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Marijuana (photo via Wesley Gibbs/Unsplash)

(Updated at 1:45 p.m. on Oct. 12) Alexandria City Public Schools has aligned with Virginia law in its stance against marijuana.

Students who possess, use or distribute marijuana within 1,000 feet of an ACPS school, bus stop or bus can now be expelled, according to policy revisions reviewed last week by the School Board. Marijuana was not previously listed as a banned substance.

The Board did not comment on the revisions, but received a brief staff presentation. The policy is now aligned with Virginia law.

According to the ACPS policy revisions on alcohol and other drugs in schools:

No person may manufacture, sell or distribute or possess with intent to sell, give or distribute alcohol, or any controlled substance, or imitation controlled substance, or marijuana while:

  • On the property, including building or grounds, of any ACPS school
  • On public property or any property open to public use within 1,000 feet of the property, including building or grounds, of any ACPS school; On any school bus; or
  • At any designated school bus stop or any public property or any property open to public use within 1,000 feet of such school bus stop during the time when students are waiting to be picked up and transported to or are being dropped off from school or a school sponsored activity.

Matt Smith, an ACPS policy consultant, briefed the Board on the changes, and said that they relate more to adults and not children. Smith said that marijuana was not previously listed as a conrolled substance.

“When marijuana was a controlled substance, it did not need to be listed separately but was included in the term ‘controlled substances’ in our policies,” Smith said. “Because the state of Virginia now no longer considers marijuana a controlled substance, then the policy revisions propose to list this separately to continue the ACPS prohibition. Our practices have not changed with respect to marijuana.”

Marijuana possession was legalized for adults in Virginia in 2021.

“As you know, the treatment of marijuana outside of the school system community has changed,” Smith told the Board. “It is no longer illegal. That required explicit warning in our language not as relates to students, but as it relates to adults that that’s a prohibited substance, just like alcohol regulations that is already there relating to students. There’s no change for students here, but this is adults because it’s now treated more like alcohol than it was a prohibited substance. That was a change relating to adults.”

The ACPS policy change also states that any students who is determined to have brought alcohol or marijuana onto ACPS property “may be expelled.”

A. Expulsion

A student who is determined to have brought alcohol, a controlled substance, or imitation controlled substance, or marijuana onto school property or to a school-sponsored activity may be expelled in accordance with Policy JGD/JGE: Student Suspension/ Expulsion.

The Superintendent may determine, based on the facts of the particular case, that special circumstances exist and no disciplinary action or another form of discipline is appropriate. In addition, the School Board authorizes the Superintendent or designee to conduct a preliminary review of such cases to determine whether a disciplinary action other than expulsion is appropriate. Any such disciplinary action will be taken in accordance with Title 22.1, Chapter 14, Article 3 of the Code of Virginia. Recommendations for expulsion will be communicated to the School Board.

B. Prevention and Intervention

Any student who violates this policy must participate in the prevention and intervention activities identified in Regulation JFCF/JFCI-R – Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD) Abuse Regulation. ACPS may require any student who has been found to have been in possession of, or under the influence of, drugs or alcohol on a school bus, on school property, or at a school sponsored activity in violation of ACPS policies, to undergo evaluation for drug or alcohol abuse, or both, and, if recommended by the evaluator and with the consent of the student’s parent, to participate in a treatment program.

ACPS also has substance abuse counselors and substance abuse prevention resources for students.

Photo via Wesley Gibbs/Unsplash


Alexandria’s City Hall (301 King Street) will be illuminated in purple this week to commemorate those who have died from drug overdoses and to raise awareness of substance abuse recovery.

Alexandria, in particular, has been hit with an increase in drug overdoses and deaths. According to the release:

Drug overdoses and deaths continued to increase in 2023 in Alexandria as well as across the country, particularly among youth. This increase is driven by the use of synthetic opioids like fentanyl, which is 100 times more potent than morphine in unregulated drugs, powders and pills. Fentanyl is often pressed into pills and combined with other substances without the user’s knowledge. Consuming even a small amount can lead to an overdose.

The Alexandria Police Department said it’s seen a spike in opioid overdoses in local children in recent years. Earlier this year, multiple Alexandria City High School students were hospitalized with possible overdoses and one student died.

City Hall was lit in teal in 2021 to raise awareness of opioid recovery.

The release said City Hall will be illuminated starting on Tuesday, Aug. 29, through the morning of Friday, Sept. 1.

The Franklin P. Backus Courthouse in Alexandria (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Helenia Bragg had few options.

After getting arrested last year in her Old Town home for possession with intent to distribute Schedule II drugs, the Alexandria native faced a minimum of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. Bragg previously spent the greater part of 20 years incarcerated for three possession charges, and had been clean and sober for eight years before falling off the wagon.

“I had a death in my family,” Bragg said. “Instead of using my coping skills, I started getting high so I wouldn’t have to dream or nothin’.”

After her arrest, Bragg, now 66, was offered to have the slate wiped clean and the charges dropped by participating in the Alexandria Treatment Court. She accepted.

“This is a bad time to be an addict, because fentanyl is on everything,” she said. “If you are an addict, I suggest that you get into a program, that you get clean and sober to save your life, because now it really is a matter of life and death.”

The Treatment Court is an alternative to jail for people with serious substance abuse addiction, and most participants have been to jail multiple times. There are currently seven participants in the five-phase program, and there have been eight graduates since it launched in 2019, according to Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord, the Treatment Court coordinator.

Lord said that the court, which is overseen by Judge Lisa Kemler, is slowly growing and can now accommodate up to 15 participants. Initially, the program set an enrollment cap at five participants.

“I would like to have more active current participants,” Lord said. “I’m very happy to report that all of the people who have graduated the program, none of them have had recidivism or gotten back in the criminal justice system, which is the ultimate aim.”

Each participant has agreed to weekly check-ins at the courthouse with Kemler, regular meetings with a probation officer and therapy sessions. They also have to take weekly drug tests and work with city agencies to address homelessness, unemployment, lack of medical care and educational needs. In the first phase of the program, participants are given a 9 p.m. curfew. The first phase lasts for two months and the entire program takes between 18 to 24 months.

Lord said that it’s expected for participants to stumble on their journey to recovery.

“Just because you’ve slipped up doesn’t mean that you’ve lost all of your progress and your skills that you’ve developed over the last few months,” he said. “We’ve seen several of our participants who have graduated, went through that exact process, and they had major problems, major slip-ups, and were able to get back on track.”

On a recent Thursday, Bragg and a number of other Treatment Court participants met with Kemler at the Alexandria Courthouse. One male participant was called on and approached the bench wearing a sweatshirt that had the words “I am good trouble” printed on it.

“My problem right now is acting on my emotions,” the male participant said. “When I feel something, I just react right away.”

Kemler congratulated the participant and led the courtroom in applause.

“It looks like you’ve had another great week,” Kemler told him reassuringly. “You had another week of negative drug scanning and you have just appeared to meet all the expectations for phase two, and if all things are on track next week you’ll be eligible for phase three.”

Earlier this year, an Alexandria City High School student died of an opioid overdose, and another was hospitalized. In addition to the creation of the Treatment Court, the city has answered a rise in overdoses by approving a three year strategic plan to eliminate opioid misuse. The plan includes widespread distribution of fentanyl test strips and Narcan, a prescription medicine that can reverse an opioid overdose via intranasal mist.

Bragg dried out in a rehabilitation facility in Frederick, Maryland, for two months before starting the program. She said that she’s back on track and hopes to finish the Treatment Court by February.

“I really do feel great,” she said. “Like my old self again. I’m motivated again.”

Alexandria Police lights (staff photo by James Cullum)

An 18-year-old Alexandria man suspected of robbing a juvenile of his Nike Air Jordan sneakers and bicycle at gunpoint was tracked down by the victim on social media, according to police.

The victim was robbed on April 10, in the 4500 block of 31st Street South, per a recently released search warrant affidavit. He told police that he was walking his Mongoose BMX bike up a hill when two suspects approached him.

One suspect asked the victim “why he was looking at him so seriously,” police said in the search warrant affidavit. “The same male got closer to the victim, opened his jacket and showed him the handle of a handgun that was concealed in an interior jacket pocket.”

The suspect then allegedly asked the victim his shoe size, to which the juvenile replied he is a size 9.

“This suspect then demanded the victim’s tennis shoes while threatening to physically assault him,” the affidavit says. “The victim complied. The suspects then took the victim’s bicycle and fled down the hill out of the area.”

A week and a half later, on April 21, the victim texted police that he identified the man who allegedly took his shoes and bike on Instagram.

Police found that the robbery suspect bore a close resemblance to Jose Santos Giron-Munoz, who was already in jail for a separate crime committed around the same time. He was arrested on April 17 for carrying a concealed handgun and possession with intent to distribute narcotics. He is being held without bond.

A booking deputy at the Alexandria jail told police that Giron-Munoz wore black and blue Nike Air Jordan 5s on the day of his arrest. Police said that the shoes were “identical to the shoes stolen from the victim,” according to the affidavit.

Giron-Munoz is being held without bond and goes to court on May 31 for a hearing on drugs and weapon charges.

Alexandria Police lights (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria man Reza Hashemi, 34, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling fentanyl that lead to the death of an Alexandria woman.

Hashemi was convicted of distributing 400 grams of fentanyl in Northern Virginia. Hashemi was the suspect in one 2020 overdose of a 22-year-old man, identified as J.V., in Vienna.

“Hashemi admitted to distributing pressed counterfeit pills containing fentanyl to J.V. During the course of the investigation into J.V.’s death, law enforcement approached Hashmi and informed him of the death, but he did not agree to speak with them,” a release from the Department of Justice said. “Instead, Hashemi continued to distribute fentanyl.”

While still under investigation for the death in Vienna, Hashemi distributed additional fentanyl in Alexandria and a woman was killed.

“On May 28, 2021, in Alexandria, Hashemi distributed an approximate 1-gram quantity of powder fentanyl to J.F., which caused J.F.’s death by accidental fentanyl poisoning,” the release said. “J.F. was 26 years old at the time.”

According to the Office of the Federal Public Defender in Alexandria:

Mr. Hashemi became addicted to opioids after suffering trauma early in his life. He accepted responsibility early on in this case and continues to do so. Although we do not agree that the sentence imposed was necessary, Mr. Hashemi accepts the court’s decision and is determined to address his own addiction through the next 15 years and beyond. The government’s repeated insinuations in connection with his invocation of his right to counsel misrepresent the facts and betray an ignorance of every individual’s constitutional rights.


Alexandria teens at the city’s Sheltercare facility are hosting a car wash today where they’ll discuss the fentanyl issues that have devastated Alexandria.

The community car wash is scheduled to run from 3-5 p.m. today (Tuesday) at Sheltercare (200 S. Whiting Street), a program administered by the Juvenile Detention Commission of Northern Virginia to “provide services and stabilization for youth.”

The city has seen a spike in opioid overdoses in recent years. An Alexandria City High School (ACHS) student was hospitalized after a possible overdose in February and a Wakefield High School student died earlier this year. Another ACHS student died last week and while the cause remains under investigation, the Alexandria Times reported scanner traffic indicated first responders were administering Narcan.

An email from the City of Alexandria said there have been “two suspected fentanyl-related overdoses in school aged youth with one resulting in death.”

City of Alexandria will have free Narcan and fentanyl test strips available at the car wash.

According to the city:

Come out to a community car wash at Shelter Care on May 9 at 200 S. Whiting St. from 3-5 p.m., where youth working to promote recovery we will not only clean cars, but also provide information on the dangers of fentanyl. The City also makes available free Narcan and fentanyl test strips. Narcan is a nasal spray that can save the life of someone having an opioid overdose, and fentanyl test strips detect the presence of the synthetic opioid in a drug before using. Free Narcan will be available at the car wash.

Free Narcan is also available today from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 2355 Mill Road and Alexandria residents can have Narcan and/or fentanyl test strips mailed to them, by emailing [email protected].

Alexandria Police arrested four juveniles after a brief chase in the 1400 block of N. Beauregard Street (via Google Maps)

Four male juveniles were arrested after a brief chase from a stolen car in the West End on Tuesday afternoon, prompting four schools to go on lockdown, according to the Alexandria Police Department.

The incident occurred at around noon near the 1400 block of N. Beauregard Street. Police recovered a handgun from one of the suspects, according to dispatch reports.

“While conducting the traffic stop, all individuals from the vehicle fled,” APD said in a release. “Additional Officers were dispatched to the area to locate the suspects. During the search, APD Officers found four juvenile male suspects and took them into custody. APD recovered one weapon.”

The charges against the minors include drug possession with intent to sale, a concealed weapons charge, illegal weapons possession, and other weapon offenses, according to APD.

Anyone with information about this incident can call the APD non-emergency number at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

The incident prompted four nearby schools to go into “secure the building” mode. Ferdinand T. Day Elementary School (1701 N. Beauregard Street), William Ramsay Elementary School (5700 Sanger Avenue), John Adams Elementary School (5651 Rayburn Avenue) and the Early Childhood Center (5651 Rayburn Avenue) went into “secure the building” from 12:15 to 12:35 p.m.

On Monday afternoon, three juveniles were arrested after an estimated 40 shots were fired. The shots were fired in an alleyway in the 1200 block of Madison Street, a block away from the Braddock Road Metro station, and no one was injured. Also that day, shots were fired at a Bradlee Shopping Center bus stop, which is near Alexandria City High School.

Image via Google Maps

Alexandria Police lights (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria Police arrested two men last month and, according to affidavits, recovered a large number of illegal narcotics, cash and other items.

The investigation into the suspects began in November, according to a recently released search warrant affidavit.

The Alexandria Police Department conducted the investigation for more than four months, and during that time APD observed one of the suspects “conduct hand-to-hand transactions in the parking lots of restaurants in the nearby area of the Seminary Road apartment,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.

One of the suspects, a 38-year-old Prince William County man, was arrested in the apartment during the execution of the search warrant. His roommate, a 41-year-old Washington D.C. man, was arrested that same day in the 4900 block of Seminary Road in Alexandria, and was allegedly in possession of 20 fentanyl pills, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Alexandria and Fairfax County Police found the following in their apartment in the 5600 block of Seminary Road in Falls Church:

  • Approximately 134.8 grams of crack cocaine
  • Approximately 12,955 fentanyl pills
  • Approximately 1.8 grams of MDMA (ecstasy)
  • Several hundred Adderall pills
  • Approximately 50-100 Xanax pills
  • $26,954 in U.S. currency
  • Three digital scales
  • Multiple cell phones
  • Gun ammunition and a magazine

Both suspects are convicted felons. The 38-year-old suspect was charged with possession of a weapon other than a firearm by a convicted felon, two counts of possession with intent to distribute Schedule I/II drugs and two counts of selling/distributing Schedule IV drugs. The 41-year-old suspect was charged with two counts of selling Schedule I/II drugs.

Both suspects are being held without bond and go to court on April 12.


The owner of car stolen from the 200 block of N. Ripley Street says that his keys were stolen from his unlocked apartment in the early morning of Jan. 2, 2023 (via Google Maps)

A 25-year-old Alexandria man faces multiple charges after being found with a stolen car and allegedly running away from police earlier this month.

The car owner told police that someone must have entered his unlocked apartment and gotten the keys to his 2015 white Honda CRV between midnight on Jan. 1 and 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 2, according to a search warrant affidavit. The Honda owner then checked a GPS tracker, which showed it parked a mile-and-a-half away in the 5600 block of Derby Court in the Mark Center area.

Police went to the address and found the male suspect getting a black jacket out of the backseat of the stolen Honda. The suspect “took off running” when he saw police, according to the search warrant affidavit.

Police could not confirm whether the suspect arrested was the same as the person who stole the car.

“(The officer) was unable to find any information on who stole the vehicle at this time and (the suspect) was not currently driving the vehicle when it was located,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.

The suspect was arrested and charged with driving on a suspended/revoked license, public intoxication, entering a stolen vehicle, preventing law enforcement from making an arrest and possession of Schedule I/II drugs. He was released from jail on Jan. 6 on a $2,500 unsecured bond and goes to court on Feb. 23.

Map via Google Maps

Alexandria Police lights (staff photo by James Cullum)

After a lengthy trial, a hung jury couldn’t reach a verdict against a 24-year-old California man accused of murdering a man in the West End in 2020, and the Commonwealth’s Attorney will retry the case in February.

On Thursday (Dec. 15), the jury remained deadlocked on whether Ahmed Mohammed Shareef should be charged with murder or manslaughter in the Nov. 2020 shooting death of 23-year old Yousef Omar. The jury did, however, find Shareef guilty of racketeering with 20 others for operating a drug trafficking organization between the D.C. Metro area and Los Angeles, California.

Shareef is claiming self-defense and pleaded not guilty to all charges. He will be retried for the murder charge on February 16, Alexandria’s Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter told ALXnow.

“The jury trial was extremely lengthy,” Porter said. “It started the very beginning of November, and was a six-week trial. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury convicted him of racketeering, but was unable to reach a verdict on the murder charge. The case has been continued to February 16.”

Sentencing is being withheld for the racketeering charges until the conclusion of the upcoming murder trial. Shareef faces life in prison for the murder charge and up to 40 years for the racketeering charge.

Omar was found shot multiple times in the driver’s seat of a 2016 silver Mercedes E350 on the afternoon of Saturday, Nov. 17, 2020. A firearm was found near Omar’s body, as well as numerous shell casings, indicating that he fired at his attacker. A half-hour after the shooting, Shareef checked himself into Howard University Hospital with a gunshot wound, police said in a search warrant affidavit.

The investigation of the drug trafficking organization resulted in the arrest of 20 individuals, including Shareef, and the seizure of $500,000 worth of marijuana, nearly $275,000 in cash, 23 firearms, cocaine and other drugs, digital scales, money counters, fake identifications and a number of vehicles.

“The investigation also revealed that the likely motive (of the murder) was over an unresolved drug debt and potential interference by the victim to pry customers away from the (drug trafficking organization),” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

A witness told police that they saw Shareef and Omar in the Mercedes, parked across the street from the Newport Village apartment complex near Fort Ward Park.

The witness saw Shareef “exit the vehicle and proceed to shoot the victim multiple times as he sat in the driver’s seat, striking him multiple times,” according to the search warrant affidavit. “The suspect then ran to a waiting vehicle, entering the front passenger seat and fleeing the scene.”

The incident was the third and final homicide of 2020.

A police investigation determined that Shareef and his co-conspirators ferried marijuana from Los Angeles to the D.C. Metro area in large suitcases on commercial airliners. In many instances, the suspect who checked the baggage in California would not get on flights and the bags, with different names on identification tags, would be picked up by other suspects in Virginia. The marijuana in the luggage was found in vacuum-sealed bags.

“The method included top tier traffickers purchasing flights for individuals and packing large suitcases with other materials to conceal large quantities of marijuana, ensuring that the bag was checked approximately 50 minutes before the flight left and would often be picked up by different individuals at DCA (Washington Reagan International Airport) and IAD (Dulles International) airports in the Commonwealth,” police said in the search warrant affidavit.

(The story previously said incorrectly that Shareef is defending himself. That is not accurate. He is instead claiming self-defense.)


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