Alexandria, VA

Several people were threatened at gunpoint twice by the same group of armed robbers in the West End in late September.

New details in a police affidavit show that several men who had been threatened by a group of robbers had tried to take a circuitous route home to avoid showing where they lived, only to run into the robbers again with a repeated demand for cash.

“One of the victims, who spoke the best English… stated that he and four of his friends were [on] Sheffield Court,” the affidavit said. “They were walking back to their apartment… when five black males approached them, one of them on a scooter.”

The victim said that three of the men who approached them had firearms in their waistbands and one of the suspects said the victims each had to give $20.

“[The victim] and his friends told the suspects that they didn’t have any money and pulled out their wallets to show them that they were empty,” the victim said. “The victims convinced the group of suspects to let them leave and the victims started to walk down Sheffield Court towards Sanger Avenue so they didn’t lead the suspects back to their apartment. Once the victims got to Sanger, the same group of suspects approached them again.”

This time, the men pulled their guns out of their waistbands and, again, demanded $20 from the group.

The second robbery was interrupted by the sound of sirens, and the suspects fled down the street.

One person, 19-year old Vince Mason Jr., was arrested at the scene while others fled into the nearby forest. Police couldn’t locate the other suspects, though the next day a pistol was found there. Another one of Mason’s associates matched a description from witnesses and is currently being investigated.

Image via Google Maps

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A 34-year-old Washington D.C. man labeled the Beltway Bank Bandit by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, pleaded guilty to three counts of brandishing a firearm during a series of bank and shoe store robberies in and around Alexandria in 2018 and 2019.

Freddie Lee McRae will be sentenced on February 23, 2021, and faces up to life in prison and a mandatory minimum of 21 years in prison. On November 13, 2018, McRrae robbed a Wells Fargo Bank in Alexandria, handed the teller a note and demanded money, indicated that he had a gun and said he would “kill all bankers” if his directions were not followed. He then pointed a handgun at two tellers and ran out of the bank with $8,750, according to prosecutors.

The following month, McRae robbed a Burke & Herbert branch in Alexandria. He walked up to a teller and said, “Gimme your money,” and then pointed a gun at the teller.

“As the teller gathered money, McRae racked the slide on the pistol and demanded all large bills,” according to United States Attorney G. Zachary Terwilliger of the Eastern District of Virginia. “McRae fled with approximately $1,366 in cash.”

McRae was arrested after robbing the Legend Kicks & Apparel in Arlington on April 21, 2019. After a brief police chase on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, McRae jumped out of his moving car before it crashed and sank in the Potomac River, and then unsuccessfully tried to escape by jumping in the river.

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The Alexandria Police Department is investigating two armed robberies that occurred over the weekend.

At around 8:30 p.m. on Friday, October 23, a male juvenile was robbed of personal belongings in the 3400 block of Mount Vernon Avenue in Del Ray. The victim was not injured and police did not provide information on the suspect or if a weapon was involved.

The Del Ray incident occurred a few hours before a man was shot five blocks away by a security guard at 3901 Mount Vernon Avenue.

At around 3 a.m. on Saturday, October 24, a man was robbed of personal belongings and assaulted by two suspects at gunpoint in the 100 block of S. Bragg Street in the West End. Again, police provided no suspect description.

West End and Del Ray Maps via Google Maps

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This was a big week for Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the Alexandria School Board’s decision to reopen schools for students with disabilities, while the future reopening of school for elementary, middle and high schoolers remains in doubt.

Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. said that the only feasible option for reopening schools — based on distancing and staffing constraints — would be for students to rotate to in-person schooling only one day per week. Hutchings also appeared on CNN and said that ACPS is not likely to fully reopen until there is a vaccine for the coronavirus.

We also reported that the Alexandria City Council approved plans for Virginia Tech’s Innovation Campus and the North Potomac Yard development plan, virtually paving the way for the college to open its doors to hundreds of students by 2024.

“This is a very significant set of decisions for the city, and is really going to shape, not just a portion of our city, but really the entirety of our city for a long period of time to come,” said Mayor Justin Wilson.

On the coronavirus front, there are now 75 deaths in Alexandria and there are now or have been more than 4,100 cases since the pandemic began in March. Latino residents continue to lead the case count.

Governor Ralph Northam and Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine were in the city on Monday to unveil a team of new zero emission DASH electric buses.

We also reported that the City Council unanimously approved naming the 1000 block of Montgomery Street in Old Town “Earl F. Lloyd Way” in honor of the first Black man to ever play in the National Basketball Association.

Restaurant-wise, we spoke with one of the owners of a pizza and burger joint that is taking over the former location of Pizzeria Paradiso on lower King Street. The Chewish Deli is also now open in Old Town, and the owner of Del Ray Boccato says that his gelato shop will soon open.

Additionally, more than 175 people participated in our weekly poll. With the November 3 election around the corner, this week we asked about voting plans, and 65% of respondents voted by mail/absentee, 31% plan to vote on election day, and 4% are not voting.

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

  1. School Board Shelves Plan to Reopen Schools in 2021, Students with Disabilities Transitioning Back Next Month
  2. City Releasing Torpedo Factory Draft Action Plan Today
  3. City Council Approves Virginia Tech Innovation Campus and North Potomac Yard Development Plan
  4. Alexandria Student Called N-Word in Online Forum, and Not By Another Student
  5. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  6. The Chewish Deli Opens New Location in Old Town
  7. One Arrested After Attempted Armed Robbery in Alexandria’s West End
  8. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  9. Female Suspect Flees, Nothing Taken in Attempted Old Town Bank Robbery
  10. Alexandria and Arlington Want a New Future for the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center
  11. Alexandria Courthouse Deep Cleaned After Employee Tests Positive for COVID-19

Have a safe weekend!

Photo via ACPS/Facebook

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Nothing was taken in an attempted robbery at the BB&T Bank at 300 S. Washington Street on Tuesday, October 11.

At around 4:45 p.m., which is 15 minutes before the bank closes, a woman walked into the bank and handed a teller a note demanding money. Nothing was taken and the suspect fled the scene, according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.

No suspect description is available.

The bank is located two blocks south of King Street. It is one of a half dozen banks along Washington Street, which bisects the George Washington Memorial Parkway between Mount Vernon and Washington, D.C.

Map via Google Maps

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What a week it’s been in Alexandria.

Our top story this week was the report that Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. sends one of his children to Bishop Ireton High School. In case you missed it, the story first broke in Theogony, the T.C. Williams High School newspaper.

Hutchings also presented his plan for a phased reopening of ACPS starting next month. The results of a survey over virtual schooling were also released, revealing that screen time and childcare were among the top concerns of students, staff and families.

On the health front, Alexandria exceeded 4,000 total cases of COVID-19 since the first case was reported on March 11.

Additionally, more than 200 people participated in our weekly poll on traveling this holiday season, and 56% reported they will not travel, 27% still plan on traveling, and 17% still haven’t decided.

Crime-wise, we reported that a woman was assaulted in Arlandria on October 11; an arrest was made after an attempted armed robbery in the West End; a West End gas station was robbed of $1,700 in tobacco products; a woman ended up not being charged after firing a warning shot at a man in the 4300 block of Duke Street; and the mother of a man whose truck was stolen in Del Ray received an unexpected phone call from the thief.

There was some good news.

The southern entrance of the Potomac Yard Metro station is really taking shape, at least on paper. This week, the final plans going to the city were made public. The Board of Architectural Review will look at them at their meeting on Wednesday, October 21.

And in recognition of Oyster Week, ALXnow on Thursday emceed the first-ever “Pearl of Alexandria Oyster Eating Contest” between rival Del Ray and Old Town business owners.

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

  1. Report: ACPS Superintendent Sends Child to Bishop Ireton High School
  2. Police: Illegal Drugs Sold in West End Via Snapchat During Pandemic
  3. Republican Jeff Jordan Running Uphill Battle Against Incumbent Rep. Don Beyer
  4. BREAKING: Suspect Arrested for West End Murder
  5. ISIS ‘Beatles’ Held in Alexandria Jail, Charged with American Murders in Syria
  6. Here’s What the Potomac Yard Metro Station’s Southern Entrance Will Look Like
  7. Superintendent Proposing Phased Reopening of Alexandria City Public Schools Starting in November
  8. A Dozen Restaurants are Participating in Old Town Oyster Week
  9. VIDEO: West End Murder Victim Identified
  10. ‘Brewski’s Barkhaus’ is Opening This Saturday
  11. Old Virginia Tobacco Co. Moves Directly Across Street from Longtime Old Town Tobacconist

Have a safe weekend!

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Alexandria Police arrested a 19-year-old man they say was hiding in the woods after an attempted armed robbery in the West End.

The incident occurred at 10:50 p.m. on September 30, and the four male victims were walking when they were approached by five men demanding money. Three of the suspects showed handguns in their waistbands, but nothing was stolen, according to police.

“After leaving the area, the suspects re-approached the victims and demanded money again,” police reported in a search warrant affidavit. “This time, three male suspects pulled handguns out while demanding money.”

The attempted robbery occurred a mile from where a man was shot and killed earlier that day. The area is near the intersection with North Van Dorn Street, which runs alongside Interstate 395 and is around the corner to the Winkler Preserve.

One of the victims told police that two suspects, one wearing a white hoodie and the other in a black hoodie, ran into the woods on the east side of Knole Court.

Vince Mason, Jr. was found “hiding” in the woods, according to police. Mason was then positively identified by one of the victims.

“A white hoodie was found hanging on the dumpster and Mr. Mason Jr. admitted that it was his,” notes the affidavit. “The trees/woods that Mr. Mason Jr. had been hiding in were extremely dense, and it was dark outside. As such, law enforcement was unable to conduct a thorough search of the area.”

At 4 p.m. the next day, police found a handgun in the woods close to where Mason was arrested.

Map and photo via Google Maps

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Alexandria Police say that multiple guns were drawn in an attempted evening robbery in the 5300 block of Sanger Avenue. A helicopter was used to try to locate the suspects, who walked up to a group and drew guns.

The incident occurred at 10:40 p.m., and was reported on Twitter at 11:10 p.m. It is located a mile from where a man was shot and killed earlier in the day.

“Multiple people walked up to a group of multiple people and demanded property,” Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow. “Nothing was taken.”

There were no arrests.

The area is near the intersection with North Van Dorn Street, which runs alongside Interstate 395 and is around the corner to the Winkler Preserve.

This week, police will release data on violent crimes and an update on the recent uptick in shooting events.

Map and photo via Google Maps

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Alexandria Police are investigating a robbery from a person that occurred in the Del Ray/Rosemont area at around midnight on Tuesday morning, September 8.

According to police, a person was robbed in the area of West Mason Avenue and Russell Road. The area is mostly residential and surrounded by churches.

Alexandria Police did not respond to ALXnow’s questions on the incident.

Map via Google Maps

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A man walked into a Del Ray gas station on Saturday and robbed the location, according to police.

The incident occurred at a Shell Station on the 1600 block of Mount Vernon Avenue on Saturday afternoon, police said.

Lt. Courtney Ballantine said a man walked into the service station and displayed a gun. He took cash from the gas station and left, Ballantine said. There were no injuries and no suspect description was released.

Photo via Google Maps

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Alexandria Police are investigating an attempted robbery in a residential neighborhood in the West End of the city, which occurred hours before a woman was shot to death less than a mile away early Wednesday morning (July 29).

The male victim was reportedly cut multiple times during the altercation, but the injuries were not life threatening, according to Alexandria Assistant Police Chief Don Hayes.

The incident occurred just before 5 a.m. in the area of Beauregard Street and N. Armistead Street. The victim was out walking when he was approached by three males who demanded his wallet.

“When he refused he was assaulted,” Hayes told ALXnow, adding that the suspects are not known to the victim or police. “No property was taken.”

Hayes said that no similar incidents have occurred in the area in recent days. The attempted robbery is near to where two people were stabbed in March and less than a mile from where a man was robbed of $400 at gunpoint at the end of May.

As of June 6, there were 914 larcenies in the city, an increase of 119 incidents, or 15%, since last year. There were also 109 stolen vehicles, a 15% increase; and 46 burglaries, which is a 25% increase over last year.

File photo/ Map via Google Maps

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m. on June 9) Alexandria Police say that more than half of the crime increases in ALXnow’s recent report are attributable to larcenies from vehicles during the pandemic and 36 incidents at the Target store at 3101 Richmond Highway. 

“The 80% increase in larcenies at Target year-to-date (45 in 2019 vs. 81 in 2020) is because the store significantly increased their loss prevention staff in January 2020,” Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine told ALXnow. “This has helped identify more shoplifters, but it does not necessarily represent an increase in shoplifting.

Ballantine said the vehicle larcenies are primarily due to “owners leaving vehicles unattended for long periods of time while at home during the pandemic.”

He added that larcenies from buildings are down 19.2% year-to-date (167 in 2019, 135 in 2020). During the pandemic period alone (March to present), they are down 18.3% year-to-date (93 in 2019, 76 in 2020). 

Alexandria has experienced a double-digit percentage increase in crime over last year, according to data provided by the Alexandria Police Department to ALXnow.

While there have been no murders this year and aggravated assaults, rapes and robberies are down, there are noted increases in burglaries, larcenies and stolen vehicles.

Police are currently investigating a number of shooting incidents, including the March 31 shooting of a 17-year-old in what is believed to be a targeted attack, as well as a number of shots fired incidents.

As of June 6, there were 914 larcenies in the city, an increase of 119 incidents, or 15%, since last year. There were also 109 stolen vehicles, a 15% increase; and 46 burglaries, which is a 25% increase over last year.

While auto thefts increased this year, there were 18 vehicle thefts reported last month, which is a decrease from April, which saw 26 stolen vehicles, according to Alexandria Police spokesman Lt. Courtney Ballantine.

Among the vehicles stolen between March 27 and April 26 were eight reported incidents of stolen mopeds or scooter vehicles in Alexandria, all of which remain under investigation, Ballantine said.

“All of these incidents occurred on a public highway, street, sidewalk or open access parking lots for apartment complexes,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

Staff photo by James Cullum

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