Alexandria, VA

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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A 45-year-old Alexandria man is in jail for allegedly attempting to rape a woman behind the 7-Eleven at 3412 Mount Vernon Avenue at the border of Del Ray and Arlandria.

James Bowen was arrested on July 19 and is currently in the Alexandria jail.

“It was reported that [the victim] was in the area behind the 7-Eleven convenience store when the suspect approached her and propositioned her for sex,” notes a search warrant affidavit.

The suspect then allegedly exposed himself to the victim, who is Latina, does not speak English and related her experience to investigators via a translator.

Bowen then allegedly returned, exposed himself and assaulted her. There were two witnesses who yelled at the suspect, who was allegedly naked from the waist down and “on top of the victim and appeared to be having intercourse.”

One witness told police that “once he shouted at them, the suspect quickly got up, got dressed and left,” noted the affidavit. “[The witness] reportedly next saw him at the 7-Eleven convenience store already talking with an officer and positively identified him as the suspect.”

Staff photo by James Cullum/Map via Google Maps

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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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An Alexandria man was arrested earlier this year after allegedly attempting to steal more than $40,000 worth of construction equipment from a construction company in the 3600 block of Wheeler Avenue.

The president of the company gave police three recordings in February from one of his former employees, Jose Melendez, who allegedly pretended to be an employee of his company by ordering 1o Rigid brand power tools from the supply company, which are valued at $3,300 apiece.

Melendez, 51, was extradited from Prince George’s County and arrested for identity fraud on Feb. 24, and he was released from Alexandria Jail on March 26. His court date has been pushed back a number of times due to the backlog in the court system. He is set to appear in the Alexandria courthouse on Aug. 18 for charges of identity theft to obtain more than $500 worth of goods.

Melendez admitted to police that he attempted to steal the equipment, and, in fact, stole a lot more equipment than that by using the false name. He told police that he would then pick up the equipment from various businesses throughout the region and then drop them off at a storage unit in the city.

Melendez told police that he and one of the storage unit owners would post the equipment on the OfferUp online marketplace.

The owners of the storage unit have not yet been charged, although a police search of the owner’s apartment in the 4700 block of Kenmore Avenue found that every room, with the exception of the bathroom, was filled with “construction equipment ranging in size from small cordless drills and drivers to generators and jackhammers,” according to a search warrant.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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It was another busy week in Alexandria.

Our readers overwhelmingly responded to Sunday’s protest at the Alexandria home of acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, and the story has more than 380 comments. This week also saw its first homicide, which occurred in the West End, in addition to a number of crime events in the Braddock area.

Not included in our weekly list is late-breaking news on Friday that Alexandria City Public Schools want a virtual-only school year starting in September. Residents have been waiting throughout the summer for the school system to make up its mind, and ACPS has conducted numerous virtual chats with students, parents and staff over the last several weeks.

Here are our top stories this week in Alexandria.

  1. Activists Protest at Alexandria Home of Acting DHS Chief Chad Wolf
  2. BREAKING: Police Investigating Homicide in West End Residential Community
  3. Former APD Officer Peter Laboy Gets His Driver’s License Seven Years After Being Shot in the Head
  4. Just Listed in Alexandria
  5. Students and Residents Putting Daily Cover Over T.C. Williams High School Name
  6. BREAKING: Flooding Reported in Parts of City, AFD Responding to Multiple Emergency Calls
  7. Shots Fired Tuesday Night in Braddock Neighborhood
  8. Alexandria Delegate Wants City to Fire Officials or Police Who Espouse QAnon Theories
  9. Save the Tree Petition at T.C. Williams High School Garners Nearly 1,000 Signatures
  10. Man Injured in Violent Carjacking in Old Town
  11. COVID-19 Update: Deaths at 57, Case Count at 2,735 in Alexandria

Have a safe and fun weekend!

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Alexandria Police are investigating a series of smash-and-grab burglaries at seven businesses in the West End and along Eisenhower Avenue.

Assistant Police Chief Don Hayes did not say what was stolen would not comment as to whether the city is experiencing a crime spree.

The incidents occurred on the following dates and at these locations:

  • June 24 — 4603 Duke Street, Samurai Hibachi and Sushi Bar
  • June 24 — 4545 Duke Street, Hong Kong Express
  • June 24 — 2281 Eisenhower Avenue, Uptown Market and Cafe
  • June 24 — 2111 Eisenhower Avenue, Cafe Old Town
  • July 22 — 506 S Van Dorn Street, Thai Lemongrass
  • July 22 — 4603 Eisenhower Avenue, McCormick Paints
  • July 22 — 506 S Van Dorn D Street, another business in the shopping center

Although the multiple crime events were similar in nature and occurred on two separate days, Hayes would not comment as to whether the incidents are linked and said he would not discuss the facts of an ongoing investigation.

In April, a man was arrested for a crime spree after four gas stations in Del Ray and Old Town were broken into in a similar fashion and more than $45,000 worth of items was taken.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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Alexandria Police are investigating a violent carjacking that occurred on the afternoon of Tuesday, July 14, in the 300 block of Euille Street in Old Town.

The victim, who was interviewed by police at the hospital with a non-life-threatening head wound, told police that he was approached by three men as he parked his car near his home, according to a search warrant affidavit. The men asked the victim for a ride, and he told them that he was not an Uber driver. One of the men then started hitting the back of the victim’s 2016 blue Honda CR-V and the victim stayed in the car. The suspects then walked away in the direction of Royal Street.

The victim left the car when he felt safe, but was approached by the same men, who now asked for his phone. He refused and said that he was using it. That was the last thing the victim remembered, he told police, as he woke up and found that his phone and car were stolen and that he had a bump on his head.

It was not clear if the victim was punched or hit with an object, according to the affidavit.

The incident occurred less than a mile from where a man was stabbed on July 17 as well as three reports of shots fired this month.

The area is three blocks from Founder’s Park and is also near the Trader Joe’s, the Olde Towne School For Dogs and apartments and townhomes.

The Alexandria Police Department did not return calls for comment on the incident.

Staff photo by James Cullum/ Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Beyer Says Acting Homeland Security Chief Should Resign — “Ordering the occupation of US cities, seeking the escalation of violence, and intentionally risking American lives over peaceful protests and graffiti is unfathomable and unacceptable. Acting Secretary Wolf must resign immediately or be fired.” [Twitter]

Del Ray Used Book Store to Open in August — “Piles and boxes of thousands of donated books crowd Donald Alexander’s house as he prepares to turn his vision for a used bookstore in Del Ray into reality.” [Alexandria Living]

Police Report Carjacking on Edsall Road — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a carjacking in the 6000 block of Edsall Road. There were no injuries. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

ACPS Staff Discussion on Reopening Today at 12:30 p.m. — “In order to be able to hear voices from across every school during the Reopening Community Chats, ACPS has asked for representation from various staff groups across the school division to serve as conduits for feedback and questions from their school, department, office or facility.” [ACPS]

Food Drive at Trinity UMC Wednesday — “Thank you to all who have and are continuing to contribute to the food drive for Rising Hope United Methodist Church, which takes place each Wednesday from 4:00 – 7:00 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church.” [Rising Hope UMC]

Metro Expanding Operations in Mid-August — “Metro will add more buses, more trains, and more hours of service beginning on August 16, restoring most service to pre-Covid levels while maintaining a strong response posture to Covid-19. Metrorail will add 15 hours more service per week, with opening times returning to normal and the system closing two hours later each night in anticipation of potential increases in ridership after Labor Day.” [Facebook]

New Job: Nanny — “MyWoosah provides personalized childcare solutions for busy families across the country. Our services include childcare, transportation, home management, and nanny share.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria’s development of a community police review board is too insular and groups representing the city’s minority populations are not being consulted, says Alexandria NAACP President Christopher Harris and community advocates.

“It appears to be an insular process,” Harris told ALXnow. “I would think that at the least out of courtesy you would reach out to the NAACP to get feedback and input, given that most of the people affected are members of the African American community.”

Harris added, “I think Tenants & Workers United should be included as well. They represent the Latino community. They deserve to be included in the conversation, but it appears that no one cares. these decisions are being made unilaterally in my opinion. you can’t have unaffected communities making decisions for the affected communities.”

Harris is also a member of the executive board of the Alexandria Human Rights Commission (AHRC), which is currently the only public body that looks at police summaries of closed internal investigations.

The spotlight got turned on the police during the pandemic when a third of patrol officers were sent home to telework, followed by national unrest over policing in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police. Protests erupted throughout the city, as King Street was shut down and protestors railed against unfair police practices. Brown would later join participants at a vigil in front of police headquarters, and later wrote a letter to the community stating that things do, in fact, need to change.

“It is my sincere hope that we finally address these issues – in policing, in the criminal justice system, and the socioeconomic arena,” Brown wrote. “We need to heal!”

At the meeting on June 9, members of the City Council, Police Chief Michael Brown and the city manager discussed how the roles of the new review board and the Human Rights Commission might overlap. As previously reported, Brown said that the concept of a review board had a negative connotation and requested that he and the city manager draw up a proposal.

“I do not disagree with the concept of oversight,” Brown said. “I may be mincing words here, but a ‘review board’ as it’s phrased in our world, in policing, has a very negative connotation.”

Monika Jones Chapman is the former chair of the Human Rights Commission, and along with former Commissioner LaDonna Sanders, wants an independent auditor to be included in the new review board. Chapman is also married to Alexandria City Councilman John Taylor Chapman.

In a letter to the editor sent to Alexandria publications, Chapman and Sanders wrote that the AHRC is the only civilian group that receives summaries of closed internal police investigations, and that after committee meetings the summaries are collected by police.

“In fact, these reports are given at the beginning of a meeting and collected at the end,” Chapman and Sanders wrote. “This prevents committee members from conducting thoughtful analysis, obtaining input from the entire commission or community, and conducting trend analysis to make informed recommendations.”

The pair also want greater data transparency over arrests and other confrontations, as 64% of all arrests last year in the city were of Black men.

“An independent police auditor, and collaborating review board, must be independent of law enforcement, have sufficient resources and funding to support its operations, and access to police files and data to make informed recommendations to law enforcement, city council, and the Alexandria community,” the pair wrote.

Staff photo by Vernon Miles

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A pair of incidents — racist threats at a local martial arts champion and a man spitting at a local coffee house owner — were the prevailing stories Alexandria.

Alexandria Police told ALXnow that a suspect in the incident was found and taken into custody, but ultimately was not identified and “received services.”

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

  1. Customer Spits on Old Town Coffee Shop Owner and Vandalizes Store After Being Asked to Wear a Mask
  2. Muay Thai Champ Gets Racist Threats at Jones Point Park
  3. New Mixed-Use Development Sparks Frustration With Density in Parker-Gray Neighborhood
  4. ACPS Has No Comment on Chief Operating Officer’s Vocal Departure
  5. Man Charged With Multiple Misconduct Counts at Old Town Gas Station
  6. Power Outage Covers Potomac Yard and Parts of Del Ray
  7. Arlington-Based Fitness Studio Coming to Alexandria’s West End
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. Here’s What’s Happening July 4 in Alexandria
  10. Update: Alexandria Now Has 2,380 COVID-19 Cases, No New Deaths
  11. Poor Business Revenue Amid Shutdown Leaves Alexandria Government With Empty Pockets

Photo via Abyssinia Market and Coffee House/Facebook

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Alexandria Police are investigating a robbery from a person in the city’s West End early on Thursday night.

At around 6:30 p.m., a person was struck by a chair inside a business in the 200 block of S. Van Dorn Street and robbed of personal items. The victim received minor injuries.

Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine said that there were multiple suspects and no one has yet been arrested. No suspect descriptions are currently available and the name of the store in which the incident occurred has not been released.

Staff photo by James Cullum/ Map via Google Maps

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An Alexandria nonprofit is working to get every state to improve its background checks on gun purchasers, and Democratic lawmakers are taking notice.

Safer Country was founded in 2019 by Alexandria attorney Paul Alan Friedman with the mission of taking firearms away from dangerous people. Friedman said that progress was made in the general assembly’s last session, but there is a ways to go.

“We have finally closed the gun show loophole,” Friedman told ALXnow. “We’re making progress on cutting off avenues for people to buy guns illegally. They are going to have to go through a background check system in our state, but internet sales are still a problem in the country.”

Tonight at 7 p.m., Safer Country will host a virtual town hall with Congressman Don Beyer, Delegate Rip Sullivan (D-48), Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown and Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter. The topic will be Virginia’s new red flag law, which allows law enforcement to take firearms from people who are deemed to pose a great risk to themselves and others.

Effective July 1, new gun law changes will require gun sellers to receive verification that a background check has been conducted on purchasers by the Virginia State Police. Additionally, Virginia’s one-handgun-a-month law was passed, as well as a requirement to report all lost and stolen firearms to authorities.

“We’re never going to end all violence,” Friedman said. “We’re never going to end all crime. We’re never going to end all gun violence, but we can do a better job at reducing the harm and reducing the violence and that’s what we ought to commit ourselves to.”

In Alexandria, the city council recently voted to prohibit firearms on city property. The move led to a gun rights protest in Old Town on June 13.

Friedman said that the names of thousands of convicted felons are currently not included in the state’s background check system, and that he’s working to gain awareness so that every state can improve its systems.

“In the fall of 2019, I went down to Richmond and met with Brian Moran, who’s the secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security, and he estimated there were hundreds of thousands of names that might need to be in the background check system that weren’t getting there,” Friedman said. “They paired it down to about 55,000 convicted felons not entered into the background check system.”

Friedman’s family was shocked by gun violence in the early 1980s, when his great aunt, Elizabeth Shulkin, was shot and killed in a Florida hotel room.

“It was devastating,” he said. “A lot of vibrations that came out of it were difficult for people to handle. It wasn’t that it changed my view about the need for gun control or gun safety laws in the country. I was already formed in my opinions about that, but an experience like this makes you personalize, internalize it so that when you see other things like this happen on the news you have a greater depth of understanding.”

Safer Country, the Alexandria-based gun violence prevention non-profit organization, is working to get every state to…

Posted by Boyd Walker on Thursday, June 25, 2020

Staff photo by James Cullum

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