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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As some indicators point toward another recession around the corner, local economists say Arlington would likely escape the brunt of a downturn.

The recession that kicked off after the country’s housing market collapsed in 2008 devastated communities and families nationwide. But experts say Arlington’s proximity to jobs and contracts from the federal government helped protect the county, and its growing business sector today may also help shield it from future recessions.

How the Great Recession Hit Arlington 

Alex Iams, the Interim Director of Arlington Economic Development (AED), said when it came to the last recession, Arlington was “the last in and the first out.”

“In the last recession Arlington fared pretty well from what I can see,” agreed George Morgan, a finance professor at Virginia Tech, in an interview. “It’s not to say that everything was rosy, but compared to other parts of the country, Arlington didn’t do so badly.”

“At least a third of the [local] economy originates with federal payroll or federal procurement spending or other government spending,” said Stephen Fuller, the high-profile professor of public policy and regional development at George Mason University, when asked what helped cushion Arlington during the collapse.

However, Morgan noted that office and multi-family developments saw “pretty dramatic effects” from the recession as he said some companies’ cash-flows dried up and projects were put on pause. That affected those in the real estate development and construction industries.

Morgan also noted that the education and medical sector were hit harder in Arlington than in other parts of the country, but also rebounded faster in the last 10 years. “That’s a big plus if that happens again,” he said of future recessions.

Both economists agreed that lower-wage jobs were hit hardest by the Great Recession. By 2011, the county’s largest food bank reported a record-breaking number of families seeking help.

“In the low wage industries, Arlington basically looks the same as the rest of the country,” said Morgan, of Arlington around that time. “That was not a pretty picture.”

But Fuller and AED director Iams argued that the economic impact on the county of losing 35,000 jobs through federal sequestration was greater. “Base realignment and closure was really our recession,” said Iams.

How Next Recession May Affect Arlington

While predicting economic downturns can be fraught, Iams and the professors agreed the country is prepared if another one happens soon.

“In Arlington, they’re not seeing the signs of [a] recession that you’re seeing it elsewhere,” said Morgan. “It maybe be that Arlington kind of dodges a bullet if there is a next recession.”

The damage the county would sustain would depend on what exactly would cause the next recession.

“If it’s the trade war that causes it, retail will probably suffer,” said Morgan. “But with the Arlington economy being so insulated from trade, I think if that’s the cause of a recession then the Arlington economy will still do well.”

Fuller explained that “anything that is discretionary begins to take a hit,” including elective purchases like cosmetic surgery, luxury fashion, tourism, and restaurants.

But the professors pointed out that many higher-wage industries — like cybersecurity, which is growing across the D.C. area — can actually weather recessions quite well. Morgan cited an Urban Institute report show that the county has a large share of high-paying jobs from business service companies like Deloitte and government contracting jobs via the Department of Defense.

How Amazon Would Impact a Recession

Iams noted that the county has since 2008 added even more corporate jobs as companies like Lidl, Nestle, and Amazon moved into town.

When it comes to Amazon’s massive planned headquarters, the officials said it’s another potential insulator for the county against future recessions by virtue of the 25,000 people it has pledged to hire — and the others businesses and universities its presence attracts to Arlington.

“They know that Amazon burns workers out after 4-5 years, and they’re still software engineers, so they’ll look around for other, similar-type jobs,” said Fuller. “Amazon is going to make Arlington the epicenter of the talent pool.”

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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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A 26-foot-tall sculpture of a fire nozzle is coming to the new location of Fire Station 10 as a tribute to Arlington firefighters.

The artwork is the result of a partnership between Arlington Public Art and Penzance, the developer behind the upcoming massive development in western Rosslyn dubbed “The Highlands.”

Set to open in 2021, The Highlands will be the future site of the new Fire Station 10. Currently, the station is temporarily located at 1791 N. Quinn Street.

“This is our first opportunity to integrate public art into a fire station, which is a recommendation in Arlington County’s Public Art Master Plan,” said Angela Adams, Director of Arlington Public Art, in a press release. “Partnering with Penzance has allowed us to honor the history of Fire Station 10 through an enriching piece of public art for all to enjoy for years to come.”

Baltimore artists David and Eli Hess were commissioned for the artwork, which was funded by Penzance as a part of The Highlands development process.

The sculpture, described by officials as “larger-than-life,” will be fabricated from the same bronze used in actual firefighting nozzles. More from the press release:

The nozzle of the piece will act as a giant sconce or torch mounted to the side of the building. At night, a light inside the nozzle will illuminate the spray of water above. The water will be made from stainless steel pipe, twisting and bending in a quasi-spiral formation. The entire sculpture will be 26-feet-tall, attached 8 feet above the ground, extending to the top of the station’s façade. The stainless steel and bronze of the sculpture contrast the dark brick of the station, and the stainless water spray will shine at night against the rich red glow of the brick behind.

The Highlands, on the 1500 block of Wilson Blvd, will include three towers, up to 27 stories, with 104 condos, 780 apartments and 40,000 square feet of retail space.

Images courtesy of Penzance

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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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A 55-year-old Arlington woman has died after being struck by a driver in the Williamsburg neighborhood last week.

The woman succumbed to her injuries yesterday, police said. The investigation into the pedestrian crash near Nottingham Elementary School is continuing but so far the driver of the striking vehicle has not been charged.

More from Arlington County Police:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Critical Accident Team (CAT) continues to investigate a now fatal pedestrian crash that occurred on Wednesday, September 4, at the intersection of Little Falls Road and North Ohio Street.

At approximately 8:17 p.m., police responded to the area for the report of crash with injury involving a pedestrian. Officers and medics arrived on scene and located the female victim suffering from serious injuries and immediately began to render aid.

The pedestrian, a 55 year old female of Arlington, Va., was transported to an area hospital in critical condition. She later succumbed to her injuries and was pronounced deceased on September 10.

The preliminary investigation indicates that the victim was crossing Little Falls Road in the crosswalk, when she was hit by the oncoming vehicle, which was travelling westbound on Little Falls Road. The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene. The investigation into this crash remains ongoing and no charges have been sought at this time.

Anyone who may have witnessed this crash or has additional information regarding this investigation is asked to contact Detective B. Ames at [email protected] or 703-228-7303. Information may also be reported anonymously to Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.

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Developer JBG Smith may be planning to let people sip alcohol as they browse shops and sit outdoors in shopping areas near Amazon’s future headquarters in Pentagon City and Crystal City.

State records with the Virginia Alcohol Beverage Authority Control Authority indicate that the developer applied for a “Commercial Lifestyle Center” license this week. The special license is part of a 2018 law allowing shoppers to bring alcoholic beverages into shops or outdoor plazas to encourage consumers to stay longer and attend outdoor events.

Under the new law, shopping centers can apply for a license provided they have at least 100,000 square feet of retail space and demonstrate they can police the area, as reported by the Washington Business Journal. The law also requires the application come from an association of businesses in a shopping area, not a single business on its own.

JBG Smith applied for the license via a newly-created organization called National Landing Business Owners Association Inc., which listed a phone number in the application matching JBG Smith’s Chevy Chase office.

A spokeswoman for the developer declined to comment when reached yesterday (Tuesday.)

The Association was formed in June by an attorney from the Arlington-based law firm Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, which represents JBG Smith on several projects, including the two towers they’re building at Amazon’s Metropolitan Park headquarters.

One place in the Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard area — dubbed “National Landing” — at which the developer could use the license would be its Crystal Square project. The project aims to redevelop the block of Crystal Drive into a “retail hub” between 15th Street S. and 18th Street S.

JBG Smith has called for adding new retailers like an Alamo Drafthouse movie theater, a grocery store, and an outdoor dining area to the block near the Crystal City Metro station.

Image via Gensler

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