include taxes or service charge. Offers cannot be combined or transferred. Call your romance specialist and director of romance and catering Fatima Ayari at 703.845.7667 for details.” [Facebook]
New Job: Assistant General Manager at Old Navy — “You’re responsible for driving profitable sales growth through all aspects of the store including; customer and product operations, merchandising, and talent development. You are responsible for supporting the execution of the store strategy to achieve performance goals.” [Indeed]
Inova Hospital System Needs Blood Donations — “Starting this week, over 1,400 blood donors will be needed each week to make lifesaving donations. One blood donation can save up to three lives! Schedule your lifesaving donation with Inova Blood Donor Services online at www.inovabloodsaves.org or call 1-866-BLOODSAVES.” [Facebook]
Video: Alexandria Firefighters Thank Health Care Workers — “Station 203 members made a quick stop at Envoy of Alexandria today to thank healthcare workers.” [Facebook]
VDOT Asks Drivers to Slow Down on Interstate — “While many #stayhome and #socialdistance, there are fewer cars on our roads. That doesn’t mean safety goes out the window, though. PLEASE comply with posted speed limits. Let’s help keep each other safe #NoNeedForSpeed #SlowDown” [Twitter]
Rep. Beyer Defends Dr. Fauci Amid COVID-19 Criticism — “People in positions of power and influence trying to capitalize commercially and politically on treating Dr. Fauci like some kind of national villain as he literally works to save their lives is not a proud moment for this country.” [Twitter]
City Continues Series on Teleworking ‘Innovation’ By Citing 911 Operators — “After a successful one-month pilot, Alexandria became the first city in the United States to enable some staff to answer 911 calls from home. Rather than relying on employees’ home phone or internet connections, this remote setup uses wireless hotspots connected to a dedicated national public safety network called FirstNet. Regardless of the location, staff comply with the same strict confidentiality and quality assurance standards, and have access to the same computer-aided dispatch system that helps route public safety resources.” [City of Alexandria]
New Sheriff’s Deputy Sworn In at Alexandria Courthouse — “Congratulations and welcome to Deputy Fidelis Asonglefac who was sworn in yesterday! Deputy Asonglefac received his badge and Clerk of Circuit Court Greg Parks administered the oath of office at the courthouse.” [Facebook]
New Italian Restaurant Planned for Del Ray This Summer — “Piece Out LLC, which operates Café Pizzaiolo, St. Elmo’s and Markt2Market, is working on opening a from-scratch Italian restaurant at 2419 Mount Vernon Ave. The restaurant will initially focus on carry-out dining with plans to grow into a sit-down restaurant as the region starts to recover from the coronavirus crisis, according to owner Larry Ponzi. The restaurant will include pizza, house-made pasta and more. The company is very early in the planning process, Ponzi said, but he hopes to open the new Italian restaurant by mid-summer.” [Alexandria Living]
Alexandria Animal Hospital Now Open For All Appointments — “Whoop! We are excited to announce that we are now able to accept all appointment types. We will continue our curbside service and safety protocols to ensure the safety of our staff and clients. We’ll greet you outside and keep you informed during your pet’s visit. With safety in mind, we will continue to limit hospital traffic to associates only.” [Facebook]
Mount Vernon Community School Teacher Launches Youtube Channel — “Did you know that Mount Vernon Community School has many amazing dual language teachers? One of their music teachers, Mrs. Quesada-Sayler. has started a YouTube channel to provide more music lessons in Spanish and English. Check these out. They are awesome!” [Facebook]
Lee Fendall House Celebrates Museum Week — “Much has been said about the historic times we are living through now. Are you doing something to document them in your own way? Perhaps you are keeping a journal, taking pictures, or saving certain mementoes of life in quarantine?” [Facebook]
Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Center To Reopen Saturdays — “The City of Alexandria will reopen the Household Hazardous Waste & Electronics Center for one day a week starting on Saturday, May 16. The limited opening is intended for residents who cannot store materials at home indefinitely for reasons such as moving. Others are encouraged to store materials until normal operations resume.” [Patch]
New Job: Administrative Specialist for Salvation Army National HQ — “Bachelors degree and at least two years’ of experience required. Knowledge of general office practices and procedures, effective and efficient record-keeping and bookkeeping practices, knowledge of proofreading symbols and basic mathematics. Ability to transcribe dictation and type information into a computer. Ability to scan documents and work with same. Ability to operate various office equipment including a telephone, Dictaphone, computer, scanner and adding machine.” [Indeed]
The Alexandria Courthouse is nearly empty as Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter leads a skeleton crew through the COVID-19 pandemic.
All jury trials have stopped, multitudes of cases have been continued between 30 and 60 days, and the clerk’s office is doing business by appointment only. In fact, staff at the courthouse said the earliest appointment to view public documents in the clerk’s office is April 26.
Porter’s staff 35 employees and interns has been whittled down to four essential staffers, while the remainder work from home.
“Please have patience if people need something from my office, if they’re expecting a response to an email or a phone inquiry,” Porter said.
“We are dealing with an extremely small number of people who are currently coming to work,” he added, “we will respond because we have a duty to the public, to the people who work in the courthouse, to the people charged with crimes who are part of the community, and we’ve got to make sure that people are not languishing in jail without access to the courts and bond hearings and that sort of thing. We’re here doing our job.”
The office is now only having arraignments for people arrested by the police department, although Porter said that arrests are down significantly.
“It really only seems to be cases in which there’s violence, like domestic violence or otherwise,” he said. “We’ve worked really hard with both the sheriff and the public defender’s office in the courts to really err on the side of release, and to really do our best to let anyone out from pretrial incarceration — if that can be consistent with the public safety, so we’re really working on getting that jail population down, which is better for the people charged with a crime and better for the people working in the jail.”
Porter said that there will be backlog of thousands of traffic and other cases once the court reopens.
“For the first four to eight weeks s after we’re back to some sense of normalcy the dockets are going to be large and we’re going to have a lot of time to get down there and try to get through those cases,” he said.
Porter said that dealing with an uncertain future is a challenging aspect of the pandemic.
“We’re just not sure when we’re going to crest the wave, but I have every belief that we will be able to find a way through and we’ll make it work,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult for the defense bar, it’ll be difficult for the judges and for law enforcement and the sheriff’s and everybody else, but we’re here and you know we’re committed to the mission and I think we’ll get through it.”
Staff photo by James Cullum
As Alexandria grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commonwealth Attorney’s office is figuring out how to keep running the city’s Treatment Court.
The Treatment Court is an alternative to jail for individuals with substance abuse issues, and most participants have been to jail multiple times. There are currently eight participants in the court, which launched in August and usually meets every Thursday in the Alexandria Courthouse. But the building at 520 King Street is largely shut down now due to COVID-19.
“The program was just running fantastically until this hiccup,” Assistant Commonwealth Attorney David Lord, the Treatment Court coordinator, told ALXnow. “Ultimately we don’t know what it will mean for our participants, but we’ve provided the structure that if they are motivated will get them through it. They are all individually very motivated in their recovery.”
At the courthouse, all jury trials have stopped, multitudes of cases have been continued between 30 and 60 days, and the clerk’s office is doing business by appointment only.
“My understanding is that the number of people allowed in the courtroom is significantly reduced,” Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter said. “Inside courtrooms, provisions are being made to keep appropriate social distances. Hearings are going to be as brief as possible.”
Porter added, “The courts have significantly reduced active cases. They basically have continued multitudes of cases 30 to 60 days. There’s definitely going to be some type of layering of cases that is caused by this situation, but it’s an unprecedented crisis, and there’s no other way around it.”
Treatment Court participants, who have agreed to an increased level of supervision by a probation officer and weekly court appearances, are now being visited by police making home visits — from a distance. The five-phase program also requires group and individual therapy sessions and frequent drug testing, all of which is not possible at this time.
“Our focus has been what do we need to put in place to make sure our participants’ recovery doesn’t fall apart,” Lord said. “Participants are meeting with therapist remotely, through an app, to receive individualized therapy and substance abuse counseling twice a week… Even though many participants are not economically well off, everybody has a smartphone.”
The participants are also being provided with information on online therapy groups since all in-person Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings have been canceled.
“There’s a huge problem when you have someone in recovery when accountability and structure are not in place,” Lord said. “We don’t want them to have to start at square one after everything they’ve accomplished. That would be devastating to their lives.”
A grand jury has indicted Kenneth Whitcomb, a 62-year-old Alexandria resident, on a charge of reckless driving following a deadly pedestrian collision last November.
John Charles Thompson, a 75-year old Fairfax resident and retired Army general, was struck on Nov. 16 on Duke Street near the Alexandria Commons shopping center around 7:30 a.m. Police said that Thompson was in a crosswalk at the time of the crash.
“Mr. Thompson was walking across Duke Street when he was struck by a vehicle operated by Mr. Whitcomb,” Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter said in a press release. “Mr. Thompson was hospitalized after the crash and succumbed to his injuries.”
Porter said reckless driving, a class 1 misdemeanor and the most serious charge that could be lodged in the case, is punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a $2500 fine, as well as a license suspension of not more than 6 months. Whitcomb is also charged with failure to yield to a pedestrian, punishable by a fine of not more than $500.
“The driver remained at the scene and cooperated with the investigation, his driver’s license was valid, and he was not under the influence of intoxicants,” Porter said. “Therefore, the appropriate charge is reckless driving.”
Maj. Gen. John Charles Thompson (ret.) was a West Point graduate and a 35-year Army veteran, recognized for valor in Vietnam, according to an obituary.
Photo via Google Maps
Richard Thomas has been sober for 50 days, and that’s his longest stretch away from PCP and marijuana since he was 14 years old.
The 42-year-old Alexandria native has been arrested more than 10 times over the course of his life. A 1995 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, Thomas has seen his life repeatedly go down the drain through intense struggles with homelessness, addiction and depression. But the Alexandria Treatment Court has given him a new lease on life.
“I don’t have to look behind my back anymore. It’s a second chance,” said Thomas, who has a new job as a dishwasher in Alexandria, and asked that his real name be withheld. “The Treatment Court has allowed me to keep myself accountable and be consistent and honest. The judge says the most important thing is to be honest.”
The Treatment Court, which launched in August and meets every Thursday, is still in its pilot phase. The court is an alternative to jail for individuals with substance abuse issues, and most participants have been to jail multiple times.
The Fairfax County and Arlington County drug courts are grant funded, and it has taken two years for the City of Alexandria to get to this point. There is no additional funding for the program and there are only eight participants — staff for the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alexandria are seeking grant funding to accommodate up to 25 individuals and hire support staff.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord is the Treatment Court coordinator, and said that the road to recovery is never easy.
“With no slip-ups, the entire program should take 14 months, but we understand that relapsing is part of the recovery process,” Lord said. “It should take 18 months to two years for most individuals to complete the program.”
Participants can still be kicked out of the program. On a recent Thursday, Judge Lisa Kemler had a tough decision to make. One of the drug court participants, who is currently serving time in the Alexandria jail, assaulted a Sheriff’s deputy. Of the eight taking part in the program, two have assaulted law enforcement officers, who in turn still recommended that they be included.
“You were given a lot of chances. How many chances do you think we should give you?” Kemler asked the man, who stood in a gray jail jumpsuit and handcuffs.
“One more. One more. Would you even just consider it?” he responded. “I still want to participate in the Treatment Court… I think the program is working for me. I just had a few slip-ups.”
Kemler ended up giving the man another chance, but if he does not cooperate then her decision will be easy.
“It’s not going to be exactly what you want, because nothing in life is exactly what you want,” Kemler said. “If you fail to hold up your end of the bargain you will face termination [from the program].”
There were nine opioid-related deaths and at least 50 non-fatal overdoses in Alexandria in 2017. That same year, there were 1,019 drug-related criminal offenses, which was an increase of 37% from the previous year. There were also 96 probation violations filed in Alexandria in between 2016 and 2017 due to participants failing drug tests.
Treatment Court participants have agreed to an increased level of supervision by a probation officer and weekly court appearances. They must participate in multiple therapy sessions every week and take frequent drug tests. The first phase of the five-phase program lasts for a minimum of 60 days, and participants must adhere to a 9 p.m. curfew. Each subsequent phase allows participants to stay out one hour later in the evenings.
Thomas, who has three children and another on the way, said that he has not had a single urge to do drugs again.
“I haven’t had any cravings. It hasn’t been hard at all because of what my consequences would be if I didn’t participate in the program,” he said. “If I get incarcerated again, the chances of my kids being raised without me is devastating.”
Freedom House to Expand — “An expansion of the Freedom House Museum and renovations to the historic building it is in are in the works. Earlier this year, the Northern Virginia Urban League put the historic townhouse at 1315 Duke St. it owns up for sale for $2.1 million, after going through a difficult period keeping up payments on the property.” [Alexandria Living]
Former NFL Cheerleader Opens Salon — “From a loft-like space off a busy street in Alexandria, Stephanie Prinzbach runs the one-woman-show that is District Chic Hair Co., providing hair styling to over 115 customers spanning from Washington, DC to Richmond.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Treatment Court Shows Results — “In August, the City of Alexandria launched the Alexandria Treatment Court (ATC) as an alternative to jail for people accused of nonviolent felonies with significant substance use disorders… re-arrest rates of treatment court graduates are approximately half or less than that of non-treatment court graduates — which not only saves the judicial system money but also changes lives.” [Zebra]
New Rail Bridge, Expanded VRE Service Announced — “Virginia will build a new rail bridge over the Potomac River connecting Arlington and the District to significantly expand commuter and passenger train service over the next decade, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced Thursday.” [Washington Post, ARLnow]