Arlington, VA

(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) Arlington County Police say there was no shooting last night in Ballston, just a panic caused by a single juvenile male.

In a press release Sunday morning, ACPD said the boy walked into a movie theater playing IT Chapter 2 at Ballston Quarter mall and shouted about a shooter. There was no mass shooting, just a mass panic and a mass exodus from the mall as dozens of police and emergency responders swarmed the area.

“As word of the incident spread, patrons from all areas of the Ballston Quarter began to self-evacuate,” police said. “One individual suffered a minor injury while self-evacuating from the building and was transported by medics to an area hospital for treatment.”

Police searched the theater and the mall well into the night, encountering some patrons who had locked themselves into back rooms or even freezers. They did not find evidence of any violence.

Mall customers and employees were left standing outside the cordoned-off block around the mall, with personal property still inside the building and cars parked in the closed parking garage, which did not reopen until after midnight.

Police say items left inside businesses should be retrieved from those businesses, while property left inside the Quarter Market food hall can now be claimed by calling the police non-emergency line at 703-558-2222.

More from the ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department completed a thorough investigation and determined that no shooting occurred at the Ballston Quarter on the evening of September 14, 2019.

At approximately 8:38 p.m., police were dispatched to multiple emergency calls reporting a possible shooter inside the movie theater at the Ballston Quarter located at 4238 Wilson Boulevard. Upon police arrival, the theater was placed under shelter in place status while a systematic search of the entire Ballston Quarter was initiated. The search concluded with negative results and no evidence of a shooting or any victims of a shooting were located.

The preliminary investigation suggests that an unknown juvenile male entered a theater playing the movie ‘IT Chapter Two’ and shouted that there was a shooter, causing patrons to run from the theater yelling for people to call 9-1-1. As word of the incident spread, patrons from all areas of the Ballston Quarter began to self-evacuate. One individual suffered a minor injury while self-evacuating from the building and was transported by medics to an area hospital for treatment.

Patrons who left personal property inside of Ballston Quarter businesses during the incident should claim their property through the individual businesses. Those who left property in the public food hall area of the Ballston Quarter should call the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222 to facilitate retrieval of their items at the Police Department, located at 1425 North Courthouse Road.

This remains an active investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) Arlington County Police responded en masse to an incident at the Ballston Quarter mall Saturday night.

In a 8:50 p.m. emergency alert, Arlington County described the incident as a “possible shooting.” Initial reports suggest a panic at the Regal Cinemas movie theater after a group of teens started shouting about an active shooter.

No evidence of a shooting was found, though police continued to search the theater throughout the night.

On Sunday morning, police said one juvenile male shouted about a shooter during a movie, leading to the panic. No shooting actually occurred, police confirmed.

The panic prompted people to flee and hide, though many sheltered in place in the theaters. In the Quarter Market food hall, below the mall, police responded to a report of people who had locked themselves in freezers. Some neighboring businesses including the Shake Shack across the street locked their doors while customers sought shelter.

One person suffered a minor injury as the mall was evacuated, police said.

Speaking to reporters, a group of Yorktown High School students who were watching IT Chapter 2 in the theater said the screen suddenly went blank and officers entered the theater, saying they were investigating a possible active shooteriVideo shows the students and other patrons walking out of the theater with their hands above their head, at the direction of police.

“It was scarier than the actual movie,” one teen said.

Another video, taken from across the street from the mall shortly after the initial report of a shooter, shows people running from the mall as sirens blared.

The panic spread as police responded to at least two other reports of armed suspects along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Around 9:15 p.m., numerous officers responded to the Uncle Julio’s restaurant in Ballston for an unconfirmed report of either a man with a gun or an active shooting. Scanner traffic later suggested that it was actually an angry customer, not a shooting.

Earlier, police also responded to the Clarendon Trader Joe’s for a report of a man with a gun and body armor. A suspect was detained but later released after an investigation determined he was legally open carrying a gun, a police spokeswoman said.

The U.S. Park Police Eagle 1 helicopter could be seen flying overhead Ballston during the incident, assisting with the search for any possible suspects, but was later cleared to return to D.C. Park Police, Metro Transit Police, Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority Police, the Federal Protective Service and Falls Church Police were among the law enforcement agencies that responded to the initial shooting reports with ACPD.

Roads around the mall are blocked by police. Officers have cleared crowds of pedestrians from outside the front of the mall, though many — including large groups of mall employees — were still standing along Wilson Blvd on either side of the mall more than an hour after the first 911 call.

There is no timetable for the mall, its parking garage and the roads around the mall reopening, Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow shortly after 10 p.m., noting that officers were still conducting a “thorough” search of the building.

Video (top) courtesy Gibson L. Video (below) courtesy Naki Mendoza. Screenshot via @JasonSurbey/Twitter.

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An employee of the county’s parks department has been arrested and charged with touching a girl inappropriately at a local rec center.

Arlington County Police are trying to find possible additional victims of Walter Contreras, a 42-year-old Arlington resident, after police say he followed a girl into a room at the Barcroft Recreation Center and touched her sexually.

The incident happened in late August but was reported to police earlier this week, police said. Contreras has been charged with Aggravated Sexual Battery, a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

More from an ACPD press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit is seeking possible additional victims of a suspect charged with a sex offense. Walter Contreras, 42, of Arlington, VA, was arrested and charged with Aggravated Sexual Battery. He is being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Facility.

On September 10, 2019, Arlington County Police received a late report of a possible sexual assault that occurred at Barcroft Recreation Center, 4200 S. Four Mile Run Drive, in late August. The investigation determined that the suspect, who was working as an Arlington County Parks and Recreation employee at the time of the incident, asked the juvenile female victim to accompany him to one of the rooms inside the recreation center. Once there, the suspect approached the victim from behind and inappropriately touched her.

Anyone with past inappropriate encounters with this suspect or who has additional information related to this investigation is asked to contact Detective J. Echenique of the Arlington County Police Department’s Special Victims Unit at 703-228-4241 or [email protected] Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

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ARLnow Weekend Discussion

After a brief resurgence of sweltering summer, more fall-like weather is here, ahead of what should be a pretty nice weekend.

Despite a relatively slow second week of September, compared to the usual frenetic pace of things this time of year, there were a number of stories of note over the past five days.

Here were the most-read articles of the week:

  1. Amazon Holding ‘Career Day’ in Crystal City
  2. Hula Girl Closing in Shirlington
  3. Man Shot on Columbia Pike Early Thursday Morning
  4. Pedestrian Dies After Crash Near Nottingham Elementary
  5. Police Searching for Thieves Who Burglarized Home While Family Was Inside
  6. Opening Nears for New Harris Teeter Store on the Pike
  7. You May Be Able to Take Your Drink to Go Near HQ2
  8. As MONA Membership Grows, So Does Its Public Outreach
  9. An Indoor Running Studio Is Coming to Clarendon

Feel free to discuss those stories, your tales of Friday the 13th bad luck, or anything else of local interest in the comments below.

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Update at 10:30 a.m. — Power has been restored.

Earlier: Some 800 Dominion customers are without power in the Aurora Highlands neighborhood near Pentagon City, prompting the closure of the local library.

The Aurora Hills Branch Library is closed until further notice, Arlington Public Library said in a tweet.

The outage is the result of an “equipment fire,” according to Dominion’s website, but restoration of power to the neighborhood is expected no later than 2 p.m.

Map via Dominion

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Morning Notes

GMU to Expand Va. Square Campus — “George Mason University wants to transform its Arlington campus into an ‘innovation district’ as it kicks off an Amazon-inspired overhaul… Mason expects to use the expansion to add 3,000 to 4,000 graduate students to the campus by 2024.” [Washington Business Journal]

Man Arrested For Assaulting Police in Ballston — “At approximately 8:32 p.m. on September 11, police were dispatched the report of a disorderly subject inside a restaurant who had allegedly been throwing items and threatening staff. Upon police arrival, the business staff requested the subject be banned from the property. While speaking with the subject, he threatened an officer and took a defensive stance. While placing him under arrest, the subject became combative, kicked and spit at the officers.” [Arlington County]

Home Inventory Tight in Arlington — “New listings in Arlington declined 16.5% in August compared with last year, said Chris Finnegan, vice president at Bright MLS. The median sale price for all home types in the 22202 ZIP code, where Amazon is building and staffing up HQ2, was $749,000 in August. It’s a 23% jump since the company made its HQ2 announcement in November 2018.” [Washington Business Journal, InsideNova]

Coffee Beanery Open in Va. Square — Coffee Beanery, a coffee chain with locations across the northeast, has opened a new location at 3444 Fairfax Drive in Virginia Square. [Facebook]

Tech Company Picks Arlington for U.S. HQ — ” Varjo, the technology leader in industrial-grade VR/XR headsets, today announced the opening of its U.S. headquarters… in Arlington, Virginia, located just outside of Washington D.C.” [Varjo via Potomac Tech Wire]

Potomac Kempo Now Open — Martial arts studio Potomac Kempo yesterday held a grand opening ceremony for its fifth location, at 3650 S. Glebe Road, in the Potomac Yard area. The studio started holding classes on Aug. 31, we’re told. [Facebook]

Video: USS Arlington Crew Welcomed at Fire Station — “Crew members from the USS Arlington were welcomed at Arlington’s Fire Station 5 before running in the The Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff 9/11 Memorial Race. The USS Arlington honors the 184 victims and the thousands of emergency, fire and rescue personnel of Arlington County and localities in the National Capital Region who provided critical emergency assistance after the attack on 9/11.” [YouTube]

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Hula Girl Bar and Grill is closing next week in the Village at Shirlington after nearly four years in business.

The Hawaiian restaurant, which opened at 4044 Campbell Avenue in late 2015, is the creation of chef and owner Mikala Brennan, who first operated Hula Girl as a food truck. Since opening the restaurant Brennan has made occasional appearances on the Food Network.

In an announcement today, Brennan said Hula Girl would be closing after Saturday, Sept. 21.

More from a press release:

Mikala Brennan, Chef/Owner of Hula Girl Bar + Grill announced that the restaurant will be closing its doors on September 21, 2019.

For four years, Hula Girl has been bringing the authentic tastes of the Hawaiian Islands to the DMV from its Shirlington location in the Village at Shirlington at 4044 Campbell Avenue.

“All I really wanted to do was to bring Hawaiian food to this area.  And I did, for close to 10 years, from the food truck to restaurant,” Chef Brennan said.  “I am just so very proud that I took this chance and I will always be thankful for the opportunity that I was given.  Connecting to a community is always so very important – and I thank our community for the support for the past 4 years.”

The restaurant will be offering specials until closing and an ‘eat the restaurant’ event on its last evening with special offers on food and beverage.

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A problem with the air conditioning at Washington Liberty High School is prompting an early dismissal.

With temperatures expected to climb into the mid-90s today, school administrators decided to send students home at 10:40 a.m. rather than have them stay in increasingly warm classrooms.

More via a letter sent to W-L families from the school’s principal:

Washington-Liberty Families and Staff:

The HVAC system at W-L is currently not working properly. Based on forecasted temperatures in the mid to upper 90s, we have made the decision to dismiss students at 10:40 a.m. Transportation will pick up bus riders at that time as well.

All after school athletic events will go on as planned unless those families hear from their coach.

The health and safety of our students and staff is our primary focus. Facilities has crews at the school to repair HVAC system and we will update you on operations for tomorrow. We apologize for the inconvenience and disruption to the schedule.

Please call the office if you have any questions.

Sincerely,

Gregg Robertson,
Principal

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(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) A man has been arrested in connection with an overnight shooting along Columbia Pike.

The shooting happened just before 1 a.m., outside a business on the 3100 block of Columbia Pike. Initial reports suggest the man was shot in the abdomen and rushed to the trauma center at George Washington University Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. As of 4 p.m. today, police said the victim was in “critical but stable condition.”

“The suspect fled the scene prior to police arrival. Police are utilizing the assistance of a helicopter to search for the suspect,” police said via social media, shortly after the shooting. “Suspect described as [a black male], 20s with skinny build wearing dark clothing. Expect police activity in the area.”

Aaron Steele, 29, was arrested and charged with aggravated malicious wounding, shooting in the commission of a felony, and aggravated malicious shooting, the Arlington County Police Department announced Thursday afternoon.

“During the course of the investigation, officers developed a possible suspect description based on evidence located at the scene and witness interviews,” said ACPD in the afternoon press release. “A lookout was broadcast and a patrol officer traveling in the area of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike observed the suspect on foot and took him into custody without incident.”

The suspect was also charged with violating a protective order and firing a weapon within 1,000 feet of a school — roughly the same distance the Arlington Career Center is from the scene of the shooting.

The Pike was closed between S. Glebe Road and Walter Reed Drive for an extended period of time after the shooting, according to WTOP.

As of 9:30 a.m. detectives were still on scene, canvassing the parking lot of Purple Lounge (3111 Columbia Pike). Discarded medical supplies could be seen along the sidewalk near the parking lot.

The full police press release is below.

The Arlington County Police Department has arrested and charged a suspect for his role in an early morning shooting on Columbia Pike. Aaron Steele, 29, of No Fixed Address has been charged with Aggravated Malicious Wounding, Shooting in the Commission of a Felony, Aggravated Malicious Shooting, Discharging a Firearm within 1,000 feet of a School, Use of a Firearm During Commission of a Felony and Violation of a Protective Order. He is being held in the Arlington County Detention Facility on no bond.

At approximately 12:48 a.m. on September 12, police were dispatched to the 3100 block of Columbia Pike for the report of a shooting. Upon arrival, officers located an adult male in the roadway suffering from a gunshot wound and immediately began rendering aid. The victim was transported by medics to an area hospital where he is listed in critical but stable condition.

During the course of the investigation, officers developed a possible suspect description based on evidence located at the scene and witness interviews. A lookout was broadcast and a patrol officer traveling in the area of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike observed the suspect on foot and took him into custody without incident.

The preliminary investigation indicates that the suspect and victim are known to one another and that a dispute preceded the shooting. This is an isolated incident and there is no evidence of any continued threat to the community.

This incident remains under investigation and anyone with information is asked to contact Detective S. King of the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4243 or [email protected]. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Airey contributed to this report

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Morning Notes

Ovi Visits Local Elementary School — “In conjunction with the launch of Ovi O’s, Alex Ovechkin’s limited-edition breakfast cereal, the Washington Capitals’ captain surprised Arlington Traditional School, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and a local Giant store with a visit on Sept. 10.” [NHL]

9/11 Remembrance Ceremony in Courthouse — “Officials in Northern Virginia held a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon. Sen Tim Kaine, Rep. Don Beyer, military commanders, local Arlington County officials and members of the Virginia House attended the remembrance ceremony on Arlington County government plaza.” [NBC 4, WUSA 9]

Local Leaders Set Housing Goals — “Local governments around Greater Washington now plan to set targets for housing production over the next decade, as part of a regional initiative to build 320,000 new homes by 2030 and ease the region’s cost pressures.” [Washington Business Journal, Twitter]

ACPD Plans ‘Coffee With a Cop’ — “Wednesday, October 2 is National Coffee with a Cop Day and the Arlington County Police Department is hosting four events with our Community Outreach Teams to celebrate. Community members are invited to join police at these informal events to ask questions, voice concerns, get to know their neighbors, interact with the Community Outreach Teams and meet officers from other sections of the department.” [Arlington County]

Orthopaedic Office Celebrates Grand Opening — “Ortho OIC Orthopaedic Immediate Care, the area’s first independent orthopaedic specialty urgent care… will be holding a grand opening event on September 19 from 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. The event is open to the public and will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony.” [Press Release]

Farewell, Subway-Centric Paper — “The Washington Post is closing down its free daily commuter paper, Express, this week. The final edition of Express will be published on Thursday. The staff learned of the news at a meeting at noon on Wednesday.” [DCist]

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Arlington County is now under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning through 5:45 p.m.

A line of severe storms is approaching the Beltway from the northwest, packing potentially damaging winds and hail.

More from the National Weather Service:

BULLETIN – IMMEDIATE BROADCAST REQUESTED
SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BALTIMORE MD/WASHINGTON DC
457 PM EDT WED SEP 11 2019

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN STERLING VIRGINIA HAS ISSUED A

* SEVERE THUNDERSTORM WARNING…

* UNTIL 545 PM EDT.

* AT 457 PM EDT, SEVERE THUNDERSTORMS WERE LOCATED ALONG A LINE EXTENDING FROM NEAR GREAT FALLS TO FAIRFAX TO NEAR BULL RUN, MOVING EAST AT 25 MPH.

HAZARD…60 MPH WIND GUSTS AND QUARTER SIZE HAIL.

SOURCE…RADAR INDICATED.

IMPACT…DAMAGING WINDS WILL CAUSE SOME TREES AND LARGE BRANCHES TO FALL. THIS COULD INJURE THOSE OUTDOORS, AS WELL AS DAMAGE HOMES AND VEHICLES. ROADWAYS MAY BECOME BLOCKED BY DOWNED TREES. LOCALIZED POWER OUTAGES ARE POSSIBLE. UNSECURED LIGHT OBJECTS MAY BECOME PROJECTILES.

* LOCATIONS IMPACTED INCLUDE… ARLINGTON, ALEXANDRIA, CENTREVILLE, WALDORF, DALE CITY, ROCKVILLE, BETHESDA, RESTON, BOWIE, ANNANDALE, CLINTON, SPRINGFIELD, COLLEGE PARK, FORT WASHINGTON, GREENBELT, FAIRFAX, LANGLEY PARK, BELTSVILLE, FORT HUNT AND VIENNA.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…

FOR YOUR PROTECTION MOVE TO AN INTERIOR ROOM ON THE LOWEST FLOOR OF A BUILDING.

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