Alexandria, VA

A 34-year-old Arlington man was charged with distributing methamphetamine after reporting to police that he was the victim of an armed robbery in his fifth floor room at the Embassy Suites in Old Town.

On March 24, at around 7:15 a.m., Alexandria Police responded to a 911 call and met the suspect in the lobby. He told police that he’d just been robbed of money by a man with a knife in his room. He also said that a backpack belonging to a friend of his was stolen.

The officer asked if there was anything illegal in the room, and the suspect reportedly said, “There is some meth in the room, but it’s for personal use,” according to a police search warrant affidavit.

In the room, the officer found a clear bag, inside of which was a glass pipe. The officer asked the suspect what the pipe was for, and he reportedly said it was for smoking methamphetamine.

Later that day, officers searched the room and, in the safe, found 144 grams of suspected methamphetamine, marijuana and thousands of dollars. They also found digital scales, empty plastic bags and “numerous” syringes in a desk drawer, “one of which contained an unknown suspected narcotic liquid while the others appeared to be empty,” according to police.

The suspect was booked and released later that day on his own recognizance. The man suspected of robbing him at knifepoint was not arrested.

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What an eventful week in Alexandria.

Thursday, March 11, marked the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic in Alexandria. As the vaccine rollout slowly improves, the most recent news is the allowance of restaurant workers to get the vaccine. Just over 38,000 doses have been administered in the city, and of that 14,661 residents have been fully vaccinated. The city also wants 80% of residents vaccinated by July 31.

Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne also announced that he will not seek reelection this fall, bringing an end to his 43-year law enforcement career. Lawhorne’s protege Sean Casey is now running for the seat in the June 8 Democratic primary.

Criticism against the proposed renovation of the Taylor Run Stream continued this week, and even City Councilwoman Amy Jackson has decided to join residents in opposition.

More than 220 people participated in our poll this week on school resource officers. More than half of respondents said that ACPS should hire more SROs, 30% said the program should be eliminated and 11% believe SROs should only work part time.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories:

Our top stories this week:

  1. Inova to Launch New Vaccine Clinic Inside Revamped Victory Center
  2. Battle Royale: Princess Street Development Duel Returns to City This Month
  3. Just In: Captain Sean Casey is Running for Alexandria Sheriff
  4. Alexandria Police Arrest Seven People and Seize Drugs, Guns and Cash
  5. Development Questions Remain for New Braddock West Project Headed to City Council
  6. City Could Help Turn Hotels Emptied by Coronavirus Into Affordable Housing
  7. Just Listed in Alexandria
  8. Do You Like the Suggested Names for T.C. Williams and Matthew Maury?
  9. A Year Late, Contractor Eyes Spring Completion for King Street Metro Access Improvement Project
  10. Superintendent Proposes New Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary
  11. Councilwoman Amy Jackson Argues With School Board Over MacArthur Elementary Construction Schedule

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria Police arrested seven people and seized $158,000 in cash, guns and drugs last week, as part of an ongoing investigation that resulted in eight search warrants being executed in the region.

Police would not reveal the identities of the suspects arrested or any further details, and only listed what was seized in a Friday press release. Seized items included:

  • U.S. currency totaling $157,997
  • 27 pounds of marijuana
  • 11 firearms (including three semi-automatic rifles)
  • Ammunition
  • Drug-packaging materials
  • Prescription pills
  • Cell phones and computers
  • Two money counters
  • 16 grams of suspected cocaine

“We want to commend the excellent planning, execution and police work of everyone involved,” said Police Chief Michael L. Brown. “This is just one example of the Alexandria Police Department working to ensure the safety of our City and community.”

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Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, will be isolated from the general population for a month in the Alexandria jail, in accordance with COVID-19 restrictions.

The Alexandria Sheriff’s Office has a contract with the U.S. Marshals to house inmates in the William G. Truesdale Adult Detention Center, and other details of Coronel’s stay have not been released, such as whether she will be secluded from other inmates after the month.

The 31-year-old Coronel was arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport on Monday and made a video appearance U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia  the following day. She is accused of participating in his escape from prison in July 2015, planning another escape before he was extradited to the U.S. in Jan. 2017, and is being charged with conspiracy to distribute heroin, cocaine and marijuana, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Alexandria’s jail houses many federal inmates awaiting sentencing, including high profile cases like Paul ManafortChelsea Manning and ISIS members.

“She is under our COVID protocols, which is standard procedure for new intakes,” Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne told ALXnow. “This protocol went into effect in March 2020.”

Per the Sheriff’s office, Coronel will be held in seclusion for two weeks, then moved to another unit for another two weeks. The Sheriff could not comment as to whether she will be distanced from other inmates after that period, although Chelsea Manning reportedly spent her stay at the jail apart from the general population.

Photo via Alexandria Sheriff’s Office

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After 16 months in operation, the Alexandria Drug Treatment Court has its first graduate. The program, which the Alexandria Commonwealth Attorney’s Office started with little funding, also just got a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.

The Treatment Court launched in September 2019 as an alternative to jail for individuals with substance abuse issues. Most participants have been to jail multiple times. Participants usually meets every Thursday in the Alexandria Courthouse, although the building at 520 King Street is largely shut down now due to COVID-19 and meetings have been held virtually.

Program graduate Kim Christian (not her real name) entered the five-phase program in Nov. 2019 and graduated in a virtual ceremony ahead of schedule, as two years is the program average. She regularly met with a case manager, a probation officer, participated in recovery programs and regularly checked up with the court.

Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter said the virtual ceremony was a moving experience.

“One of the most wonderful things about the ceremony was the fact that the graduate, for the first time, had people within the criminal justice system trying to help her achieve something,” Porter told ALXnow. “The graduation ceremony was a true testament to the power of the program, and making a change.”

The new funds will allow Porter to triple the program for up to 30 participants, hire a full-time bilingual therapist, and also hire a treatment court coordinator to take administrative duties off the plate of David Lord, the assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney who has largely led the effort. Drug testing for participants will also be expanded.

Porter said it will take six-to-nine months to hire the new staff and expand the program. In the meantime, he said, the program will be slowly ramped up to increase the number of participants.

“The idea is to try to finally put some resources into them to kind of break that cycle of addiction and then recidivism,” Porter said. “One graduate is great, but we need more graduates.”

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The City of Alexandria is urging locals to become acquainted with overdose treatment as cases rise both statewide and locally.

“The Virginia Department of Health’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner reports that 2020 may be the worst year on record for fatal overdoses in Virginia,” the city said in a press release. “Preliminary figures from the second quarter of 2020 indicate a 66.8% increase in fatal drug overdoses in Virginia from the same period in 2019, suggesting a possible correlation with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The city release liked the increase to collective stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. The city urged residents engaging in substance abuse to seek treatment and recovery programs offered by the city.

“The City and the Alexandria Community Services Board offer an opioid treatment program, the Alexandria Residential Treatment Center, mental health and substance abuse residential services, outpatient treatment for substance use disorders and a Narcan-by-mail delivery program,” the city said.

The total number of fatal overdoses has increased in Virginia from 1,626 in 2019 to 2,053 just in the first half of 2020.

“Of those, 1,701 were related to opioid related overdoses,” the city said, “with 474 related to prescription opioids and 1,498 related to fentanyl, heroin, or both.”

There were 69 opioid overdoses in Alexandria in 2018, of which eight were fatal. In 2019, there were 73 opioid overdoses, of which 14 were fatal. As of November 30, 2020, there have been 85 opioid overdoses, of which 13 were fatal.

The city said residents can get access to Narcan, which can help someone experiencing an overdose, for free by mail.

“The drug Naloxone, also known as Narcan, can save the life of someone who is experiencing an opioid overdose, if given in time,” the city said. “Any Alexandria resident can obtain Narcan by mail for free by emailing their name and address to [email protected] or pick up a dose of the easy-to-use nasal spray by calling the Alexandria Health Department at 703.746.4888 or the City’s Opioid Response Coordinator at 703.746.3326. Narcan is also available at pharmacies without a prescription.”

Staff photo by Airey

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Alexandria is warning residents that toxic marijuana laced with “unusual substances” has led to four recent overdoses in Prince William County.

“One person died, and the other three were revived with Narcan (naloxone), suggesting that the marijuana may have been mixed with opioids,” the city said in a release. “While use of any illegal drug is dangerous, City officials are urging residents to be especially cautious given these recent overdoses.”

There have been 10 fatal opioid overdoses in Alexandria this year, and 62 non-fatal overdoses as of August 25, according to the city.

Virginia decriminalized marijuana on July 1, and there is a civil fine of $25 for possessing up to an ounce.

The Alexandria Health Department offers Narcan for free by calling 703-746-4888, and the medication will be shipped for free for residents who contact the city’s opioid response coordinator at [email protected]

According to the city:

If you or someone you care about needs help with addiction, call 703.746.3636 (Virginia Relay 711), 24 hours a day. Individuals who do not live in Alexandria can find treatment options at samhsa.gov or by calling 800.662.HELP (4357).

If you have information regarding past overdoses, call the Alexandria Police Department at 703.746.4444.

For life-threatening situations, call or text 911 immediately.

For more information on the opioid crisis and how the City is responding, including a printable flyer on overdose symptoms and how to get help, visit  alexandriava.gov/Opioids.

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Morning Notes

Drug Take Back Day is October 24 — “Safely dispose of your unused and expired medicines during Drug Take Back Day on Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Drop off locations will be available at APD Headquarters, Fire Station 210, and the Neighborhood Pharmacy of Del Ray.” [Twitter]

Council Approves Real Estate Tax Deferral — “Yesterday Council approved a resolution providing for a ‘hardship deferral’ option for payment of Alexandria’s second half real estate tax payment. Upon request, this allows an individual taxpayer to defer payment of the November 16th payment until March 1.” [Twitter]

Online Job Fair October 22 — “Attention job seekers and employers! Register now for JOB-TOBER, a free regional online job fair on October 22, 2-6 p.m.” [Twitter]

Impacted Alexandria Landlords Can Get Financial Assistance — “Landlords can now apply to receive financial assistance for current and past-due rental payments dating back to April 1, 2020 on behalf of their tenants who qualify for the Virginia Rent and Mortgage Relief Program.” [Twitter]

Brewski’s Barkhaus Opens — “While dogs are not allowed directly in the restaurant area, there are plenty of spaces for them to hang out and make friends in the indoor and outdoor play areas.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s Weather — “Mainly cloudy (during the day). High 71F. Winds SSE at 5 to 10 mph. A few clouds from time to time (at night). Low 56F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Social Media Specialist — “The Social Media Specialist is a highly motivated, creative individual with experience and passion for developing turn-key online marketing services for our restaurant clients.” [Indeed]

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What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the report that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. sends one of his children to Bishop Ireton High School. In case you missed it, the story first broke in Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School newspaper.

Hutchings also presented his plan for a phased reopening of ACPS starting next month. The results of a survey over virtual schooling were also released, revealing that screen time and childcare were among the top concerns of students, staff and families.

On the health front, Alexandria exceeded 4,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the first case was reported on March 11.

Additionally, more than 200 people participated in our weekly poll on traveling this holiday season, and 56% reported they will not travel, 27% still plan on traveling, and 17% still haven’t decided.

Crime-wise, we reported that a woman was assaulted in Arlandria on October 11; an arrest was made after an attempted armed robbery in the West End; a West End gas station was robbed of $1,700 in tobacco products; a woman ended up not being charged after firing a warning shot at a man in the 4300 block of Duke Street; and the mother of a man whose truck was stolen in Del Ray received an unexpected phone call from the thief.

There was some good news.

The southern entrance of the Potomac Yard Metro station is really taking shape, at least on paper. This week, the final plans going to the city were made public. The Board of Architectural Review will look at them at their meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

And in recognition of Oyster Week, ALXnow on Thursday emceed the first-ever “Pearl of Alexandria Oyster Eating Contest” between rival Del Ray and Old Town business owners.

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

  1. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  2. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  3. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  4. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  5. ISIS ‘Beatles’ Held in Alexandria Jail, Charged with American Murders in Syria
  6. Here’s What the Potomac Yard Metro Station’s Southern Entrance Will Look Like
  7. Superintendent Proposing Phased Reopening of Alexandria City Public Schools Starting in November
  8. A Dozen Restaurants are Participating in Old Town Oyster Week
  9. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  10. ‘Brewski’s Barkhaus’ is Opening This Saturday
  11. Old Virginia Tobacco Co. Moves Directly Across Street from Longtime Old Town Tobacconist

Have a safe weekend!

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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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