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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The Alexandria Sheriff’s Office on Thursday confirmed that suspected ISIS terrorists Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are being held in the city jail.

The former British citizens are accused of conspiring to kidnap and kill U.S. and western hostages between 2012 and 2015, including Americans Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and Kayla Mueller. The British government reportedly allowed their extradition after the U.S. Justice Department agreed not to seek the death penalty.

Kotey, 36, and Elsheikh, 32, have British accents are accused of being members of the infamous ISIS group known as “The Beatles”.

“Alexanda Amon Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh were placed into our custody this afternoon by the U.S. Marshals and are being held at the Alexandria Adult Detention Center,” said Captain Sean Casey of the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office.

The Justice Department announced Wednesday that the pair made their initial appearances at the Eastern District of Virginia federal courthouse in Alexandria.

Other notable figures who have spent time in the Alexandria jail include Zacarias Moussaoui, a conspirator in the 9/11 terror attacks, and former Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh.

See the full release from the Justice Department below the jump.

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Alexandria has seen an 18% overall surge in crimes against people and property so far this year, according to Part I crime statistics recently released by Alexandria Police.

There has also been a 47% increase in car thefts, a 19% rise in thefts overall and a 15% rise in felonious assaults.

“Much of the increase in larcenies from vehicles and stolen cars and bikes can be attributed to owners leaving them unattended for long periods of time while at home during the pandemic,” notes an APD release. “Very few larcenies from vehicles have involved breaking windows; they are typically from unlocked vehicles.”

On Friday, Police Chief Michael L. Brown also asked the public for help in identifying suspects responsible for the uptick in shots fired-related incidents. Two days later, police arrested and charged a 19-year-old man for the city’s second murder this year.

The increase in shots fired incidents, however, is not included in the Part I crime stats.

There have also been nine rapes so far this year, down from 17 in 2019. Aggravated assaults are down 3%, and there has been a 25% decrease in residential burglaries.

“The decrease in residential burglaries is likely connected to residents being present in their homes, since these offenses usually target unoccupied residences,” according to police. “For the same reason, commercial burglaries (typically theft from unattended but locked businesses) are up while larcenies from buildings (typically theft from businesses and housing complexes while they are open) are down.”

In April, ALXnow reported a surge in crime during a period that Alexandria Police sent a large percentage of their patrol force home to telework.

“It is important to note Alexandria generally has a low crime rate and a low number of criminal incidents,” police said. “As such, small fluctuations in incidents when comparing annual data can lead to large percentage changes that must be considered in context.”

Graph via Alexandria Police

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Alexandria Police have arrested a 19-year-old Alexandria man for the murder of John Harding Pope in the West End on Sept. 30.

Tavon Marquis Lanier was arrested on Sunday and charged with second degree murder and use of a firearm in commission of a felony.

Pope, 57, was shot at his home in the 5900 block of Quantrell Avenue in the Mayflower Square apartment complex. He later died at the hospital.

Neighbors reported to ALXnow that one of the suspects was light-skinned and had tattoos on the right side of his face.

This is the second homicide this year in Alexandria. The first homicide occurred a mile-and-a-half away on July 29.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Ryan Clinch at 703-746-6673.

Thanks to Police Department, City of Alexandria, Virginia for their tireless effort leading to a quick arrest in this…

Posted by Mayor Justin Wilson on Sunday, October 4, 2020

Photo via Facebook

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Alexandria was dominated by violent crime events this week.

The second murder of 2020 occurred on Sept. 30, and ALXnow identified the victim as 57-year-old John Harding Pope. Mayor Justin Wilson and members of the City Council offered their condolences and said that justice will be served.

Our poll asking residents if they feel safe in Alexandria received more than 500 votes, and 60% feel somewhat safe, 29% feel very safe and 12% feel not safe at all.

Old Town regulars will also be sad to learn that Miegs Hodge, a 1982 graduate of T.C. Williams High School, died in a car crash on N. Washington Street on Tuesday, Sept. 29.

Not on this week’s list is Friday’s breaking news story that Jesse Bjerke, a former nurse at Inova Alexandria Hospital, was sentenced to 65 years in prison for raping two lifeguards at gunpoint.

There was some positive news. A new gym will be opening in the West End later this month, a local chef won on the ‘Chopped’ reality show, and the city’s unemployment rate continues to trend downward.

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

  1. Homeowner Shot in Targeted Del Ray Home Invasion
  2. UPDATED: Driver Seriously Injured in Old Town Crash
  3. Police Investigate Violent Early Morning Crimes in Alexandria
  4. West End Shootout Wounds Two and Hits Buildings and Cars
  5. Alexandria Wants to Make Affordable Housing Contributions Mandatory for Developers
  6. Man Dies After Crash on N. Washington Street in Old Town
  7. Avanti Holdings to Build New West End Home for ‘Alexandria Lighting Supply’ Store
  8. Man Shot on Quantrell Avenue in City’s Second Murder of 2020
  9. Poll: How Safe Do You Feel in Alexandria?
  10. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  11. Virginia Tech Pump Station Approval Paves Way for 4.5 Extra Acres at Potomac Yard Park

Have a safe weekend!

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ALXnow has identified the victim from Wednesday’s murder in the West End as John Harding Pope.

Pope, 57, was shot at his home in the 5900 block of Quantrell Avenue in the Mayflower Square apartment complex. He later died at the hospital.

Neighbors Devonte Burgess and his girlfriend Kayla Barb live on the floor above Pope, who lived with his 77-year-old mother. Burgess and Barb were briefly arrested and then released.

“(T)hey took us both into custody, basically trying to figure out if I had a gun in my home, which I never had,” Burgess told ALXnow. “He was a good man, 57-year(s) old, didn’t cause any problems.”

Barb said that the suspects tried to break into the apartment she shares with Burgess the previous night.

“They’re trying to break into people’s apartments and rob them,” Barb said. “They were trying to kick our door in.”

Neighbors Walter and Tammy Washington don’t feel safe. They say that the building next door to them where Pope lived has become dangerous in recent months, with young people hanging out on the front steps, smoking marijuana, arguing and fighting at all hours of the day.

“Cursing, yelling, running up and down the stairs, slamming doors,” Walter Washington said, adding that Pope has been a constant presence. “(Pope’s) kind of like the house mom, so to speak, for the building.”

Alexandria Police did not respond to calls for comment.

This is the second homicide this year in Alexandria. The first homicide occurred a mile-and-a-half away on July 29.

Video via Taylor Brown / Image via Facebook

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In response to the city’s second murder, Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said the city must redouble its efforts to  “get these dangerous criminals and their weapons off our streets.”

“I am saddened to hear that another Alexandria neighborhood has experienced this horrific violence,” Wilson told ALXnow. “I know that our Police Department is working around the clock to bring the perpetrator of this homicide to justice and I have every confidence they will be successful. I keep the victim and his family in my thoughts during this extraordinarily difficult time.”

On Wednesday afternoon, a 57-year-old man was shot to death in a residential neighborhood in the Landmark area. Later that same day, guns were drawn in a failed attempted robbery less than a mile away — the latest violent incidents in what Wilson acknowledges is part of an uptick in violent crime.

Alexandria Police Chief Michael Brown is soon expected to comment on the homicide.

Wilson said he is in constant contact with the police department and city leadership regarding these and other incidents. He said that neither of the homicides appear to be connected “in any way” to the other firearms incidents around the city.

“Unfortunately, we have seen an uptick in firearm violence in the City, mirroring similar increases around the region this year,” he said. “We must redouble efforts to get these dangerous criminals and their weapons off our streets.”

Earlier this month there was a shootout in the West End, and there was a surge in calls for shots fired over the summer. The increase in violent crime led to a bigger police presence over the summer in the Parker Gray neighborhood in Old Town.The first murder of 2020 was committed in the West End on July 29.

This week, police are expected to release data on violent crimes and an update on the uptick in shooting events.

Councilman Mo Seifeldein said that the department is funded and fully capable of responding to these crimes.

“These are tragic events that we do not wish to see in our community,” Seifeldein said. “Our police department is fully equipped and funded to respond to these atrocious events, and I have full faith in their discharging that duty.”

City Councilwoman Del Pepper offered sympathy to the family of the murder victim, who has not yet been publicly identified.

“The police will be on top of it,” Pepper said. “We live in such troubled times, and when something like this comes along it shatters the lives of families and friends. It breaks my heart. We will find out who did it and we will bring justice to the victims.”

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A 57-year-old Alexandria man was shot to death on Wednesday afternoon in a residential neighborhood in the Landmark area.

The incident occurred just before 4 p.m. Alexandria Police found the victim suffering from a gunshot wound in the 5900 block of Quantrell Avenue. The man later died at the hospital.

The name of the victim has been withheld until his family has been notified, according to police.

The area where the man was shot is full of apartment complexes and situated between the Plaza at Landmark shopping center and Landmark Mall.

There was also a shootout in the West End on September 13 that left two people wounded.

This is the second homicide this year in Alexandria. The first homicide occurred a mile-and-a-half away on July 29.

Police are asking for anyone with information about the incident to contact Detective Ryan Clinch at 703-746-6673.

Map via Google Maps

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Morning Notes

Beyer Calls Breonna Taylor Ruling Unjust — “Breonna Taylor should still be alive. She did not deserve to die. This is not justice.” [Twitter]

Visit Alexandria Thanks Community With Video — “Here’s our tribute to Alexandria’s small businesses, hospitality workers, health department and city government, who are standing together in the face of the COVID-19 crisis. We thank you!” [Twitter]

You Can Put Your Likeness on Seats at the Little Theatre of Alexandria — “With social distancing in effect, we can fill only 46 of our 215 seats. A clever way of distancing our audiences while giving our performers the feeling of a sold-out event is to fill our unused seats with silhouettes sporting your face or that of a friend, family member, or pet.” [Facebook]

Rocklands Barbecue and Grilling Co. Wins Rammy Award — “Among the winners was Jamal Flowers of Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Co. in Alexandria for manager of the year. Rocklands Barbeque and Grilling Co also won a 2020 Honorary Milestone RAMMY Awards for 30 years.” [Patch]

City Giving Away Free Flu Shots — “This Saturday, from 9 AM until 3 PM, the City will be hosting the first of two free flu shot clinics. Saturday’s event will be drive-up (max of 4 to a car) at @TCWTitans at 3330 King St. This year, it is even more important than ever to get a flu shot!” [Twitter]

Transcript Reveals Details About City’s Only Homicide This Year — “The homicide case of Karla Dominguez has left many disappointed with and upset by the city’s criminal justice procedures in the era of COVID-19.” [Alex Times]

Today’s Weather — “Overcast (during the day). High 77F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Cloudy skies at night. Low 59F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New Job: ACPS Communications Specialist — “Responsible for researching, developing, implementing and evaluating communications for special projects to include capital projects, facilities projects, communication projects and projects that support schools, departments and the superintendent.” [Indeed]

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Homicide suspect Ibrahim Bouaichi has died as a result of self-inflicted gunshot wounds that left him in the hospital since Wednesday, Aug. 5.

Bouaichi was wanted for the July 29 murder of Karla Elizabeth Dominguez Gonzalez, whom he allegedly killed after he was released on bond awaiting trial for rape charges against her.

Police said on Wednesday, Bouaichi was observed in Maryland and pursued by police until his vehicle crashed in Prince George’s County. Officers who approached the vehicle found Bouaichi with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said, and he was transported to a hospital but did not recover.

The revelation that Bouaichi was released on bond by recently-retired Judge Nolan Dawkins during the pandemic, despite the violent charges against him, spurred widespread backlash online with officials admitting that Gonzalez was failed by the justice system.

The full press release is below:

Ibrahm Elkahlil Bouaichi, who was wanted for the July 29 murder of Karla Elizabeth Dominguez Gonzalez, succumbed today to self-inflicted injuries sustained on August 5. On that date, Alexandria police officers attached to the FBI’s regional Violent Crimes Task Force observed Bouaichi in Maryland and initiated a vehicle pursuit that ended shortly thereafter when Bouaichi’s vehicle crashed in Prince George’s County. Officers approaching the vehicle found Bouaichi with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was transported to a hospital, where he died today.

Photo via Alexandria Police Department

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