Alexandria, VA

Alexandria Police are investigating another shots fired call for service in Old Town.

Police notified the public of the incident in the 300 block of Tancil Court in a tweet at 9:25 p.m. No one was reportedly injured in the incident, and a number of cars were hit by bullets and shell casings were recovered by police at the scene.

The incident is the fourth shooting in Old Town since July 9 and occurred two blocks away from Founders Park on the Alexandria waterfront. There was also a stabbing in the area on July 17 and the incident also occurred a block away from where a man was injured in a violent carjacking on Euille Street on July 14.

Police told ALXnow that there are no known suspects at this time.

Staff photo by James Cullum/ Map via Google Maps

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Alexandria Police are investigating another shots fired call for service in the Braddock area.

Police notified the public of the incident in the 1200 block of Madison Street in a tweet at 9:35 p.m. The incident is the third shooting in the Braddock area since July 9. One suspect was arrested after a July 11 shooting, and police would not release their identity since it would impede an ongoing investigation.

There was also a stabbing in the area on July 17.

The incidents occurred near to where a 17-year-old resident was shot on a basketball court earlier this year. The incidents have occurred near or at Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority public housing property, which is close to the Braddock Road Metro station, Charles Houston Recreation Center, Mason Social and Lost Dog Cafe.

Police did not return calls for comment.

Staff photo by James Cullum/ Map via Google Maps

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Alexandria Police are investigating a number of gunshots fired in Old Town early Thursday evening.

Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow that the incident occurred at 6:50 p.m., and that multiple shell casings were found in the 700 block of N. Columbus Street.

No one has been arrested for the incident and no suspect descriptions are available.

The area where the incident occurred is near to where a 17-year-old resident was shot on a basketball court. It is near the Charles Houston Recreation Center, Mason Social and Lost Dog Cafe.

The last report of shots fired occurred at a West End subdivision in May, and parked cars were shot up in a parking lot.

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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Hundreds of gun rights activists met at protested outside City Hall on Saturday, some of them armed to the teeth with handguns, AR-15 assault weapons and even muskets.

The protest was organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League, and demonstrators rallied against new ordinances proposed by the City of Alexandria to limit the carrying of guns on city property. Alexandria Police were on-hand during the event, and there were a few arguments that broke out between protestors and passersby.

“The whole country looks like it’s turned upside down right now,” VCDL President Philip Van Cleave said on stage. “I’m not the only one looking at it that way. Everybody I’m talking to is just shaking their heads, ‘What happened? What’s happening?’ And it only reminds me all the more of how sacred how important that right is to be able to protect ourselves.”

David Britt of Fairfax sat at the large fountain at Market Square with his AR-15, and said if the ordinances banning weapons on city property pass that he will likely not visit Alexandria in the future.

“I love Alexandria,” Britt told ALXnow. “I normally don’t bring this (the AR-15), but I do have my concealed carry that I have with me all the time. But with these new regulations that they’re talking about, I would be illegal standing here.”

Britt got his concealed carry permit five years ago and has never pulled out his gun in public.

“I hope I never do,” he said.

Gun activists demonstrated in Alexandria last September when a man walked through the Farmer’s Market (at the same location outside City Hall) carrying weapons and alarming some patrons. The man later stood outside Del. Mark Levine’s Old Town home in protest of Levine’s proposed assault weapons ban.

Chuck Smith, a Republican candidate for Virginia Attorney General, spoke at the event.

“The next attorney general of Virginia will be pro-America, pro-Virginia, pro-Trump, pro-life, a 100% gun-toting, card-carrying supporter of the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution,” Smith told the audience. “Without the Second Amendment, we have nothing.”

Staff photos by James Cullum

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A large gun activism group in Virginia is planning a protest this weekend against new ordinances proposed by the City of Alexandria to limit the carrying of guns on city property.

The Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) announced on its website that a protest will be held in Market Square outside of City Hall (301 King Street) from 2-6 p.m. with speakers scheduled to address the group at 3 p.m.

“The City of Alexandria is moving forward with public comment and a vote on a proposed ordinance to ban guns completely in government buildings, parks, recreation and community centers, and at permitted events and adjoining streets,” the VCDL said. “City Council had a chance to drop the proposed ordinance on Tuesday night, but did not.  They made a minor amendment that did nothing significant for gun owners and voted to move forward with the public comment period and final vote on Saturday, June 20.”

The ordinance would make it a misdemeanor to carry a gun in government buildings or property, like parks, and at or near permitted events.

The minor change added was allowing historical reenactors to carry firearms at demonstrations or two and from those events, provided the weapons weren’t loaded or fireable. Several speakers at the public meeting lamented that the sweeping ban would mean that legal gun owners could inadvertently be breaking the law just passing through a pocket park or near where an event is taking place.

The organization encouraged gun owners from outside Alexandria to come into the area to support the protest.

“If passed, this ordinance would take effect on Wednesday, July 1, and would make criminals out of peaceful gun owners for merely being on a street that abuts a permitted event, or walking through any one of a myriad of public parks, or to go in City Hall to pay their taxes!” the VCDL said. “As gun owners, we need to stand together and fight gun control as a team.  Gun owners should come to protests, even if they are in different localities.  Fairfax, Falls Church, Prince William, Arlington, and Loudoun gun owners need to support Alexandria gun owners and vice versa.  An attack on the gun-rights of any of us, is an attack on all of us!”

This isn’t the first time gun activists have held demonstrations in Alexandria. Last September, a group called The Right to Bear Arms walked through the Farmer’s Market carrying weapons and alarming some patrons. The same protestor stood outside Del. Mark Levine’s Old Town home in protest to a ban on assault weapons that Levine proposed.

“A large turnout will send a strong message to any other localities that are considering following in Alexandria’s foot steps,” the VCDL said, “that gun owners are NOT going to meekly accept ANY restrictions on our right to protect ourselves and our families!”

The group advised protestors to stay on the sidewalks and public areas and not to block roadways, sidewalks, or entrances to businesses.

“We are there to protest one thing and one thing only: City Council’s proposed ordinance to strip us of our right to self-defense,” the VCDL said. “Do NOT be goaded by any bystanders into addressing any ANY other issues. Stay on point. I have notified the police department that we will be there to peacefully protest.”

The group did note that Alexandria does not allow people to carry a loaded firearm with a magazine in it that will hold more than 20 rounds or has a threaded barrel or a collapsible stock without a concealed handgun permit. So, if you have one of those you were hoping to show off in Old Town this weekend, best to leave it at home.

Photo via VCDL/Facebook

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Few things outside of the Seminary Road diet can rile the public comment portion of an Alexandria City Council meeting like proposed gun control legislation.

At a City Council meeting on Tuesday, the Council unanimously approved moving forward with a sweeping ban on firearms on or near city property — including parks — or on streets near permitted events.

According to the city ordinance:

The poession, carrying or transportation of firearms in any building, or part thereof, owned or used by the City or by any authority or local government entite created or controlled by the City for government purposes or in parks owned or operated by the City, or by any authority or local government entity created or controlled by the City in any recreational or community center facility operated by the locality, or by any authority or local government entity created or controlled by the City and in any public street, road, alley, or sidewalk or public right-of-way or any other place of whatever nature that is open to the public and is being used by or is adjacent to a permitted event or an event that would otherwise require a permit, is prohibited.

Exceptions are made in the legislation to military personnel acting within the scope of their official duties, law enforcement officers, private security personnel hired by the City and historical reenactors or other persons who possess a firearm that is inoperative and not loaded with ammunition, provided the reenactor is participating in or travelling to or from a historical reenactment.

Anyone violating the law would be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanour.

The ordinance was unanimously approved at the City Council meeting and is scheduled for a public hearing and final passage on Saturday, June 20. If approved, the ordinance will go into effect on July 1.

The ban had been previously approved but the City Council has since gotten the legislative approval necessary to implement it.

After the issue received some attention from the NRA website, many of the speakers were staunchly positioned against the ordinance. One speaker, Mark Shinn, said the ordinance was part of the “liberal anti-gun agenda” that Alexandria will turn into the “violent, gang-infested warzones of Chicago and Baltimore.”

Some said the ordinance would make it effectively impossible for legal gun owners to travel through the city, with parks and streets near permitted events swept up in the ban.

“This creates an undue legal burden on gun owners as it’s virtually impossible to know or identify all buildings or parts thereof owned or used by the city or any authority or controlled by the city for government purposes,” said Michael MacKay. “As you can see, this maze of constantly shifting obstacles jeopardizes all legal gun owners’ ability to possess, carry or transport firearms without unknowingly committing a Class 1 misdemeanour.”

Speaker Timothy Angers requested that the city make an exception for those with concealed carry permits, arguing that they have been properly vetted and trained.

“[Othewise] the city becomes a minefield for permit holders,” Angers said. “Just cutting through a pocket park or going near an event could land a permit-holder in jail for a year.”

The ordinance did have some defenders in the public hearing, though. Local resident Sarah Bagley argued the ordinance protects local areas the same way federal government offices are protected.

“[The ordinance] is an effort by our Council to prohibit possession, carrying and transportation of firearms in city buildings and parks,” Bagley said. “Whatever is good enough to protect our President and the Senate is good enough for our schools and public spaces.”

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Alexandria Police are investigating a report of shots fired in a residential area in the city’s West End on the early morning Sunday, May 24.

Police announced the incident at 2:16 a.m. via Twitter, and arrived at the 100 block of Ellsworth Street to find a number of spent shell casings from a handgun, Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow.

Ballantine said that a number of vehicles were also hit by bullets and that no suspects have been arrested.

The incident occurred a block away from Bishop Ireton High School and within walking distance to the Alexandria Commons Shopping Center on Duke Street.

The most recent call for shots fired occurred on April 11 in the 1000 block of Madison Street in Old Town. Bullets struck a building, and the shooting occurred less than a mile from where a 17-year-old resident was shot on a basketball court on Thursday, April 2. No suspects have been arrested for any of the incidents.

There was also a report of shots fired in March near Taney Avenue Park, which also in the West End. Before that, police responded to two report of shots fired in January, in a S. Reynolds Street Parking Lot.

Map via Google Maps

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A 40-year-old Alexandria man is in jail for alleged cocaine possession and pointing a gun at his neighbor.

Devonte Burgess was arrested at his home in the Mayflower Square apartments in the 5900 block of Quantrell Avenue on the evening of April 8. He was charged with possession of cocaine, weapon possession by a felon and brandishing a weapon.

The victim is Burgess’ neighbor, and told police that before the incident they had an argument — less than a mile from their respective homes — at the 7-Eleven at 6120 Lincolnia Road, according to a police search warrant affidavit.

“The two exchanged words inside the store,” police reported. “The verbal altercation was in reference to Burgess having an ongoing dispute with the victim’s neighbor.”

The victim left the store in a car and Burgess left on a bicycle, according to the affidavit. The victim arrived in the parking lot and told police that he waited in his car for Burgess to walk inside his apartment.

“As he was exiting his vehicle to walk towards his residence he observed Burgess walk out of his apartment building with what he believed to be a black handgun at his side,” the affidavit said.

The victim told police that Burgess followed him inside the building and then pointed the gun at him, and racked the slide to show it was loaded. Burgess the allegedly left the building and the victim called the police.

Burgess was arrested without incident.

Map via Google Maps

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A Republican official from Hopewell, Virginia drove to Alexandria this weekend for a small, armed protest outside Delegate Mark Levine’s home in Old Town.

Brandon Howard, chair of the Hopewell Republican Party and head of the gun group Right to Bear Arms Virginia, walked along the street outside of Levine’s house on Saturday, Richmond public broadcaster VPM first reported. He held a Virginia flag, a large gun, and a sign that said “withdraw HB 961,” referencing a bill Levine sponsored and the House of Delegates passed that would ban assault weapons in the state.

(The bill was shelved in the state Senate on Monday, in a move that made national headlines.)

In a ten minute video posted to the Right to Bear Arms Facebook page, Howard repeatedly stated that his intention was to protest peacefully, though the video also contained promises of retribution should the bill pass and guns start being confiscated.

“Mark Levine is a traitor to this nation,” Howard said in the video. “Mark Levine is a tyrant. And we know what’s on our flag. It translates very simply: Thus all tyrants, with lady liberty crushing the tyrant. We all know what that means. Mark Levine, you know what that means. All those Democrats in the House and Senate, you know what that means.”

Levine said when he found out about the protest, he called the police.

“It’s never happened [to me] before,” Levine said. “Having a man outside my house with a gun? No, that hasn’t happened.”

Levine noted that Howard had previously carried weapons through the Alexandria Farmer’s Market.

“His goal is to terrorize our community,” Levine said. “His goal is to terrorize me… I have long argued that guns have three legitimate uses: self-defense, hunting and target shooting. This guy was not hunting, except maybe me, it was not in self-defense… and he wasn’t target shooting. It’s clear that his intent is to coerce, threaten or intimidate.”

Howard said that if all else failed at the soapbox and ballot box, he and others would reach for the “cartridge box.”

“The last thing we want is to shed blood on our own soil,” Howard said. “That’s not to say that will never happen… but unfortunately the way Democrats are doing things today it’s becoming a very real reality that we may see bloodshed on our own soil because of these tyrants sitting in Richmond.”

“Mr. Mark Levine, don’t send the innocent to come do your dirty work, I want you personally to come try and take my gun,” he added. “If you are the one, or whoever you send are the one, beware. I hope you kiss your wife, I hope you kiss your husband, I hope you kiss your children goodbye before you come and try to take mine. Because that’s the last time you will ever have kissed them in your life. You’re only getting my gun one way, and that’s with the business end.”

There was no violence at the protest, but Levine said he hopes Commonwealth Attorney Bryan Porter will press charges.

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Morning Notes

Redevelopment Plan in North Old Town — “As the American Physical Therapy Association prepares for a move to Potomac Yard, its current headquarters in North Old Town Alexandria is now slated for a major mixed-use redevelopment.” [Washington Business Journal]

ACPS Teacher’s Harrowing Journey — “When Onelio Mencho-Aguilar was 13-years-old, he left his mother and siblings to embark on a treacherous journey through rural Guatemala to the U.S. alone…  against the odds, he found a home here in Alexandria and with the support he found, he thrived. First as a student at T.C. Williams High School and now as a teacher at the International Academy where new arrivals to the U.S. are educated and supported.” [Alexandria City Public Schools]

New Suicide Prevention Effort — “DCHS now offers two locations where Alexandria residents and employees can obtain free locking medication boxes and firearm trigger or cable locks as part of Lock and Talk Northern Virginia. This safety program is a collaborative initiative of the Suicide Prevention Alliance of Northern Virginia.” [City of Alexandria]

Community Services Board Marks Anniversary — “On Tuesday, Dec. 10, at 7 p.m., in City Council Chambers, Alexandria Mayor Justin M. Wilson will present members of the Alexandria Community Services Board (CSB) with a proclamation for 50 years of community service and support.” [Press Release]

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Several Alexandria community members spoke out against Alexandria City Public Schools’ active shooter drill training during a school safety forum yesterday (Wednesday).

Despite a rainy evening and a World Series final, several dozen community members attended the meeting at T.C. Williams High School Minnie Howard Campus. City officials, including ACPS Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. and Alexandria City Police Chief Michael Brown, gave presentations and answered public questions.

“[Gun violence] is our reality,” said Hutchings. “We need to make sure we are providing as safe of an environment for our kids as possible.”

In order to prepare students for an active shooter situation, ACPS uses the ALiCE method, which stands for:

  • Alert
  • Lockdown
  • Inform
  • Counter (Distract)
  • Evacuate

According to Jamie Bartlett, the director of ACPS Security and Safety Services, ALiCE is an effective, situational-based option for active threats. However, several community members spoke out in opposition to the “Counter” step.

When practicing “Counter,” students are directed to throw objects at a shooter, to provide a distraction so they can evacuate.

Bartlett stressed only students in the third grade and up are taught the distraction method. However, one audience member shouted that her five-year-old child came home saying their teacher taught them to throw things at shooters.

“I had a third-grader who said they were going to throw pencils at the intruder,” said another audience member. “This seems like it’s not effective at all. You have to do something unless you can say ‘That was the goal, for my third grader to throw pencils at a shooter.'”

Superintendent Hutchings said the school committee that handles such drills will meet soon to discuss the feedback.

“We will act on this,” Hutchings said. “As we go through the curriculum every year, it’s open to interpretation.”

Hutchings added, however, that training for violent incidents in school is an sad reality of modern life.

“It’s unfortunate that some young people who say ‘Have a great day, and I’ll see you when I get home,’ don’t come home,” he said. “We need to make sure we are providing as safe of an environment for our kids as possible. We can do everything in our power to make sure it is safe.”

“Let us continue to have an open mind,” Hutchings said.

All ACPS staff members must take an online course on ALiCE, as well as complete four hours of practical exercise.

In addition to discussing active shooter precautions, ACPS mental health specialist Faiza Jackson spoke about school resources like psychologists, social workers, nurses, and counselors, which are available for students who need help. Such resources are also available during and after active shooter drills.

Jackson also pointed to preventative measures in place at ACPS, like a program that flags student searches for self-harm-related keywords on school-issued laptops to administrators.

The evening meeting was organized by ACPS, Alexandria PTA, and Parents for Safe Alexandria Schools.

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