(Updated at 12:05 a.m.) Police are now clearing the scene at Ballston Common Mall after a phoned-in bomb threat.
Three separate bomb threats were phoned in to authorities: one to Prince George’s County dispatchers, one to Arlington, and one directly to the mall, according to Arlington County police spokesman Dustin Sternbeck. It’s not clear if the threats all were made by the same individual.
Mall security has informed stores of the threat but decided not to evacuate, Sternbeck said. Police officers and two K-9 units searched inside and outside the building but found nothing.
“We want to be very thorough in our sweep and… in deeming it safe,” said Sternbeck during the search. “If we did find something we deemed legitimate we would have the authority to bring everyone out [of the mall].”
Dozens of shoppers and workers on their lunch break could be seen carrying on normal daily business inside the mall during the incident. One lane of Wilson Boulevard was partially blocked by police vehicles outside the mall. As of 11:50 a.m., most of the police response was packing up and starting to clear the scene.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) has been arrested at a protest outside the Sudanese embassy in Northwest D.C., along with actor George Clooney and several other activists.
Moran’s office confirmed the arrest, which can be seen in this video from NBC Washington.
“Yes, [Rep. Moran] was taken into custody at the Sudan embassy protesting [Sudanese President Omar] al-Bashir’s actions to starve half a million people,” said Anne Hughes, the congressman’s press secretary.
In a press release yesterday afternoon, Moran’s office explained the impetus for the protest: “President al-Bashir has blocked food and humanitarian aid from entering Sudan’s Nuba Mountains and Blue Nile regions since June 2011, threatening starvation for half a million Sudanese.”
Moran and Clooney were joined at the protest by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.), Martin Luther King III, NAACP President Ben Jealous, and journalist Nick Clooney, the actor’s father, among other activists and religious leaders. See a press release from Moran’s office, about the protest and the arrests, after the jump.
Photo courtesy United to End Genocide
(Updated at 11:10 a.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department has cleared the scene at Reagan National Airport, where it had been assisting Airport Police with a suspicious package.
The bomb squad took x-rays of the package to determine its contents, but nothing dangerous was found.
The package turned up near the economy parking lot, and that lot closed down during the investigation. Most other airport roads and lots remained open, and no flights or terminal operations were affected. There were also no reported traffic backups due to the lot closure.
As ARLnow.com first reported yesterday, a suspect in the case, Roger K. Clark III, has pleaded guilty to first degree murder in the case. In a statement of facts entered as part of the guilty plea, prosecutors say robbery was the motive behind the murder — and that Clark wasn’t the only perpetrator.
According to the statement, Clark and his cousin, Javon Martin — then 20 and 24 years of age, respectively — were driving around Arlington County early on the morning of Dec. 29, 2009 looking for someone to rob. They encountered Diener, 57, near the intersection of N. 13th Street and N. Hudson Street, three blocks from the Clarendon Metro station. It was around 3:00 a.m. and Diener was on his way to a part-time job at a local health club, police said at the time.
During the robbery, prosecutors say, Clark punched Diener and then Martin stabbed him in the chest with a knife. Diener was later found lying on the street by a passerby who called police. Medics arrived on the scene and pronounced him dead. According to the statement of facts, Diener bled to death as a result of the stab wound, which severed two major arteries.
Clark’s DNA was found in several places, according to the statement, including on Diener’s palm and in his pants pocket, where Clark had looked for something to steal following the stabbing. In the end, Clark and Martin made off with Diener’s shoulder bag, according to prosecutors.
Clark’s plea was accepted yesterday afternoon by Circuit Court Judge Joanne F. Alper. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on April 27. As part of his plea deal, prosecutors agreed not to seek more than 25 years in prison.
Martin was arrested in June, two days after Clark was arrested, but ultimately prosecutors decided not to pursue the first degree murder charges against him at the time. The charges were dropped in October, according to court records. Martin is not currently in custody, according to Arlington County Commonwealth’s Attorney Theo Stamos, who declined to comment further.
Carl Diener’s sister, Patti Diener Lough, said Clark’s guilty plea is comforting to her family.
“Nothing — not even this guilty plea — can ever bring Carl back to his family and remarkable network of friends and colleagues from so many aspects of his life,” Diener Lough told ARLnow.com via email. “But we are immensely comforted to know that a murderer is in custody and will not be able to hurt another person or family like he shattered ours.”
The five-mile Columbia Pike streetcar line will run from Pentagon City to the Skyline area of Fairfax, and cost between $242 million and $261 million, according to “a new, more detailed analysis.” In 2007, officials pegged the cost at about $161 million.
“Inflation, an increase in the scope of the proposed project, additional engineering requirements, and federal requirements for higher contingency funding and escalation accounted for the increase in projected costs,” the county said in a press release. “The $50 million per-mile cost now estimated for the proposed streetcar project is comparable to the costs of similar projects across the nation.”
Arlington and Fairfax counties are still pushing forward with the streetcar project, which will serve a transportation corridor that’s expected to add 2.2 million square feet of commercial development and 7,300 residents over the next 30 years. Officials are calling the streetcar an “innovative solution” to transportation challenges on Columbia Pike, which is currently only served by bus.
“Clearly, a streetcar-and-bus system is the best solution for people who live and work on the Pike and the people who travel along it between two major employment centers,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. “A streetcar will enhance the Pike’s livability, help realize the vision that Arlington and Fairfax have for this vital corridor, and help ensure its long term economic and environmental sustainability.”
Construction on the streetcar line is currently projected to start in 2015, with streetcar service starting in 2017.
A plan to boost the finances of Artisphere, the struggling county-run arts center in Rosslyn, includes dramatic changes to the original vision for the venue.
A revised business plan, which will be presented to the County Board this afternoon, will suggest slashing Artisphere’s hours, shuttering its restaurant and retail store, and generating more revenue via corporate event rentals.
Even if the plan is implemented, however, the task force expects Artisphere to burn through more than $2.3 million in taxpayer funds in financial year 2012 and another $1.6 million in financial year 2013. If the new plan is shelved, Artisphere will require nearly $2.7 million in taxpayer support in FY 2012, the task force said. The one-year-old venue’s original business plan projected only $739,975 in county taxpayer support in FY 2012.
In its report to the Board, the Artisphere Task Force said Artisphere is an attractive venue that benefits from a Metro-accessible location and an experienced management team. But the task force was critical of the lack of focus in the center’s marketing, among other perceived weaknesses.
“Originally billed as an ‘Arts Space for Everyone’, the Artisphere strove to be free from the constraints of a singular vision, performance type or audience,” the task force wrote. “However, the unintended consequence of the individual interpretations that arose from such branding has been confusion over what exactly Artisphere is supposed to be, and for whom.”
The task force also accused Artisphere of practically ignoring families and older adults in its programming.
Artisphere, following the original business plan, has oriented much of its programming to attract a core audience of 20-35 year olds. While Arlington has one of the largest concentrations of 20 to 35 year olds in the nation, and while this demographic — like others who are highly educated, highly paid, and with disposable income — is known for its inclination to patronize the arts, they are faced with multiple options for spending time and money. Given those competing interests, and the somewhat “fickle” nature of this age group, it is very difficult to consistently attract them. Conversely, the 35-45 year olds with families and 55-65 year old empty-nesters, all with heavy populations in Arlington and the Washington, D.C. region have not been a target.
(Current programming at Artisphere includes the “largest collection of hand-crafted harmonica cases in the world” and an interactive exhibit that requires viewers to scan bar codes with their cell phones. The venue named a new programming director in late October.)
In the end, Artisphere has fallen well short of its original attendance projections. As the report noted, the lack of foot traffic is especially pronounced during the day.
“The space has been underutilized for many of its daytime hours,” the task force wrote. “Often, patrons who may enter in the early afternoon hours find the Artisphere extremely quiet and almost deserted. This lack of excitement and vibrancy often discourages return visits.”
To help place Artisphere on a more sustainable path, the task force is recommending several dramatic changes. One of the most pronounced is the proposed change in Artisphere’s hours. Whereas the center is currently open seven days a week, for a total of at least 85 hours per week, the task force wants to slash the days and hours the venue is open to the public. Under the new plan, Artisphere would be closed to the public on Monday and Tuesday, and would only be open for a total of 40 hours Wednesday through Sunday.
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) A newly-formed group called ‘Occupy NoVA‘ plans to march from Ballston’s Welburn Square to the Key Bridge on Thursday afternoon.
“A national day of action is taking place around the country in the Occupy movement,” Occupy NoVA said on its website. “We are going to be marching on this day in solidarity with Occupy DC, from Welburn Square to join in a Labor-Community-Occupy Day of Action and March on the Key Bridge in Rosslyn/Georgetown in protest of the deterioration of our public infrastructure and public services.”
Protesters are expected to gather in Welburn Square at 2:00 p.m., before starting their march around 3:30 p.m. The marching route — which would take demonstrators through the heart of Clarendon, Courthouse and Rosslyn — includes parts of Wilson Boulevard, Clarendon Boulevard and N. Lynn Street. It’s not clear if protesters will be marching on the sidewalk or in the street.
So far, Arlington County Police have not had any comment on their planned response to the protest. Last week an Occupy D.C. spokesman told ARLnow.com that the movement was aware of the Occupy NoVA group’s existence.
Occupy NoVA has not yet set up any encampments, but the group says on its website that it will discuss further plans at meetings on Thursday.
Update at 5:45 p.m. — Firefighters have determined the object is not explosive nor a hazardous material, police tell ARLnow.com. The incident is “winding down” as authorities complete their investigation.
Earlier: The block around the SAIC building at 200 12th Street S. in Crystal City has been shut down as police and firefighters investigate a suspicious package in the building.
The Arlington County bomb squad, hazmat team and traffic control officers are on the scene, on the northern end of Crystal City. Pentagon Police have restricted pedestrian access on 12th Street east of Route 1.
The building, which has been evacuated, contains a number of military-related offices. Initial reports suggest that a bomb-sniffing dog had a positive hit on a suspicious object inside the building.
No word yet on the type of object, but Arlington Police say it was mailed to the office.
Homeland security detectives from the Arlington County Police Department and agents from the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Protective Service agency are on the scene.
Update on 10/13 — This developing story has been updated.
(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) The FBI is now investigating weapons found buried near I-66 and the Patrick Henry Drive overpass.
FBI agents, a representative from the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and Arlington County police are still on the scene, more than 8 hours after a VDOT construction contractor found the gun and called the authorities.
A gun, two “weapon parts” and PVC pipes were recovered from the ground, near a utility box, according to FBI Washington Field Office spokeswoman Lindsay Godwin said.
The FBI will likely keep the scene cordoned off tonight and continue searching the site tomorrow, Godwin said. Agents have been seen examining maps and walking through the cordoned off area.
Update at 11:20 a.m. on 8/27/2011 — An Arlington County spokeswoman says the county is not distributing sandbags, despite information provided to ARLnow.com yesterday.
Arlington County has declared a local emergency in advance of the arrival of Hurricane Irene.
Today, Acting County Manager Marsha Allgeier has signed a Declaration of Local Emergency for Arlington County in response to Hurricane Irene. The declaration was made because Hurricane Irene is a powerful storm with potentially damaging winds, rainfall, and storm surge that could cause flooding and other hazardous conditions in Arlington.
This declaration provides for increased coordination with state resources, and provides increased administrative authority permitting the County to take necessary actions to prepare for and respond to the storm. At this time, the County reminds residents to be prepared. For emergency preparedness information, storm updates, and information on cancellations and closings, visit the County website.
All county facilities — including libraries and community centers — will close at noon on Saturday and remain shuttered through Sunday. Artisphere will be closed all day Saturday. The lobby of the Arlington County jail will be open as a shelter of last resort for homeless individuals.
An emergency exercise scheduled to take place at Pentagon City mall on Sunday morning, meanwhile, has been canceled. In addition, the Columbia Pike outdoor movie scheduled for Saturday night, has been rescheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17 at 8:00 p.m. Also, we’re told that tomorrow morning’s Courthouse farmers market will be reduced in scope, as 14th Street and part of the county surface parking, where the market is held, will be reserved for emergency vehicle parking.
A man was seriously injured after a car on which he was working fell on top of him in the Douglas Park neighborhood of South Arlington.
The man reportedly had the car propped up on a small jack when something when wrong and the vehicle fell on him. Police, firefighters and paramedics responded and managed to remove him from underneath the vehicle, a Toyota Camry sedan.
Police aren’t commenting yet on the man’s condition, but initial reports suggest his injuries were very serious. The incident happened in an apartment parking area off of the 1100 block of S. Thomas Street.
Update at 5:00 p.m. — Police have now confirmed that the victim died from his injuries.
The Arlington County Police Department is investigating the death of a man that occurred this morning.
At approximately 11:40 a.m., police and medic units were called to the 1100 block of South Thomas Street for a person injured while working on a motor vehicle. Upon arrival, it was apparent that the person was deceased. The victim has been identified as Miguel A. Interiano, 63, of Arlington. The investigation is ongoing.
Anyone who has information about this incident is asked to call the Arlington County Police Department Tip Line at 703 228-4242, or Detective Cynthia Garcia at (703) 228-4195.
(Updated at 6:00 p.m.) Power is gradually being restored after a widespread outage in parts of North Arlington.
More than 9,800 Dominion customers were without power at the height of the outage this evening. The affected several neighborhoods, including Ballston, Virginia Square, Cherrydale, Donaldson Run and parts of Clarendon and Rosslyn. Arlington’s 911 center received numerous calls of tripped alarms and stuck elevators as a result..
A vehicle accident with injuries was reported on Wilson Boulevard and N. Oakland Street. It’s not clear if the accident was related to the power outage, but numerous non-functioning traffic lights were reported around the area.
Power and traffic lights went out along a long stretch of Lee Highway, from Rosslyn up to Glebe Road. Via Twitter, Arlington Public Library said that power was out at Central Library and at the Cherrydale branch.
Update at 4:15 p.m. — All evening ART routes are in operation tonight except the 61B. However, many routes will operate less frequently than usual. See the ART web site for more information. Arlington officials say that about 23 bus drivers did not report to work today.
Update at 8:45 a.m. — We’re told via Twitter and email that drivers are striking near the Courthouse Metro station.
Arlington Transit bus riders are being told to “expect delays on all routes” this morning.
The agency says the delays are “due to circumstances beyond our control.” ARLnow.com hears that bus drivers have called in sick en masse due to a
wage labor dispute.
ART is also advising that the 61B bus is not in service, and that riders should use the 61A instead.
The Sun Gazette reported over the weekend that the County Board discussed “management-labor issues with the contractor that runs the Arlington Transit (ART) bus service.” Sun Gazette editor Scott McCaffrey described the discussion as a “pander-a-thon” in favor of the bus drivers, who are paid less than their counterparts at Metro.
The suit was filed in response to the County Board’s denial of a request by Bishop O’Connell high school to add lights to its athletic fields.
The Diocese issued the following statement tonight about its legal action.
“The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has filed an action in Arlington County Circuit Court challenging the Arlington County Board of Supervisors’ March 15, 2011, denial of a proposal to add lighting to existing athletic fields at Bishop J. O’Connell High School in Arlington – the addition of which would afford its students the same opportunities as public high schools in the region.
Arlington County had previously approved similar lights at its own public high schools which, like Bishop O’Connell, are located adjacent to residential neighborhoods. In fact, the fields of the public high schools – Washington-Lee, Yorktown and Wakefield – are close to a greater number of homes than those of Bishop O’Connell, as O’Connell’s football field is located across the street from a county elementary school and park.
As a matter of law and of fundamental fairness, there is no reasonable basis for the Board to treat Bishop O’Connell in a very different manner than the county treats its own high schools. The Diocese’s circuit court complaint, filed April 12, 2011, notes that “Bishop O’Connell and the County’s public high schools are similarly situated in all relevant respects with regard to lighted athletic fields. The Board’s denial treats Bishop O’Connell and the Diocese, religious institutions, on terms that are different from the public high schools.”
The Board’s denial of Bishop O’Connell’s application for a Use Permit amendment therefore was discriminatory, the complaint concludes, because “there is no basis, rational or otherwise, for the Board’s discrimination between such applications.”
“We want to continue to improve the school and continue to offer an excellent faith-based education to the citizens of Arlington who choose it for their children,” said diocesan Superintendent of Schools Sr. Bernadette McManigal, B.V.M. “Athletics are but one aspect of a total high school education, but it is an important one. Allowing us to improve the athletic fields helps us to continue to offer excellent faith-based education.”
The proposed lighting would benefit not only Bishop O’Connell students, but the whole community, as the proposal included use of the fields by Arlington County’s recreation department. The fields also could be used by Marymount University’s NCAA Division III track, field hockey and baseball teams.
Bishop O’Connell has been located on the same site on Little Falls Road in Arlington for 50 years. It is one of five Catholic schools in Arlington County – Bishop O’Connell and four parochial elementary/middle schools – with a combined enrollment of 2,140 students. Based upon the Arlington Public Schools’ expenditures per student, these five Catholic schools save the taxpayers over $41.7 million per year. Bishop O’Connell alone saves taxpayers over $21 million per year.”
Earlier this week county officials declined to comment about the suit.
Federal prosecutors say Yonis M. Ishak of Arlington was the leader of a criminal conspiracy that imported millions of grams of the illegal African drug Khat into the United States from England, Holland and Canada. Public records show that Ishak lived in an apartment on the 2000 block of N. Vermont Street in Waverly Hills.
Authorities say Ishak, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Somalia, used couriers and the postal system to distribute nearly 10,000 pounds of Khat to at least 15 states, including California, Washington, Tennessee, New York and the D.C. metro area. Ishak was arrested yesterday along with 17 alleged co-conspirators. Ten of the individuals arrested were from Northern Virginia, although Ishak was the only one from Arlington.
Khat leaves contain the drug cathinone, an addictive amphetamine-like stimulant. The leaves are chewed by users, a common practice in parts of Africa and the Middle East. The charge of conspiring to distribute the drug carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. See more information on the case here.