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.
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:
- BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
- BREAKING: Former Alexandria Nurse Jesse Bjerke Sentenced 65 Years For Raping Lifeguards at Gunpoint
- Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
- VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
- Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
- Man Dies After Crash on N. Washington Street in Old Town
- Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
- Delaware Woman Charged for Three Hit-And-Runs in Old Town and Driving Under the Influence
- Man Shot on Quantrell Avenue in City’s Second Murder of 2020
- Students, Parents Ask School Board to Not Renew Agreement Allowing Police at Alexandria City Public Schools
- Homeowner Shot in Targeted Del Ray Home Invasion
Have a safe weekend!
A 20-year-old Alexandria man is in custody after allegedly selling illegal drugs to hundreds of people over the course of the pandemic.
The man was arrested at his apartment in the 6100 block of Edsdall Road in August and charged with possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, possession with the intent to distribute a Schedule IV substance, manufacturing or selling a controlled substance and reckless handling of a firearm. He is currently being held without bond in the Alexandria jail.
A search of the suspect’s home yielded a firearm, marijuana, Xanax, Codein syrup, digital scales and almost $6,000 in bulk United States currency, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Police are also searching for a 19-year-old man, who is an alleged accomplice and advertised drugs for sale in multiple Snapchat posts between February and August.
The Snapchat posts include pictures of Oxycodone and other prescription pills, a “large quantity of suspected cocaine,” THC edibles, and posts with the suspects holding firearms, according to police.
Between February and March alone, the alleged accomplice “conversed with over 400 individuals with an estimation of over 2,500 messages,” according to the affidavit. “Your affiant observed that over 100 individuals had 10 or more messages in their conversations… The majority of the messages were related to the distribution of controlled substances.”
A 21-year-old Delaware woman was charged with three counts of felonious hit-and-run and one count of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs after allegedly hitting three cars in Old Town.
Niyah Selena Ranson was arrested by Alexandria Police on Sept. 24 at around 6:45 p.m., and is being held without bond in the Alexandria jail.
She is accused of first hitting a vehicle going east at the intersection of King Street and N. Columbus Streets after allegedly running a red light.
The driver “failed to stop and check on those occupants, instead fleeing east on King at a high rate of speed before running a red light at Washington (Street) and striking another vehicle,” according to a search warrant affidavit.
Again, Ranson allegedly drove away and her car was disabled and hit a vehicle at the intersection of Duke and South Columbus Streets, according to police.
“In lieu of checking on passengers, she sat on the ground and told witnesses to leave her alone,” noted the affidavit. “She then ran from the scene before being apprehended down the street by officers, where medics described her as alternating between combative and catatonic.”
A man parked in the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center parking lot was charged with possession of a Scheduled I or II substance after a complaint was raised that he was selling drugs.
On August 30, Alexandria Police were called to investigate a “suspicious” event and possible drug dealing at the West End hotel located at 5000 Seminary Road. They found a man sitting in the driver’s seat of a van in the parking lot “holding a cellular phone and counting what appeared to be a large sum of U.S. currency,” according to a search warrant affidavit.
The suspect was lethargic, and officers asked him to step out of his van.
The officers saw a plastic bag sticking out of the man’s pocket, and they asked him what was in the bag.
“My medicine,” the suspect reportedly said, and then said, “Powdered cough medicine.”
According to the affidavit, “(The suspect) then pulled the bag from his pocket revealing a bag of white powdery substance and two tin foil wrappings with contained white rock-like substance.”
The suspect was arrested for possession or intent to distribute a schedule I or II controlled substance. He was taken to Inova Alexandria Hospital and admitted to police that the 6.5 grams they seized was crack cocaine, according to the affidavit. The substance later tested positive as a controlled substance.
Beyer Criticizes Trump Defense of Wisconsin Shooter — “The President stands at the White House podium and defends a man, his supporter, charged with murdering two Americans. This is not surprising, but it is a dark moment for the country. It puts the lie to Trump’s talk of “law and order” — his rhetoric incites violence and murder.” [Twitter]
City Hall Lit Purple for Opioid Awareness — “To raise awareness and understanding of addiction prevention and treatment on International Overdose Awareness Day, August 31, and National Recovery Month in September, the City is lighting City Hall purple with spotlights tonight through September 1.” [Facebook]
Free COVID Testing Tomorrow at William Ramsay Elementary School — “Important information for families regarding free COVID-19 testing at Ramsay Elementary School on Wednesday, September 2 from 4-7pm.” [Twitter]
9 More COVID Cases in Alexandria — “The latest update from the City on COVID-19: Positive tests up 9 to 3,378 in the City 7-day Positivity Rate steady at 4.5% 0 new hospitalizations. Still safer at home, wash hands, wear masks and support our essential workers.” [Twitter]
Fire Department Selling Breast Cancer Awareness Shirts — “AFD breast cancer awareness shirts are now available for purchase online. Orders will be shipped at the end of September, and a portion of the proceeds will go towards the Vola Lawson Memorial Fund.” [Twitter]
Chamber of Commerce Hosting Free Virtual Legislative Reception Next Week — “The highlight of the event will be the release of our 2021 Legislative Agenda, which outlines our advocacy priorities for 2021 and beyond. In addition, Chamber leaders and elected officials will be on hand to answer YOUR questions.” [Alexandria Chamber of Commerce]
Today’s Weather — During the day, “Cloudy. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 81F. Winds ESE at 5 to 10 mph.” At night, “Mostly cloudy during the evening. A few showers developing late. Low 71F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.” [Weather.com]
New Job: Tanning Salon Manager In Training — “We are looking for outgoing, energetic positive leaders to accurately represent our brand, develop sales teams with a focus on increasing profits, and increasing both customer and employee satisfaction.” [Indeed]
Since July 24, the city has responded to nine substance-related, non-fatal drug overdoses. While the incidents were unrelated, the City of Alexandria said in a press release its part of an alarming trend emerging.
“While each incident was unrelated, and no definite trend has emerged, City officials are concerned that individual and collective stress related to the COVID-19 pandemic may be linked to increased substance use,” the city said in a press release. “City officials urge residents to be aware of the medical risks associated with the use of opioids and illegal substances that could be extremely concentrated, or mixed with something unusual that could result in life-threatening situations.”
There are nationwide concerns that the pandemic could be adversely affecting efforts to curb the opioid epidemic. In neighboring Arlington, five deaths this month are being investigated as possible drug-related overdoses.
“Based on preliminary investigations, police suspect the deaths are linked to heroin and prescription painkillers mixed with fentanyl (a synthetic opioid),” the city said in the release, “and urged those who may be affected by addiction or opioid use to take steps to protect themselves and others.”
The city noted that properly administering Naloxone, also known as Narcan, could save someone experiencing an opioid overdose.
“It is available without a prescription at all pharmacies, and can be obtained for free at the Alexandria Health Department main office (4480 King St.),” the city said. “People wishing to obtain the drug from the Health Department must first call 703.746.4888 to make an appointment so staff can take appropriate safety precautions. If there is no answer, leave a message and you will receive a return call. Free Narcan may also be obtained by appointment through the City’s Opioid Response Coordinator. Call 703.746.3326 and leave a message with your contact information.”
A 36-year-old man is in jail on multiple charges after allegedly abducting and attacking another man with a knife and hatchet and threatening to jump out an 11-story window.
Tysheem Robinson, of Washington, D.C., was arrested on July 31 and charged with abduction by force/intimidation, probation violation, threatening to bomb and burn, destruction of more than $1,000 in property, obstruction of justice/resisting arrest, and assault and battery. He is being held without bond.
Police were called at around 8 p.m. the previous night to The Ashlawn apartment building in the Southern Tower complex in the West End after a woman reported that two men were fighting and that one of them was going to kill the other, according to a search warrant affidavit.
Officers tried speaking with Robinson through the door, and he allegedly told them, “I killed him, he’s dead,” and then, “I’m going to smoke this blunt then go out the window.”
The victim, who police described as a known PCP user, was not dead, and suffered cuts to his ear and hands. He told police that Robinson attacked him with a knife and a hatchet.
Police then broke into the apartment and found broken furniture and glass, and reported hearing glass breaking and then witnessed Robinson throwing objects from the window. An officer on the ground reported that he threw out a broom, an alarm clock and pieces of PVC pipe.
“There were multiple people both in the parking lot and approaching the front of the building who would have been injured if struck by these objects,” notes the affidavit.
An Alexandria teenager was arrested on May 13 for illegal possession of a firearm and possession with the intent to distribute marijuana.
On May 13, Alexandria Police were called to the 300 block of Tancil Court in Old Town after receiving multiple drug complaints. Officers observed a group of known and unknown individuals “loitering in the area,” noted a search warrant affidavit.
One of the young men is a minor known to police, and police saw him with a group “repeatedly using his right elbow and forearm to tap his right hip,” according to the affidavit.
Police confiscated the firearm and a Ziploc bag containing “11 individually wrapped baggies of marijuana weighing 51.1 grams (1.8 ounces),” in addition to $150, a digital scale and an iPhone, according to a search warrant affidavit.
The minor told police that he was under 18 years of age, and admitted to “trading marijuana to an individual in exchange for the firearm,” according to the affidavit.
The incident occurred less than a mile from where a 17-year-old was shot in the back while playing basketball on the evening of March 31. That incident is still under investigation, and police believe it was a targeted attack.
Noah Lyles Relieved Olympics Postponed — “It was a little relief to see that it’s been decided to postpone the Olympics because my first concern was that everybody would be healthy and everybody would have a fair place to compete.” [Running Magazine]
Former Medical Employees Plead Guilty to Running ‘Pill Mill’ — “Two women pleaded guilty yesterday [March 30] for their respective roles in helping run a “pill mill,” which led to the fraudulent dispensing of thousands of prescription opioid pills.” [DOJ]
Trader Joe’s in Old Town is Hiring — “At Trader Joe’s we are working diligently to support our communities and ensure our customers have access to food and necessary household staples during this time. To those who have found their hours limited or jobs placed on hold, we invite you to apply to join our Crew until your employer is able to welcome you back.” [Indeed]
‘The People’s Drug’ Makes Lunches For Industry Workers — “40 bag lunches – GONE! We’re doing our part to feed as many laid off industry folks that we can. Stay tuned for more info on how to grab a bag lunch in the coming days. Not posting this for a “thank you”…but more so to alert our industry fam in need! In the meantime – yes we’re open for curbside pick up and delivery via @UberEats.” [Facebook]
Scholarship Fund of Alexandria Gala Canceled — “The kids in Alexandria who come from families with financial need will feel the greatest economic impact from the COVID-19 crisis. Graduation and College are Coming. They need YOUR Support Now More than Ever!” [Facebook]
Free Parenting Therapy and Support Group Launches — “This is a free therapist-led group, but donations are graciously accepted for those volunteering their time to lead thoughtful discussion, provide support, and even some light-hearted distractions. 25% of all donations received will go to small businesses in need from the Alexandria community.” [Facebook]
Beverley Hills Residents Adorn Homes With Art — “Every Wednesday, neighbors decorate their windows, porches and front yards with artwork based around a specific theme. Then, throughout the day, kids and their parents can walk the neighborhood to admire the displays and hunt for hidden art.” [Alex Times]
Where/When Seniors Should Shop For Groceries — “Vulnerable customers should avoid shopping in person at all and make use of delivery services or volunteers when possible. If in-person shopping is necessary, customers and staff should stay six feet apart from each other, wash hands frequently, and disinfect shared surfaces like shopping cart handles.” [Zebra]
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.”