Alexandria, VA

The July 4 holiday weekend is here, and it’s hard to believe that 2020 is more than halfway over. Not only has the year flown by, but so has the last week.

Alexandria joined the rest of Virginia in entering into the third phase of its reopening, the oldest resident in the city turned 109, a police officer was charged with assault and battery for a January arrest

Here are some of the top stories in Alexandria this week:

  1. Margaret Chisley Celebrates 109 Years in Alexandria
  2. Alexandria Police Officer Charged With Assault and Battery for Unjustified Use of Force
  3. New State Laws Pushed by Alexandria Take Effect Tomorrow
  4. Old Dominion Boat Club’s Waterfront Revival Plans Resurface
  5. Alexandria Renters Ask Governor to Extend Moratorium on Evictions
  6. Businesses Face Tough Recovery as Alexandria Lags Behind Neighbors in Consumer Spending
  7. New Catholic University Location Coming to Carlyle
  8. Old Town Garden-Style Apartments to Be Replaced by Multifamily Apartment Complex
  9. City Recommends Riding E-Scooters for Errands and Social Distancing
  10. Reminder: Next Phase of Reopening Starts Tomorrow but Indoor Mask Requirement Still In Effect

Be safe this weekend, and feel free to add to the discussion in the comments.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Alexandria Police Officer Jonathan Griffin has been charged with assault and battery for an unjustified use of force against a handcuffed resident in January, according to the city.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter said that 32-year-old, who was dismissed from the department after the incident, was charged with one count of assault and battery. The charge is a Class 1 misdemeanor and the maximum penalty is a year in prison and a $2,500 fine.

The incident occurred on January 27, and Griffin arrested the victim for a health evaluation, according to a city release. Griffin joined the department in 2012 and was assigned to the Community Oriented Policing Unit.

“While escorting the individual in handcuffs, Officer Griffin used force to take the individual to the ground. The individual sustained multiple injuries on the front of his body as a result of the action,” the city said. “A subsequent investigation found that no force was necessary or justified.”

Griffin was placed on administrative leave on June 3 and was notified on June 26 that he was going to be fired and his case had been sent to Porter’s office, according to the city. His termination is expected to be finalized this month. Additionally, three supervisors who “failed to investigate the use of force promptly enough have also been disciplined,” the city noted.

Griffin was booked at the Alexandria Jail and was released pending his arraignment at the Alexandria Courthouse on August 4.

This is no surprise to us that these occurrences are happening in our city. We continue to demand to Alexandria City…

Posted by Tenants and Workers United – Inquilinos y Trabajadores Unidos on Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Photo via Alexandria Sheriff’s Office

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(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) The city reported in an email that the missing man has been found safe and unharmed and has returned home.

A search for a 65-year-old man missing since June 29 has stretched into Alexandria. The city says that Muhammad Khan may have been in the area of Van Dorn Street and Edsall Road in the city’s West End on June 30.

Khan was reportedly last seen on June 29 at 10 p.m. in the 6000 block of Leewood Drive in Fairfax County, which is about two-and-a-half miles from Van Dorn Street and Edsall Road. He also likes to frequent restaurants, according to a city news release.

“He is considered endangered due to mental and/or physical health concerns,” according to the release. “Mr. Khan is 6’0″, 190 pounds, with brown eyes and gray hair, last seen wearing a red checkered button-up shirt, orange pants and sandals.”

Anyone who sees Khan is asked to call or text 911.

Posted by Police Department, City of Alexandria, Virginia on Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Image via City of Alexandria

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Representatives of Alexandria’s law enforcement community, in a Monday night Zoom meeting, said they welcomed a closer look in order to eradicate systemic racism in their respective departments.

Police Chief Michael Brown and Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Shelbert Williams discussed the work that their departments have done over the years and in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police. Mayor Justin Wilson also chimed into the conversation, which was moderated by city’s racial and social equity officer Jaqueline Tucker.

The meeting was requested by activist Tiffany Flowers, who tweeted to Mayor Justin Wilson about opening an online conversation regarding policing in the city.

“I felt like protesting wasn’t just enough,” Flowers said. “I felt like the best way to go about getting this reform that we’re seeking is to start reaching out to our city officials, and I just want to thank the city of Alexandria for being so helpful.”

Earlier this month, the city council unanimously passed a proposal by Councilman Mo Seifeldein to create a police review board.

“I think time will only be test of this, but what I sense is the courage in the community to deal with some of these issues,” Wilson said, adding that new laws going into effect on July 1 will add more equity to arrests made. “Those are changes that relate to marijuana, those are changes as it relates to shoplifting that really add more equity and will change the way that public safety addresses these crimes. I think these are long overdue changes and will help address in some ways some of the disparities that we see.”

A recent report from the Alexandria Gazette, for instance, found that Black males in Alexandria are arrested far more frequently than anyone else.

Brown said the department is looking at its data to find any elements of bias.

“Clearly, with the anger and the voices being heard across the country, including this city, we have to look at what we’re doing to make sure we’re doing it right and treating people with respect,” Brown said.

Williams, who is African American, said that it’s understandable that the community is angry.

“It’s tough to convince people that we’re doing what we need to do as law enforcement officers, to be fair, to understand that everyone’s human beings, and we should be treated with that same respect that we ask,” he said. “And with our officers, we’ve done that, in my opinion.”

Brown said that his department is currently 20.4% female, and the staff are 66% white, 18% African American, 5% Asian, 12% Hispanic and 2% other. He added that police are using tactics to deescalate situations, like a recent barricade situation in Potomac Yard, where a African American woman allegedly fired a handgun at officers from her home.

“Our folks used considerable restraint… in allowing the person eventually to get to the point where they fell asleep and were taken into protective custody without issue,” Brown said.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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An Alexandria police officer has been dismissed and is facing criminal review after allegedly using unjustified force against an unarmed man.

“A white male officer reported using weaponless force against a white male subject’s leg, in order to take him to the ground,” the City of Alexandria said in a press release. “The subsequent investigation determined that the use of force was unjustified because no force was necessary.”

Termination proceedings have been initiated, but the police department has also referred the use of force to the Commonwealth’s Attorney to consider criminal charges.

“Three supervisors who failed to investigate the use of force promptly enough have also been disciplined,” the city said.

City spokesman Craig Fifer said that because the termination proceedings and criminal review were still underway, the city would not release the name of the police officer at this time.

“Use of force is dehumanizing and should be avoided whenever possible, even when legally justified,” said Police Chief Michael Brown in the press release. “Unjustified use of force is completely unacceptable, and we will continue to hold officers accountable in the rare cases when violations of this policy occur. Alexandria police officers do not typically use force at all, because they are required to de-escalate interactions and situations when possible by communicating effectively with subjects, maintaining distance, and employing other measures to protect themselves and those around them.”

The full press release is available below:

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An Alexandria Police cruiser was reportedly spray-painted with Black Lives Matter messaging in the West End on the late evening of June 23 or early morning of June 24.

No suspects have been found, according to police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.

The cruiser was parked overnight at an apartment complex on Sanger Avenue near Beauregard Street. It was not damaged in any other way, Ballantine said.

“The officer woke up to find it covered with graffiti,” Ballantine said. “This is the first kind of incident of its kind I’ve heard about in the city.”

A photo of the marked cruiser was not available from police.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Gade Wins Primary, Faces Warner in November Election — “Gade handily defeated Thomas A. Speciale II and Alissa A. Baldwin in Tuesday’s Republican primary with about two-thirds of the votes cast statewide. In the City of Alexandria, Gade received about 63 percent of approximately 2,100 votes cast.” [Alexandria Living]

The Birchmere Reopening in July — “The Birchmere on Mount Vernon Avenue announced that the Billy Price Charm City Rhythm Band will perform July 10… During the public health emergency, there will be a $25 food and beverage minimum and a $5 fee the venue is calling a ‘Covid fee.'” [WTOP]

Two Free Food Distributions Today — “There will be a food distribution this Thursday, 6/25 from 5-6pm at John Adams with ALIVE and World Central Kitchen and this Saturday, 6/27 from 8:30-10:30am at both John Adams and Cora Kelly.” [Facebook]

New Job: DASH Temperature and Wellness Screener — “DASH is looking for temporary Temperature and Wellness Screeners to work full-time and part-time at the Alexandria, VA facility. Medical experience and/or a medical certification is preferred but not required. Temporary assignment will start ASAP with end date depending on business needs related to COVID-19.” [Indeed]

New Job: Police Human Resources and Labor Relations Division Chief — “The Human Resources and Labor Relations Division Chief is responsible for a variety of departmental functions including human resources, budgeting, new police officer training, DCJS mandated training, employee wellness, Peer Support and resiliency programs, and engagement with departmental labor groups.” [City of Alexandria]

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Morning Notes

City Releases Annual Homeless Data — “The 2020 Annual Point-in-Time (PIT) Count revealed 207 persons experiencing homelessness (i.e., unsheltered and in temporary shelter made available by homeless services providers) in the City of Alexandria.” [City of Alexandria]

Alexandria Police Release 2019 Traffic Stop Data — “The vast majority of traffic stops — 80 percent — occur on weekdays, with Tuesday and Wednesday being the most common days.” [Alexandria Living]

Carpenter’s Shelter Gets Hydrated — “Did you know today (Tuesday) is National Hydration Day? Thanks to Trezur C of Tres Outreach for donating twenty five cases of water to keep our residents nice and cool during these hot summer days!” [Facebook]

Fire Department Conducting Virtual Station Tours — “So instead of in person tours and visits, we thought we would provide a couple of virtual station tours for the community, especially those who are frequent visitors at their neighborhood stations and couldn’t drop by during the past few months. First up, Fire Station 206, located at 4609 Seminary Road…our tech rescue station.” [Facebook]

ALX Community Hosting COVID Coping Workshop June 25 — “Hosted by Elena Jimenez, founder of Execute Your Destiny, this series offers a rare opportunity to navigate the current social and racial climate in search of new perspectives and solutions.” [Eventbrite]

New Job: Part-Time Dance Teacher — “Looking for experienced dance and acro teachers. Openings on weekdays and Saturday. Primarily classes for children aged 3 and older.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria had quite a week, and it’s time to look back as it comes to a close.

In addition to moving into the second phase of its economic recovery, there were a number of important events of interest, including the city council’s passage of an ordinance prohibiting firearms on city property, approved the creation of a police review boardcontinued expressions of support for the black community in the wake of the George Floyd Murder, and a renewed effort to rename T.C. Williams High School.

Here are the top 11 most-read articles this week in Alexandria.

  1. BREAKING: Barricade Situation, Suspect Firing on Police on Main Line Boulevard
  2. What Changes When Alexandria Moves Into Phase 2 of Reopening
  3. T.C. Williams High School Renaming Question Resurfaces in Alexandria
  4. Man Wounded in Late Night Old Town Shooting, No Arrests
  5. Photos: Vigils and Protests Against Police Brutality Held in Alexandria
  6. Protests and Vigils for Racial Justice Planned in Alexandria
  7. Old Town Property Once Owned by George Washington For Sale at $4.1 Million
  8. Mayor: Alexandria Could Move into Phase 2 of Reopening Next Week
  9. Morning Notes
  10. Goodies Frozen Custard & Treats Plans to Open Late This Summer in Old Town
  11. Just In: Alexandria Tow Truck Driver Killed on I-495

Feel free to discuss those or other topics in the comments. Have a safe weekend!

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Morning Notes

ACT for Alexandria Calls COVID-19 a Racial Issue, Sends $900K to Nonprofits — “To work towards a community where all Alexandrians have an equal chance of living prosperous, fulfilling lives, we must work together to address systemic racism. That is a tall order. But together we can make a difference. Your support of the ACT Now COVID-19 Response Fund is an important step. That support allows our community to better respond to the needs of our neighbors facing overwhelming challenges.” [ACT for Alexandria]

Beyer Finds Fault in Indicted Fairfax County Police Officer — “This officer’s actions were unjustified, and he failed his oath to protect and serve. Body-worn camera footage clearly shows he escalated the situation with unnecessary violence against an unarmed black man.” [Twitter]

Police Disproportionately Use Force Against Black Alexandrians — ” Force is used against black males more than any other group, according to numbers compiled by the police department and acquired through a public-records request… In the most recent report, which covers 2019, 54 percent of the instances of use of force was against African Americans. That’s significantly higher than the black population in Alexandria, which is 23 percent.” [Gazette]

Alexandria Black History Museum Executive Director Makes Statement on George Floyd’s Death — “All keepers of African American heritage pledge to forever say George Floyd’s name, preserve the history he represents, and educate the public about the millions of brilliant minds lost to hate in America.” [Zebra]

Alfred Street Baptist Church Pastor Marchin in D.C. on Sunday with NAACP — “We want to personally invite ALL believers to join Pastor Wesley and the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Collaboration with the NAACP for a Prayer Walk for Peace and Justice on this Sunday, June 14 starting at 6am ET. We’re gathering at the NAAMHC and walking to the newly named Black Lives Plaza, NW in Washington, DC. Visit our website to register.” [Facebook]

Joe Theismann’s Restaurant Reopens — “The restaurant will be open for take-out and delivery via online ordering at Theismanns.com, delivery via select third-party apps, and walk-in patio dining. The restaurant will debut an adjusted menu for lunch and dinner, and will be open Sunday through Thursday from 12 to 9 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 12 – 10 p.m.” [Theismann’s]

Hundreds Sign Petition to Rename T.C. Williams High School After Petey Jones — “Additionally, we believe the name should be changed to honor one of the men who participated in giving the school that reputation, and who worked as a longtime employee at T.C. Williams High School.  Petey Jones died in 2019 of prostate cancer.  We believe that T.C. Williams should be renamed after him.  Please sign this petition if you agree.” [Change.org]

New Job: Assistant Magazine Editor — ” Content creation and coordination for national trade association magazine, including reporting, writing, editing and contributing to monthly print edition (circulation 40,000) and weekly digital newsletters.”[Facebook]

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The Alexandria City Council unanimously agreed last night (Tuesday) that the city should Endorse a resolution condemning systemic racism and establish a community police review board. That vote was preceded by hours of heated debate on Council over red tape.

Some members were concerned that a new community police review board — which would investigate alleged abuses and use of force — would overlap with the City’s Human Rights Commission, the body which currently investigates instances where force is used.

“My only concern is trying to identify the gaps in what we currently have with the Human Rights Commission,” Wilson said. “Our end state is the set of functions and responsibilities for whatever that oversight of policing is to be. I guess my pause about the final resolve statement is — I read it as hyper-prescriptive to what that model looks like.”

After Police Chief Michael Brown said earlier in the meeting he was concerned that the two bodies might overlap, Mayor Justin Wilson said he thought the language should be tweaked to allow more investigation into how to put a community police review board together.

Chief Michael Brown offered to put something together with Alexandria City Manager Mark Jinks and present it to the City Council.

“I do not disagree with the concept of oversight,” said Brown. “I may be mincing words here, but a ‘review board’ as it’s phrased in our world, in policing, has a very negative connotation. It might be worth accomplishing the same things and accomplishing what Councilman Seifeldein wants to do and create our own that works for us.”

Wilson said the proposal could benefit from working with the Human Rights Commission before their authority to oversee use-of-force by the police is extricated and given to another body.

“I would be interested in learning more about how that structure occurs before endorsing a specific model,” Wilson said.

Others noted that the Human Rights Commission has a much broader scope of work than just police accountability and its membership is not chosen specifically with police oversight in mind.

The three council members of color expressed concern that passing a resolution condemning systemic racism discussing police brutality without making forward progress on actually putting a review board together made the condemnation hollow.

“Now it’s time to act,” said City Councilman Mo Seifeldein, who authored the resolution. “We’re trying to do something in action that is so basic and fundamental to government and democracy, and it’s being met with bureaucracy and red tape and other sentiments that don’t make much sense.”

Councilman Canek Aguirre said at the several vigils held over the last few weeks in Alexandria it was reiterated that talk is cheap and many Alexandrians are demanding action.

Councilman John Chapman said he remembered having similar conversations in 2010 and 2011 with the NAACP.

“In my view it is better to bring it this way and have some thoughtful conversation around it [as opposed to] a higher agency telling us we have to implement it,” Chapman said. “This is an opportunity to provide governing and transparency to an area most residents and citizens don’t fully understand.”

The Council acquiesced, but Seifeldein made it clear that the final result must be something that works as an arm of the City Council, not as a project of the City Manager and law enforcement.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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Alexandria Police are investigating an assault that put an Alexandria minor with non-life-threatening injuries on June 3 in the Del Ray/Rosemont area.

The incident, which was first reported by the Alexandria Times, occurred at around 10 p.m. in the area of Russell Road and Rosecrest Avenue. The victim was jumped by two suspects while walking home from a friend’s house, according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.

The victim is a member of the T.C. Williams High School varsity baseball team, according to The Times. He was reportedly driven to the hospital by his father.

The suspects did not have weapons and full descriptions of their appearances are not available. Nothing was stolen from the victim and the investigation is ongoing, Ballantine said.

File photo

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