A 17-year-old former Alexandria City High School student was found guilty Tuesday for last year’s fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez in the parking lot of the Bradlee Shopping Center.
Judge James C. Clark found the teen guilty of second-degree murder and murder by mob and said that the case is a tragedy for all involved. The defendant sat silently as Clark rendered his decision at the conclusion of the two-day bench trial. He faces between five-to-40 years in prison for the second-degree murder charge and five-to-40 years for the murder by mob, or lynching, charge.
“(The defendant) injected himself into that fight,” Clark said while rendering his verdict, and said that the suspect “made the unspeakably poor decision to approach Mr. Mejia Hernandez and interject himself in a fight he was involved with and stabbed him in the chest.”
Clark continued, “There was clearly a mob in the Bradlee parking lot. (The defendant) injected himself in that fight, not in the heat of passion or out of fear of Luis Mejia Hernandez.”
The stabbing occurred during a brawl between two rival gangs of Alexandria City High School teenagers on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 — a week before graduation. The fight was over within one minute, and Mejia Hernandez was fatally stabbed in the heart. An autopsy showed that he also had abrasions to his neck, chin, the back of his hands, abdomen and knees, according to the medical examiner who testified that the cause of death was a 7/8-inch stab wound to the chest.
“I’m very happy,” said Osmin Mejia Romero, the victim’s father, after Clark announced the verdict.
Defense attorney Sebastian Norton argued that his client acted in self-defense, was frightened and not a member of the mob — all claims that Clark refuted when announcing his verdict. Norton showed still images from videos of the incident revealing Mejia Hernandez winding up his right hand to strike the defendant, and said that the stabbing was “tragically an unlucky shot.”
The defendant told police during his interrogation that two rival gangs, which he dubbed “Chiri” and “West,” agreed to fight that day at the Bradlee Shopping Center.
“(The defendant) reasonably feared death or great bodily harm,” Norton said. “What happened on May 24 was a tragedy.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney David Lord said that the defendant callously found the fight he was looking for.
“Fifty random students of a city high school didn’t meet near the McDonald’s in order to eat cheeseburgers and ice cream,” Lord said. “(The defendant) was looking for a fight that day and he found one.”
The defendant is being held in the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center and will be sentenced on September 28. Clark has the option to sentence him entirely as a juvenile or adult, or combining a juvenile and adult sentence. Clark said that between now and September should give him time to determine the character of the defendant and whether he’s a “gang banger.”
The 17-year-old male suspect facing murder charges in last year’s fatal stabbing of 18-year-old Luis Mejia Hernandez was implicated by damning evidence police found on his phone, according to evidence presented Monday.
Monday’s bench trial will continue into today for the defense to present their case, and a speedy verdict on second degree murder and murder by mob charges is expected from Judge James C. Clark. The suspect faces between five-to-40 years in prison for the second degree murder charge and five-to-40 years for the murder by mob, or lynching, charge.
The stabbing occurred during a brawl between two rival gangs of Alexandria City High School teenagers on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 — a week before graduation. Mejia Hernandez was fatally stabbed in the heart, and an autopsy showed that he also had abrasions to his neck, chin, the back of his hands, abdomen and knees, according to the medical examiner who testified that the cause of death was a 7/8-inch stab wound to the chest.
Commonwealth’s Attorney’s David Lord and Meredith Burke said that Mejia, a high school senior due to graduate within days, was outnumbered and fighting defensively at the Bradlee Shopping Center. They published into evidence multiple videos of the fight taken from a Alexandria Police Department dashcam, security cameras and videos from phones recovered by police. One security video shows Mejia Hernandez arriving to the parking lot in his car, parking, and then joining a group of students near a bus stop outside the Bradlee Shopping Center McDonald’s.
Lord and Burke allege that the suspect deliberately acted with cruel and deliberate malice.
“The defendant joined the fray and did not stop until he drove a knife into the chest of Luis Mejia Hernandez,” Burke said. “Videos show the defendant intentionally plunged his knife in the chest of Luis Mejia Hernandez.”
The suspect’s attorney’s, Sean Sherlock and Sebastian Norton, say that their client was a scared 16-year-old acting defensively, and that there is no evidence he stabbed Mejia Hernandez. Both defense attorneys would not comment on why they favored a bench trial.
Sherlock and Norton said that the Commonwealth’s case is built on circumstantial evidence, and without a murder weapon, confession or witnesses. Instead, they say, prosecutors only have “blurry cell phone videos of a scared 16-year-old in the middle of a violent brawl,” Norton said.
During Monday’s trial, the suspect sat quietly with a surgical face mask under his chin, and wore black pants, black sneakers and a long sleeve white button-up shirt. Several rows into the courtroom was Osmin Mejia Romero, the victim’s father, who sat emotionless while listening to a Spanish translation of the proceeding through headphones. Mejia Romero briefly appeared on the stand to identify photos of his son before resuming his seat in the gallery.
Brawl between rival student gangs
Two Alexandria Police officers responded initially to a trespassing call at the McDonald’s, and upon arriving a crowd of students left the restaurant and the scene escalated in the parking lot. Police testified that they were overwhelmed by the students and did not try breaking up the melee by activating the sirens, lights or PA system in their cruisers.
There were a number of other students with weapons, including Mejia Hernandez, who was was found to have had a stiletto pocket knife with a three-inch blade in his pocket throughout the altercation. Another student was found with brass knuckles.
The brawl occurred at around 12:30 p.m. and lasted about a minute.
“One of the subjects threw a water bottle, and another threw a mango pineapple smoothie,” testified Officer Byron Rush. “After that the subjects began to start fighting.”
Both Rush and Officer Malcolm Cook were the only officers to witness the incident, and said that they didn’t see the stabbing. The officers broke up groups of juveniles fighting, and helped Mejia Hernandez when he collapsed. He died soon after and was identified at Inova Alexandria Hospital by his driver’s license and student identification.
Friends of the victim say that police did not do enough to prevent the incident. Alexandria City High School shifted to virtual instruction for the remainder of the school year after the incident, and Mejia was posthumously awarded a graduation diploma.
Both sides agree that the suspect allegedly found out about a planned fight between two factions of students in the Bradlee parking lot while he was in the Alexandria City High School cafeteria. The suspect also confirmed to investigators that he owned a knife, bought at a smoke shop, although initially told investigators that he didn’t use it.
During the interrogation, the suspect asked if he could text his girlfriend, and police agreed and observed the code he used to unlock his phone. Police then got into the phone and found multiple videos of the brawl that they’d not seen before. The video was taken from a phone, and prosecutors say shows the moment when the stabbing occurred.
“He acknowledged he was the person in the video with the knife in his hand,” testified Detective Michael Wheylan. “He admitted to doing it , but advised it was in self defense… He didn’t deny that he didn’t do it.”
Wheylan conducted the interrogation, and was convinced of the suspect’s guilt when the suspect allegedly admitted to owning a knife, and acting in self defense. Wheylan also said that the suspect told him that he lost the knife after the incident.
Norton and Sherlock were unsuccessful in convincing Clark to strike the murder in the second degree and murder by mob charges. They said there was no evidence their client initiated the fight, and that in the photo allegedly showing him stabbing Mejia Hernandez, they claim that Mejia Hernandez was positioned to attack him.
“I can’t exclude the notion that (the suspect) was part of the mob,” Clark said.
Norton said that the blow was struck in a “split second” in the heat of a brawl, and that his client believed MS-13 gang members were present and that he was scared. He also said there was no evidence that the suspect and victim knew each other, or that there was pre-planning before the incident.
Lord, however, said that Mejia Hernandez was “constantly on his heels,” and that the suspect was a member of a mob who “inserted himself into the situation with the knife and ultimately inflicted the lethal blow.”
A 28-year-old Woodbridge man is being held without bond for allegedly cutting a man with a knife in the West End on Sunday morning, Jan. 15.
The incident occurred just after midnight in the 1400 block of N. Beauregard Street, near the William Ramsay Recreation Center. The 45-year-old victim was cut with a sharp object and treated at the scene, police told ALXnow.
The suspect, Mateo Amaya, knows the victim and was arrested that day and charged with malicious wounding, according to police.
“A weapon was recovered (in connection to the incident),” Alexandria Police Department spokesperson Marcel Bassett told ALXnow. “Nothing was reported stolen.”
Amaya goes to court for the offense on February 17.
Map via Google Maps
The big story in Alexandria this week was the murder of Luis Mejia Hernandez on Tuesday.
Hernandez was stabbed and killed in a brawl outside of the Mcdonald’s in the Bradlee Shopping Center.
Alexandria City High School went to asynchronous learning for the rest of the week to give students space and time to grieve. The Alexandria Police Department were at the scene when the stabbing occurred and friends of Hernandez say police didn’t do enough to stop the stabbing.
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(Updated 2:30 p.m.) Friends of Luis Mejia Hernandez say he didn’t have to die.
More than a dozen of the Alexandria City High School senior’s friends paid tribute to him on Thursday night (May 26) with a candlelight vigil at the spot in the Bradlee Center parking lot where he was fatally stabbed on Tuesday afternoon. Many of them witnessed the fight, and say that police didn’t do enough to prevent the death.
“Police were literally walking right behind everyone before people started throwing punches,” said one student, who produced videos and photos of the incident on his phone. “They literally let everything happen.”
The Latino students said that they did not trust the police, and had not yet shared the information with them. One video showed a steadily escalating scene with police officers walking around groups of students along King Street — before the incident occurred.
No police sirens were used before and immediately after the stabbing, and police struggled to break up the fight, according to video obtained by ALXnow. There were about 30-50 Alexandria City High School students involved and no arrests have been made in connection to the incident.
“The police was here before everything started,” another witness said. “They didn’t do anything. They didn’t shoot a gun, they didn’t do anything.”
Police say that they responded appropriately, and are not at fault in their response. Police are also not currently investigating their response to the incident.
At the vigil, some of the students smoked weed and drank tequila — with police in cruisers observing but not engaging from a short distance away. Many of Hernandez’s friends burst into tears while talking about him. Some even left small plastic cups with tequila on the ground next to prayer candles and flowers.
The students did not respond when asked about what prompted the brawl.
“Something is always happening here (in the shopping center),” another friend of Hernandez said. “There was three police cars here. Why didn’t they call more officers? The police station is right there. This was unfair, this could have been prevented, no problem. It didn’t even have to happen.”
A GoFundMe for Hernandez has raised more than $20,000. His friends say that next week his father will take his body home to El Salvador, where his mother lives.
“He was a senior, like me,” one girl said. “He was going to graduate. He so looking forward to getting out of school this summer.”
Some of the kids involved were getting milkshakes at the Beeliner Diner in the shopping center. Owner Noelie Rickey said she provided police with security footage from the day of the incident, and that teenagers drive away her customers during lunch and after school hours.
“Our business has been down all week,” Rickey told ALXnow. “Obviously people are hesitant to come to the shopping center right now… And customers have learned to stay away when the kids are out and not in school.”
Alexandria City High School sent students home after the incident and transitioned to virtual learning for the rest of the week.
Superintendent Gregory Hutchings, Jr. says that police are providing additional high-visibility patrols in school zones, and that there will be support team members available for students when school reopens on Tuesday after Memorial Day.
A 15-year-old Alexandria male was charged with felonious assault after allegedly stabbing a man twice in the parking lot in the Landmark area of the West End.
The incident occurred Monday, October 11, at around 10 p.m. in the parking lot of 101 S. Whiting Street.
Security footage from a nearby gas station showed the suspect walking toward the apartment complex minutes before the incident, police said in a search warrant affidavit. Surveillance footage from the apartment complex then captured the suspect allegedly walking from car to car and pulling on door handles.
“The first few handles he pulled, the doors did not open and (it) appeared the vehicles were locked,” police said in the affidavit. “Once the subject found an unlocked door, he immediately entered the vehicle and sat in the drivers seat… Approximately 10-15 seconds later, the victim walked up to his vehicle and attempted to open the door.”
The affidavit continued, “At this time, I observed the suspect leap from the vehicle and start a physical altercation with the victim. During this time the victim was attempting to restrain the suspect and hold him until help arrived. Once the suspect was controlled, I observed him strike the victim two times in the shoulder and torso area.”
The victim’s lung was punctured, and one of his arms was stabbed.
“The victim received serious but non-life-threatening injuries as a result of the encounter,” Alexandria Police Captain Chris Wemple III told ALXnow. “Alexandria Police detectives were able to later identify the suspect as a 15-year-old juvenile and charge him with felonious assault.”
On October 16, the suspect’s father listed him as a runaway. He later returned home — nearly two miles away from the scene of the incident — and was interviewed by police on October 28.
Police are searching the Landmark area near the 100 block of S. Whiting Street after a stabbing occurred in the area tonight.
On social media, police said the stabbing occurred around 10:45 p.m. and the adult male victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
A helicopter has also been called in and is assisting the investigation.
Anyone with more information about the stabbing is asked to call 703 746 4444.
STABBING/ MANHUNT— 100 block of South Whiting St in Alexandria. Injuries sound NLT. Fairfax Co police helo searching by air. K9 tracked the suspect to I-395 sound wall between Duke and Edsall streets.
— Alan Henney (@alanhenney) October 12, 2021
ALERT:: There is a large police presence in the 100 block of S Whiting St. for a stabbing investigation. Happened around 10:45pm. An adult male victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries. A helicopter is assisting the investigation. Anyone with info should call 703.746.4444.
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) October 12, 2021
Via Google Maps
A juvenile male was stabbed in the West End on Sunday evening, according to Alexandria Police.
The juvenile was found with a non-life threatening injury in the 5700 block of Drake Court, which is near Dora Kelley Nature Park.
The juvenile was transported to the hospital. No information has been released on the suspect.
NOTIFICATION: APD is investigating a stabbing in the 5700 block of Drake Ct which occurred around 7:30 pm. The juvenile male victim was taken to the hospital with a non-life-threatening injury. There is no suspect description at this time. Expect police activity in the area.
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) August 23, 2021
An adult man was stabbed in Old Town late Monday morning.
The incident occurred at around 11:30 a.m. in the intersection of Wolfe Street and S. Alfred Streets in Old Town, which is just blocks from the Alexandria Courthouse and City Hall.
“It’s an active investigation,” Alexandria Police Senior Public Information Officer Amanda Paga told ALXnow. “A male victim was stabbed by the suspect and transported to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.”
Police said that nothing was stolen in the incident, and did not provide a suspect description.
Alexandria Police recently reported an increase in aggravated assaults.
UPDATE:: APD is investigating the felonious assault & robbery of a male victim at the intersection of Wolfe & S Alfred Streets just after 11:30 am. Victim was taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The incident did not occur in the 400 block of S Washington St.
— Alexandria Police (@AlexandriaVAPD) April 12, 2021
(Updated 1:30 p.m.) A woman was allegedly stabbed in the head by the father of her child after he allegedly forced his way into her apartment in the Arlandria neighborhood of Alexandria.
The incident occurred on September 26 at around 9:15 p.m. in the 700 block of Tennessee Avenue.
“After assaulting her with the knife, (the suspect) then took his three-year-old son and left the area in an unknown direction,” according to a police search warrant affidavit that was issued last month.
Police pinged the suspect’s phone, and found that it was in the apartment where the incident occurred. Police answered the suspect’s ringing phone from a contact listed as “Carlos trabajo” (Carlos work), and the caller said he’d been watching the suspect’s son and was wondering when he was going to pick him up.
The boy was soon reunited with his family.
The suspect, 36-year-old Miguel Moreno, has not been apprehended and is wanted for statutory burglary, abuse or neglect of children and malicious wounding.