Newsletter

It was a surprising week in Alexandria.

Our top story by far was on the venomous rattlesnake found in Old Town on Sunday. The timber snake, which also goes by the name American Viper, was discovered in the 400 block of Gibbon Street — a few blocks from the waterfront. It didn’t bite anyone, and was apprehended by the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria’s Animal Services team and later moved to a wildlife facility in Northern Virginia.

This Saturday, June 19,  is also Juneteenth, and the new federal holiday recognizes the end of slavery in the U.S. The City recognized Juneteenth on Friday, and most government offices and facilities were closed. This weekend, the Alexandria Black History Museum is partnering with Washington Revels Jubilee Voices — a group that preserves local Black traditions through a cappella music, dramatic performances and dance — for a virtual Juneteenth Celebration.

Meanwhile, in-person dramatic and musical performances are being planned for July. The Little Theatre of Alexandria is expanding capacity with their new lineup of shows, and the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra will resume in-person performing in a reduced program at the City’s birthday celebration on the waterfront on July 10.

In other good news, a pair of T.C. Williams High School Titans raised more than $4,800 to attend the Outdoor Nationals at the University of Oregon on July 1.

In this week’s poll, we asked readers how they think the millions of first allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds should be spent, as City Council will conduct a public hearing on how to spend it on Saturday. After a rash of flooding incidents last year, a majority of the respondents want the funds prioritized for waterway maintenance.

This Sunday is also Father’s Day, and a number of Alexandria businesses are offering unique specials.

Important stories

Top stories

  1. JUST IN: Rarity as American Viper Rattlesnake found in Old Town
  2. Captain Sean Casey wins Democratic primary and is running unopposed for Sheriff in November
  3. Woman assaulted by mob and pepper-sprayed in Old Town North
  4. Man dies of apparent overdose at coworking office in Old Town
  5. T.C. Williams High School’s final graduating class walks the stage
  6. Alexandria Fire Department rescues woman from stalled car, Flash Flood Watch in effect
  7. City launches Duke Street transit overhaul process
  8. For Taco Bamba owner, newly announced Landmark location is a homecoming
  9. Shortened Alexandria Birthday celebration is still on for July 10
  10. Here’s what to do when you find dead birds amid recent epidemic
  11. Java Grill closed until further notice in Old Town

Have a safe weekend! 

Courtesy AWLA/Twitter 

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Morning Notes

The Twig donates $150K to Inova Alexandria Hospital — “During their annual luncheon Tuesday morning, The Twig (Together We Ignite Giving), the junior auxiliary unit for Inova Alexandria Hospital, presented a $150,000 check to the institution as part of its $1 million pledge to renovate the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit.” [Zebra]

Amazon and Metro announce $125M plan to make 1,000 affordable housing units near Metro stations — “This represents another return on the region’s extraordinary investment in mass transit, as the partnership with Amazon will accelerate transit-oriented development, grow ridership, and keep our region competitive with other global economic centers,” said Metro Board Chair Paul Smedberg. “Amazon is stepping up to the plate with an unprecedented commitment to affordable housing in the National Capital Region.” [WMATA]

Sheriff’s deputies and police officers graduate from Northern Virginia Criminal Justice Training Academy — “The new law enforcement officers successfully completed 20 weeks of training, including emergency vehicle operations, firearms training, defensive and control tactics, crash investigation, basic legal training, and other important areas. Some Alexandria members of this class distinguished themselves, with Officer Stephen Weidman earning top honors in the Emergency Vehicle Operations Course and Officer Yadiel Nuñez having the second highest score in Firearms.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Sunny skies. High near 80F. Winds NNW at 5 to 10 mph… Some clouds early will give way to generally clear conditions overnight. Low 58F. Winds light and variable.” [Weather.com]

New job: Bartender/Server/Runner — “The Old Dominion Boat Club is looking to hire servers, bartenders, and food runners. We have competitive pay and participate in a very healthy and robust tip share.” [Indeed]

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Three minutes before polls closed on June 8 — the day of the Democratic primary — Captain Sean Casey was at the City’s Office of Voter Registrations and Elections. He wanted to see if anyone was running against him for sheriff.

It was slightly anticlimactic.

Registrar Angie Turner told Casey at 6:57 p.m. that he had three minutes to find out if he had an opponent, but that up to that point nobody else filed to run against him. So, they waited there until 7 p.m. and then Turner told him the good news: He is running unopposed in November and will replace retiring Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne.

“I basically stood next to her for the next three minutes until 7, and that was it,” Casey said.

The 39-year-old Casey then made some phone calls, sent out a few texts, and, before going home briefly stopped by City Councilwoman Amy Jackson’s house to watch the initial returns come in.

Even though he’s already won, Casey says he will still act like a candidate.

“I’m still going to take the opportunity to go knock on doors,” he said. “I’m still going to go to farmers markets events. I’m still gonna look for opportunities to engage with the constituency. There’s a bunch of people that don’t know me, but I want them to know me and people don’t know what the Sheriff’s Office does, and that and that’s something that I really want to change.”

Casey’s priorities include redeveloping the work release program for inmates, opening enrollment availability to job applicants and resuming the Office’s cadet program that allows 18-year-olds to become employees.

A lifelong Alexandrian and graduate of T.C. Williams High School, Casey joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2017 after a 14 year stint with the Alexandria Police Department. He’s currently the commander of the Administrative Services Division and is responsible for human resources, internal investigations, accreditation, community relations and the office’s COVID-19 response.

As for the office vibe now that he’s essentially the sheriff-elect, Casey said that nothing much has changed.

“All the staff are being very supportive,” he said. “I have no doubt that when the time comes and the transition actually happens it will be a smooth and seamless transition.”

Election day is November 2, 2021.

Courtesy City of Alexandria

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Morning Notes

Sheriff Dana Lawhorne to receive Lifetime Valor Award — “In recognition of his retirement, we are pleased to honor Sheriff Dana Lawhorne with a Lifetime Valor Award at this year’s Valor Awards. Join us virtually, on June 22nd, to honor Sheriff Lawhorne’s 43 years of law enforcement service to Alexandria.” [Chamber ALX]

West End Business Association hosting 1 p.m. conversation with Mayor — “Take this opportunity to ask questions and connect with Mayor Justin Wilson about how he would continue to serve the city of Alexandria.” [WEBA]

Chinquapin Recreation Center closing for improvements June 26 — “The City of Alexandria’s Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King St.) will close Saturday, June 26 through Monday, Sept. 6, for several planned facility improvements and annual cleaning.” [Zebra]

Vaccine Equity Clinic on Route 1 in Fairfax County offering free transportation — “The Health Department and Fairfax Connector have partnered to offer free transportation to those who want to get vaccinated at the clinic, located in the former Safeway site at 7451 Mount Vernon Square Center in Alexandria. Fairfax Connector’s Free Vaccine Shuttle will run along Fairfax Connector’s line in that region.” [Fairfax County]

Annual Waterfront Commission walk is today — “The walk will be in person starting at (5 p.m. at) the intersection of Oronoco and South Union Streets and will proceed south to Robinson Landing. The walk is anticipated to end at 6:30 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]

Fire Department conducting community meeting on restructuring today — “The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) will implement an organizational restructure, effective Saturday, June 12, 2021. The goals of the changes are to improve service efficiency and response times across the City; reduce cost; increase safety on the roadways; and improve response preparedness for specialty teams such as the Technical Rescue, Hazardous Materials, and Inland Water Rescue teams. AFD Representatives will present the upcoming changes to the community and answer questions.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with numerous thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%… Thunderstorms in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with still a chance of showers. Low around 65F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Ghost tour guide — “US Ghost Adventures, a national tour operation is seeking energetic storytellers to lead 90-minute walking tour groups downtown. This part-time position is ideal for self-motivated candidates looking for a fun way to make extra income in the evenings.” [Indeed]

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The Alexandria Jail is slowly easing COVID-19 restrictions, and the Sheriff’s Office says it is looking at resuming in-person visitation between family members and inmates.

The jail population is hovering at around 250-270 inmates, said Captain Sean Casey. That’s an ideal figure, he said, since capacity is 338 and the extra space has been needed for distancing.

“The staff is tired of COVID,” Casey told ALXnow. “Everyone’s tired, but I have to say that they continue to show up each and every day, they do a phenomenal job under very challenging circumstances, and I couldn’t be prouder of how they dealt with this challenge.”

On May 1, the Sheriff’s Office opened in-person attorney-client visitation, which for more than a year has been restricted. Attorneys must contact the jail at least the day before their visit, and are asked to wear a face mask and be vaccinated (although it’s through the honor system and nobody will ask for proof). Throughout the pandemic, each inmate has gotten weekly 15 minute Zoom chats with their family or friends and an hour of free phone calls.

“We’ve been doing video visitation for all of our inmates,” Casey said. “We’re going to revisit in-person social visitation at some point in the near future. We’re trying to get a feel on how the attorney-client in-person visitation works out, making sure we don’t have any slip ups or issues with that. So far the inmates have been pleased with the video visitation visits, and there hasn’t been a clamoring from them to bring back the in-person.”

Casey, who is running unopposed for Sheriff in November, said that inmates still have to wear their face masks. Two general population housing units in the jail have also fully reopened and inmates are able to get more time out of their cells. Also, about 165 inmates have been vaccinated since January, he said.

“The CDC says that in congregate settings, especially jails, not to eliminate masks,” Casey said. “We are not planning on doing that anytime soon. We talked to the Alexandria Health Department, and they have advised against it. We are taking their advice. We’ve also talked to our medical staff and they’ve advised us to continue wearing masks in the jail, so we will continue to do it.”

Image via City of Alexandria

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A 62-year old suspected bank robber at the Alexandria Jail died at Inova Alexandria Hospital after a suicide attempt on May 18, the Sheriff’s Office said in a release.

Christopher Lapp was found unresponsive in his cell at 1:37 a.m., and he later died at 6:32 p.m. that same day. The manner of his death was not released.

Lapp allegedly robbed a Wells Fargo Bank in Great Falls in 2018, and suffered from severed mental issues, according to the Washington Post. He was transferred to the Alexandria Jail in March.

The Post also found that a clinician at the jail discontinued giving him psychotropic medication “after a staff clinician opined Lapp was not mentally ill.”

“Because this is an in-custody death, the Alexandria Police Department will conduct the death investigation, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement. “In addition, the Sheriff’s Office is conducting its own internal review.”

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Morning Notes

School Board vice chair condemns City Council elimination of School Resource Office program — “Without surveying the larger community, they made a decision that frankly their backgrounds don’t qualify them to understand the ramifications of their actions. It’s still puzzling, even after a 2.5-hour exchange by council, what problem council was trying to solve, as the SRO program has not only been highlighted to be a successful partnership, but also there was no evidence to suggest otherwise.” [Alex Times]

Investigative journalist Nick Horrock dies — “Perhaps the best example of his courage came in 1968 when he was trying to expose problems in the prison system. His head shaved, he went undercover as an inmate at the Maryland State Penitentiary. With only the warden and the governor aware of why he was truly there, there was no special protection from either the inmates or the guards. He survived unscathed, he wrote, he won accolades and prizes but he was awash in fear when he was doing it.” [Gazette]

Animal Welfare League ‘Cover the Cruiser’ event on Saturday in Del Ray — “Join us this Saturday from 10-2 to help us Cover the Cruiser! We’ll be out in front of The Dog Store in Del Ray along with @AlexandriaVAPD and @AlexVASheriff to cover their vehicles with donated pet supplies to help animals in need!” [Twitter]

Chamber ALX hosting City Council candidate meet-and-greet on June 1 — “The Alexandria Chamber of Commerce will gather members and friends for a “speed networking” type of event where Candidates for Alexandria City Council and Mayor will hop from virtual table to table to have micro conversations and targeted discussions with each group of attendees. Attendees will be seated by areas of interest to better focus the small group conversations.” [Chamber ALX]

Today’s weather — “Sunshine and clouds mixed. High 89F. N winds shifting to ESE at 10 to 15 mph… A few clouds. Low 56F. Winds SE at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Entry level appointment setter — “We are hiring for individuals who have a background in either customer service, finance, or sales. If you are searching for a company that pays well, and takes care of all members, feel free to apply. We are looking to add 4 new members to our team. We fully train, so experience in our industry is not required. If you work hard and show that you are serious, we do have advancement opportunities. We truly care about helping our associates succeed and we have the tools.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Sheriff’s Office warns of phone scammers — “If you receive a call from someone saying they are from the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office (or any other law enforcement agency) and that you have to pay them money, hang up. Scammers will try a variety of approaches to intimidate and coerce people into giving them money. But actual sheriffs’ offices in Virginia will never call you and demand money.” [Twitter]

April 30 deadline for logo design contest for Alexandria City High School — “All ACPS currently enrolled students are invited to participate in a logo design contest to represent the new high school name Alexandria City High School. The deadline to submit an entry is April 30, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. See the complete competition guidelines and rules. Logo entries must be uploaded through the Logo Design Submission Form. Featured above are the previous logos used for T.C. Williams. More information about designs for Naomi L. Brooks Elementary School will be shared in the coming weeks.” [ACPS]

Bug appetit: These city residents are eating cicadas — “This year, you won’t find cicadas on the menu at restaurants in Alexandria — serving bugs is a health code violation and isn’t allowed in Virginia.  But for the adventurous, there are a lot of ways to cook cicadas at home. Brian Schwatken, who lives in Alexandria, cooked and ate a cicada a few years ago — and liked it.” [Alexandria Living]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy (during the day). High 88F. Winds SW at 10 to 20 mph… Cloudy (in the evening). Low 66F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Dog walker — “Walkers will be expected to pick up dogs from their owners and drive them to the dog park, play with them at the dog park, and then drive the dogs back to their homes. Pay ranges from $350 to $500 per week, depending on the number of dogs scheduled for that week.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Nothing Bundt Cakes opens in West End — “Nothing Bundt Cakes sells a variety of bundt cakes, bundt cake towers, mini bundt cakes and bite-size bundt cakes. There are nine basic flavors, including traditional vanilla and chocolate, plus marble, confetti, red velvet, pecan praline, white chocolate raspberry, carrot cake and more.” [Alexandria Living]

Councilman Canek Aguirre kicks off reelection campaign — “We have to invest in our school buildings. We have to invest in our city buildings. And that’s definitely something that we have to continue to do because it’s just going to get more expensive.” [Alex Times]

Mayor endorses Sean Casey for Sheriff — “Watching Sean Casey kick-off his campaign to be our next Sheriff. @DanaLawhorne is leaving very large shoes to fill, but I am confident Sean will be a great Sheriff for our City.” [Twitter]

Motorcyclist hospitalized after Saturday morning crash — “The Alexandria Police Dept is investigating a traffic crash between a vehicle and a motorcycle at Seminary Rd and Fillmore Ave that occurred around 8:45am. Motorcyclist was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Streets should reopen soon.” [Twitter]

ACPS makes new rules on outdoor eating and play before March 16 reopening — “With Alexandria City Public Schools set to bring back all students who have opted for hybrid in-person learning on March 16, district staff provided an update on the division’s hybrid learning plans at the March 4 School Board meeting.” [Alex Times]

Today’s weather — “Generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds. High around 50F. Winds N at 10 to 15 mph… Mainly cloudy with a mixture of rain and snow showers developing late. Low near 35F. Winds light and variable. Chance of precip 40%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Pet Bather — “Minimum of six months bathing experience in a professional grooming salon-we will not consider applicants without experience” [Indeed]

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What an eventful week in Alexandria.

Thursday, March 11, marked the one-year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic in Alexandria. As the vaccine rollout slowly improves, the most recent news is the allowance of restaurant workers to get the vaccine. Just over 38,000 doses have been administered in the city, and of that 14,661 residents have been fully vaccinated. The city also wants 80% of residents vaccinated by July 31.

Alexandria Sheriff Dana Lawhorne also announced that he will not seek reelection this fall, bringing an end to his 43-year law enforcement career. Lawhorne’s protege Sean Casey is now running for the seat in the June 8 Democratic primary.

Criticism against the proposed renovation of the Taylor Run Stream continued this week, and even City Councilwoman Amy Jackson has decided to join residents in opposition.

More than 220 people participated in our poll this week on school resource officers. More than half of respondents said that ACPS should hire more SROs, 30% said the program should be eliminated and 11% believe SROs should only work part time.

In case you missed them, here are some other important stories:

Our top stories this week:

  1. Inova to Launch New Vaccine Clinic Inside Revamped Victory Center
  2. Battle Royale: Princess Street Development Duel Returns to City This Month
  3. Just In: Captain Sean Casey is Running for Alexandria Sheriff
  4. Alexandria Police Arrest Seven People and Seize Drugs, Guns and Cash
  5. Development Questions Remain for New Braddock West Project Headed to City Council
  6. City Could Help Turn Hotels Emptied by Coronavirus Into Affordable Housing
  7. Just Listed in Alexandria
  8. Do You Like the Suggested Names for T.C. Williams and Matthew Maury?
  9. A Year Late, Contractor Eyes Spring Completion for King Street Metro Access Improvement Project
  10. Superintendent Proposes New Names for T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary
  11. Councilwoman Amy Jackson Argues With School Board Over MacArthur Elementary Construction Schedule

Have a safe weekend!

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