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Federal and state law enforcement have joined the investigation into a series of small explosions in the Arlington Forest neighborhood.

As ARLnow first reported, someone blew up a Little Free Library on the 100 block of N. Columbus Street and caused another small explosion at the nearby Lubber Run amphitheater early Wednesday morning.

The Arlington County Fire Department was joined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; and Virginia State Police in processing evidence from the scene.

“The Fire Prevention Office is asking anyone that lives in the immediate area with home surveillance equipment to please review their video for any information that could assist with the investigation,” ACFD said Thursday evening.

The full ACFD press release is below.

At approximately 12:45 a.m. on Nov. 9, 2022, the Arlington County Fire Department responded to the 100 block of N. Columbus St. for a reported outside fire. When crews arrived, they found a small outside fire, as well as a destroyed privately owned exterior book collection box (or, a “Little Free Library”).

A Fire Marshal was requested to the scene and during the initial investigation, it was determined that the likely source of the fire and damage was caused by a small explosion.

While performing a canvass of the initial crime scene (100 block of N. Columbus St.), the Arlington County Fire Prevention Office located a second possible crime scene at the Lubber Run amphitheater. The scene was processed by the Arlington County Fire Prevention Office with assistance from the Arlington County Fire Department Bomb Squad, Virginia State Police (VSP), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). The Arlington County Fire Prevention Office will be sending collected evidence to the ATF lab for processing. This location, as well as the initial scene, are believed to be connected and all possible leads are being explored.

The investigation is still ongoing, and we will provide updates as they become available. There is currently no suspect(s) description.

The Fire Prevention Office is asking anyone that lives in the immediate area with home surveillance equipment to please review their video for any information that could assist with the investigation.

Anyone with information pertaining to this incident is encouraged to reach out by emailing [email protected] or by calling the Arlington County Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180.

Blown up Little Free Library in Arlington Forest (photo courtesy Michael Thomas)
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Blown up Little Free Library in Arlington Forest (photo courtesy Michael Thomas)

A Little Free Library was blown up in the Arlington Forest neighborhood overnight.

The explosion happened shortly after midnight on the 100 block of N. Columbus Street, near the intersection with the Arlington Blvd service road.

“When crews arrived, they found a small outside fire as well as a damaged privately owned outdoor book collection box,” Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner. “A Fire Marshal was requested to the scene to investigate.”

The suspect or suspects remain at large.

“The incident remains an open investigation and anyone with information pertaining to this incident is encouraged to reach out by emailing [email protected] or calling the Arlington County Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180,” Hiner said.

A resident tells ARLnow that at least one person who lived nearby ran to help control the fire.

“A neighbor went out with a fire extinguisher to control the resulting fire,” said Michael Thomas. “The Fire Department arrived shortly after to take over and ensure that the fire did not spread to [Lubber Run Park], which could have easily happened with the forest bed and understudy being so dry.”

“The explosion was followed by several others nearby,” including one that blew up another wooden fixture near the Lubber Run amphitheater, Thomas said.

Wooden fixture destroyed at the Lubber Run amphitheater (photo courtesy Michael Thomas)

Hiner said the fire department was not aware of additional explosions.

A message sent to a neighborhood listserv suggested that the Little Free Library explosion might have been caused by “a modified firework or mortar.”

Update at 4 p.m. — Fire Marshals and Virginia State Police are now on the scene of the apparent explosion at Lubber Run amphitheater, according to Thomas.

Update on 11/10/22 — The FBI and the ATF is also assisting with the investigation, the Arlington County Fire Department said in a press release.

Investigators on scene at the Lubber Run amphitheater (photo courtesy Michael Thomas)
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N. Park Drive and N. George Mason Drive intersection near Lubber Run Community Center (image via Google Maps)

(Updated, 4:55 p.m.) A recent crash has renewed concerns about an intersection near the year-old Lubber Run Community Center.

For years, the intersection of N. Park Drive and N. George Mason Drive in the Arlington Forest neighborhood has been a source of worry for neighbors. The mix of speeding, four lanes, and a lack of a traffic signal have resulted in too many vehicle crashes, residents told ARLnow.

There have been 19 crashes at the intersection dating back to 2017, per data provided to ARLnow by the county’s Department of Environmental Services (DES). That includes one pedestrian-involved crash in 2018. None of the crashes resulted “in severe injury,” DES said.

A crash near the intersection of N. Park Drive and N. George Mason Drive (photo courtesy of David Hartogs)

But since the new Lubber Run Community Center opened in July 2021, the problem has only gotten worse. Nearly half of those crashes have happened in just the past 19 months, statistics from the Arlington County Police Department show.

That includes another crash earlier this week.

The county did add Rectangular Rapid Flashing Beacons (RRFBs) at the intersection in late 2020 as part of a transportation study related to the community center project.

“The intersection so far has not been identified as part of the Vision Zero High-Injury Network corridor or Hot Spot program,” DES said.

But this has not alleviated neighbors’ concerns. There’s a considerable worry that with increased pedestrian traffic, plus with Barrett Elementary School also nearby, it’s just a matter of time before a driver hits another pedestrian.

In other parts of the county, preventing pedestrian and bicyclists-involved crashes has been a significant ongoing concern amid a continued series of tragedies.

David Hartogs, who has lived in the townhomes across the street since 2005, told ARLnow he’s witnessed a “handful of crashes” and has heard at least another dozen at the intersection just over the last few years.

He recounted several of the crashes that stick in his mind most to ARLnow, including a car jumping a curb last spring, two accidents that resulted in vehicles ending up in the woods, and even a school bus “brushing” a motorcycle last November.

A school bus “brushing” a motorcycle at the intersection of N. Park Drive and N. George Mason Drive (photo courtesy of David Hartogs)

Earlier this week, Hartogs saw another crash and tweeted about his concern. As he noted on social media, he believes that there needs to be a traffic signal at that intersection and not just an RRFB.

He walks his kids to school and often thinks about their safety crossing that intersection.

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Sense of Place Cafe in Arlington Forest is now closed.

The independent coffee shop and cafe in the Arlington Forest Shopping Center at 4807 1st Street N. closed last week, before the July 4 holiday, ownership confirmed to ARLnow. It was located next to Bricks Pizza.

The reason for closing, as social media posts allude to, is the health of owner Kay Kim.

Sense of Place Cafe is closing (photo via screenshot/Instagram)

“Despite our love for sharing our coffee with the amazing Arlington Forest community, we decided to prioritize Kay’s health over business and close this chapter of our lives,” reads a Facebook and Instagram post. “As a result, we know this may seem sudden to many of you but we are so glad we were able to see many familiar faces during our last weekend and appreciate your understanding!”

The shop will continue to sell its roasted in-house Enzymo coffee beans online, while supplies last. The beans received a bronze medal at the Golden Bean North America Coffee Roasters Competition in 2019, according to the cafe’s website.

The cafe opened in the Arlington Forest Shopping Center in August 2017 and gained popularity as both a seller of flavorful coffee and a neighborhood hangout. In 2018, Sense of Place was a victim of a “strange” burglary where a notebook full of family recipes and notes, detailing how to roast its award-winning beans, was stolen. The expensive espresso machines nor the iPads were touched and only about $150 in petty cash was stolen along with the notebook.

Ownership tells ARLnow that, even four years later, they still don’t know a motive or why those items were stolen and not others. Last year, meanwhile, a number of other shops in the development were vandalized and burglarized twice, including Sense of Place.

Following its closure on June 30, Sense of Place is now thanking its customers for their business over the past few years

“Please deliver our message of appreciation for their support (especially during the Pandemic), love and friendship,” ownership writes in an email. “We truly enjoyed being a part of the Arlington Forest community for the past 5 years. We have so many great memories to last.”

We’re told the owners do not currently have plans to open another business.

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After a year of work surveying residents, two civic associations are going to the county with a request: to make a stretch of N. Carlin Springs Road safer for pedestrians.

Drivers routinely go 40 mph on the 30 mph road, which is used by kids walking to Kenmore Middle School, says Christopher George, who spearheaded the community initiative. People have to cross four lanes of traffic without marked crossings to get to two heavily used bus stations, which lack ramps to make them accessible to people with disabilities.

“It’s very dangerous for people who take the bus to cross the street,” he tells ARLnow. “Kenmore students are pretty much told not to cross the street because it’s so dangerous.”

Members of the Bluemont Civic Association (BCA) and the Arlington Forest Citizens Association (AFCA) want slower speeds, safer crossings and greater enforcement of speeding and street crossing laws on N. Carlin Springs Road between N. Edison Street and N. Kensington Street.

Their asks come after more than a year spent surveying neighborhoods, conducting site walks and drafting a report.

Residents say they want to see:

  • Marked crossings accessible to people with disabilities
  • Medians with pedestrian refuges, curb extensions and streetscaping at the intersections of 2nd Street N./N. Jefferson Street and at N. Greenbrier Street
  • A speed limit on N. Carlin Springs Road of 25 mph, not 30 mph
  • Dark sky-compliant Carlyle-style street lights

Members sent a joint resolution to the County Board and County Manager Mark Schwartz requesting that they pilot these changes before fully implementing them.

They said these changes could qualify as upgrades for the county’s annual repaving efforts, its Vision Zero program to reduce pedestrian deaths and serious injuries or the county’s Neighborhood Conservation program, designed to let residents identify and plan projects in their neighborhoods.

The two intersections mentioned by the association members are “in the queue to look into for evaluation,” says Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.

And a lower speed limit could be coming to the street. This year, DES is studying 30 mph roads ­­– including N. Carlin Springs Road ­­­– to determine which “could be a good fit for either a speed limit reduction or other measures such as signage,” she said.

DES expects the study will be done before the end of the year.

The two neighborhoods have worked together before to seek funding for pedestrian safety improvements on N. Carlin Springs Road, George said.

Arlington recently made intersection safety upgrades on N. Carlin Springs at N. Edison and N. Wakefield streets that included curb extensions, rapid flashing beacons, accessibility improvements, widened medians and other improvements, Pors said.

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A Virginia State Police vehicle (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

A young man in a carjacked Honda is facing charges after police stopped him from fleeing just before crossing a bridge into D.C.

Video of the Saturday morning incident shows police performing a PIT maneuver on the Honda as it’s being pursued in the I-395 Express Lanes, causing the car to spin and crash. It’s relatively rare for police to employ the technique in the immediate D.C. area due to safety concerns.

The video, courtesy of Dave Statter, is below.

Though Arlington County police could be seen in pursuit, it appears that a Virginia State Police trooper was the one who made contact with the fleeing car before it entered the District’s jurisdiction, which typically requires pursuing Arlington or VSP officers to call off the chase.

The Arlington County Police Department said that the pursuit started on Army Navy Drive in Pentagon City, about a block from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2.

“At approximately 10:49 a.m. on February 26, officers observed two subjects enter a parked vehicle that had been reported stolen during a carjacking in Maryland,” ACPD said in a crime report today. “Stop sticks were deployed and officers activated their emergency equipment and attempted to stop the vehicle but the driver continued to flee onto the NB I-395 Express Lanes.”

“A vehicle pursuit was initiated and, with assistance by Virginia State Police, the suspect vehicle was stopped and both occupants were detained,” the crime report continues. “During a search of the driver, a firearm was recovered.”

The 18-year-old driver from Capitol Heights, Maryland “was transported to an area hospital and once medically cleared, arrested and charged with Receiving Stolen Goods, Carrying a Concealed Weapon, Eluding and No Driver’s License,” according to police. “He was held on no bond.”

Separately, a person selling a car in the Arlington Forest neighborhood was carjacked during a test drive Sunday afternoon. Police say the person taking the test drive pulled out a gun and stole the victim’s car, phone and wallet.

From the ACPD crime report:

CARJACKING, 2022-02270120, Unit block of N. Columbus Street. At approximately 12:35 p.m. on February 27, police were dispatched to the report of a carjacking. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect and victim met for the prearranged sale of a vehicle. During a test drive of the vehicle, the suspect brandished a firearm, threatened the victim and demanded his property. The victim was able to exit the vehicle before the suspect fled the scene in the stolen vehicle with the victim’s cell phone and wallet. The victim was not injured. The suspect is described as a Black male, approximate 25 – 35 years old, 5’8″ – 5’10” tall with black hair and brown eyes. The stolen vehicle is described as a gray 2012 Nissan Maxima. The investigation is ongoing.

A coyote was spotted in Arlington Forest, near Lubber Run (courtesy of Amy Cocuzza)

A black coyote was sighted near Lubber Run this week, and she may have pups.

While sighting the shy canine is relatively rare, the dark fur of the Arlington Forest coyote is a touch more uncommon. Its coloration is what helped the Animal Welfare League of Arlington identify she was not new to the area.

One Arlington Forest resident called the AWLA, which runs the county’s animal control operation, to report a sighting on Monday, and said the coyote had pups in tow, although officers couldn’t locate her or the young to confirm. On Tuesday, an ARLnow reader Amy Cocuzza caught her on camera in the neighborhood.

Cocuzza reached out to a USDA wildlife specialist, who said the Arlington Forest coyote’s dark fur is uncommon but not rare. Coyotes in the East have tremendous color variation.

AWLA’s Chief of Animal Control Jennifer Toussaint tells ARLnow the Arlington Forest coyote is not the only dark coyote she’s seen in Arlington. She saw her first on Route 110 near Memorial in 2013. She compared the uncommon coloration — known as melanism — to that of the more prevalent black squirrel.

She said the coyote Cocuzza saw is likely female and they became aware of her in Arlington Forest last year.

Previous coyote sightings reported by ARLnow were all of a grey or lighter brown colored canine. A coyote was spotted multiple times wandering around in the Fairlington area in 2020. Coyotes have also been seen moseying along Washington Blvd, and in Potomac Overlook Regional Park, Lubber Run and Cherrydale. In 2014, a coyote was struck by a car near Arlington National Cemetery.

Toussaint called coyotes “highly adaptable opportunists” and said they thrive living near people in suburban and urban settings like Arlington where scavenging for food is easy — taking advantage of pet food or trash left out. But she said the presence of a coyote, which can be active both day and night, isn’t cause for alarm. In fact, there are some benefits like free rodent control.

“Urban coyotes are born right in our neighborhoods and are generally familiar with us, our pets, and our routines,” she said. “Occasionally, a curious coyote may need to be reminded to be wary of people, especially if someone has been feeding them, which is not advised or legal.”

Toussaint recommends “hazing” techniques, such as clapping your hands, raising your voice, blowing a whistle or shaking an aluminum can with pennies inside. She said, while coyotes don’t pose a risk to humans, they should never be handled and pets should be monitored closely and kept current on rabies vaccines.

“We don’t see many interactions or conflicts between coyotes and people or pets, but when we do, it’s usually because someone was startled, so it’s a good idea to practice hazing techniques before allowing a pet in your yard, as well,” she said.

Arlington’s Natural Resource Manager Alonso Abugattas writes that “the Eastern coyote is bigger than those in the West, about the size of a border collie or even German Shepherd, often between 45 to 55lbs” with males usually larger than the females.

The USDA specialist suggested to Cocuzza that the black coyote may be wandering out because it’s their mating season, and “they do tend to be more bold and wander out at this time.”

Hat tip to Amy Cocuzza 

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The Arlington Forest neighborhood woke up Monday morning to find numerous cars were broken into overnight.

Cars on at least three blocks of the neighborhood near Route 50 were targeted by thieves, who opened doors and rummaged through the belongings inside, stealing cash. In all, around 18 vehicles were entered, according to the Arlington County Police Department.

Police are now searching for two suspects in the case. From an ACPD crime report:

LARCENY FROM AUTO/GRAND LARCENY AUTO (SERIES), 2021-08020041, 200 block of N. Edison Street / 5100 block of 1st Street N. / 200 block of N. Emerson Street. At approximately 5:02 a.m. on August 2, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious persons. Upon arrival, it was determined that the reporting party observed two unknown male suspects looking into parked vehicles. Arriving officers located a vehicle with open doors and items that had been rummaged through. A canvass of the area located approximately 18 vehicles which has been entered and rummaged through. Several victims reported an undisclosed amount of cash was stolen from their vehicles, as well as personal items displaced. During the course of the investigation, one victim vehicle was reported stolen but was subsequently located in the area and recovered. Suspect One is described as a Black male, approximately 5’10” tall with short hair and a long beard, wearing a white t-shirt. There is no description for Suspect Two. The investigation is ongoing.

Arlington experienced a rash of vehicle break-ins and thefts during the pandemic last year, though some arrests have since been made and — anecdotally, at least — such reports have become less frequent.

Also in Tuesday’s crime report, the police department noted a theft of a half-dozen motorized scooters from a scooter and motorcycle dealership in the Clarendon area.

GRAND LARCENY AUTO (SIGNIFICANT), 2021-08010105, 3200 block of 10th Street N. At approximately 10:19 a.m. on August 1, police were dispatched to the report of a grand larceny auto. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 11:20 p.m. on July 31 and 5:42 a.m. on August 1, three unknown suspects forced entry into the business and stole 6 motorized scooters. No other items were reported stolen or damaged. There are no suspect descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.

Door damaged at Bricks Pizza in Arlington Forest on July 12, 2021 (photo courtesy Michael T.)

A new series of break-ins at the Arlington Forest Shopping Center has caused losses for a pair of local businesses.

The overnight burglaries were discovered this morning, at the low-slung shopping center along Route 50.

“At approximately 7:54 a.m. on July 12, police were dispatched to the report of two vandalized businesses,” according to Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “Upon arrival, it was determined that unknown suspect(s) broke the glass door to a business with a rock, gained entry and stole a cash register. The door to a second business was damaged but no entry was made and nothing was reported stolen.”

A nearby resident tells ARLnow that Bricks Pizza had its door damaged and DA Studio Salon had its cash register stolen.

Bricks Pizza was also burglarized in January, when a thief or thieves damaged and/or stole from Crystal Thai restaurant, Sense of Place Cafe, and the Forest Valet dry cleaner. An online fundraiser after the January break-ins raised nearly $32,000 to help with repairs.

“The investigation is ongoing,” Savage said of the latest incident.

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A sugar maple has turned into a breathtaking wood-carved sculpture.

Local artist Andrew Mallon, known for similar artwork in the area, created the Greek mythological scene that shows when Daphne fled from Apollo and turned into a tree.

It’s on a side yard of Mary Maruca’s home on N. Park Drive, in the Arlington Forest neighborhood near Lubber Run Amphitheater.

“The decision to create the sculpture came as I wrestled with the pain of taking down the last of the three old trees that had lived in my yard before I bought my house,” she tells ARLnow.

Sugar maples can live for hundreds of years, and Maruca estimates this was one was a mere 80 years old. But an arborist diagnosed a fungus on it, so she needed to intervene due to its location between her and her neighbor’s homes.

Days before she was going to have the tree removed, she thought about turning it into a sculpture and reached out to Mallon. The timing seemed magical.

Maruca was always struck by illustrator Arthur Rackham’s depiction of Daphne’s escape, and Mallon did his own research, too. Mallon has turned dead and felled trees into sculptures of animals and more. He and Maruca collaborated with their ideas before the artist turned the tree into the art.

“After Andrew completed the sculpture, I also had a sense of another level of its significance — that it also made a state about times of change and what they require of us,” Maruca said. “Indeed, forms may change but beauty remains, and struggle is definitely part of that process.”

Though Daphne is depicted in a state of undress, unlike Rackham’s depiction Mallon gave her some strategic coverings, using meticulously sculpted leaves and part of the tree trunk. That should be more palatable to neighbors than the famous topless mermaid sculpture in Leeway-Overlee — the work of a Frederick, Md. sculptor — which attracted national media attention before being cut down in 2011.

Photos via Andrew Mallon/Facebook

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The first time Matt and Vicky Eichler saw Jazz, she was in a crate coming out of baggage claim at Reagan National Airport.

“They sounded the big siren at Reagan National and she came through the little cargo thing,” says Matt. “And she was born to us.”

That was in 2002.

Today, Jazz (short for “Jazzmatazz”) is a newly-turned 19-year-old, toothless, miniature dachshund who lives with her caretakers in the Arlington Forest neighborhood. And this birthday girl (her birthday was March 19) has gone Arlington viral.

As ARLnow’s Pet of the Week last week, Jazz made quite an impression. On Facebook, Jazz’s story have received more than 250,000 impressions, 16,500 likes, 650 shares, and 1,300 comments — and counting.

It’s the most viral Pet of the Week post on social media that anyone here can remember. (In terms of readership on the ARLnow website, Jazz was unable to overtake the all-time Pet of the Week pageviews leader, a pet rock named Steven.)

It’s not totally clear why Jazz has stolen the hearts of an NHL arena’s worth of Facebook users, but her caretakers think it’s because she’s lovable, cute, and alive.

“All of our neighbors when they see her say ‘Oh, she’s still alive?’ and we say ‘Oh, yeah!,” says Matt.

Nineteen years ago, the newly-married couple was looking for a dog to carry on the family legacy.

“My family has had dachshunds in their family since 1980,” says Matt. “And Vicky really wanted a dog, so [she] emailed a number of breeders.”

They found a match, but the dog was all the way in Louisiana. So, the young pup took a flight by herself to meet her new family.

“She came with the name ‘Jasmine,'” says Vicky. “But I didn’t like it. It was too girly.”

So, they named her Jazzmatazz. With her Louisiana origins, Vicky says that the name “totally fit her.”

That first day with her new family was full of surprises.

“We brought her home, went to the backyard, and she instantly knew how to play ball,” says Matt. “It was pretty amazing. She was more than eager to play and push [the ball] back with her nose and chase it down.”

Jazz also didn’t bark in her first days, but that changed, oddly, once she saw herself for the first time.

“She was really quiet. And then she saw herself in the mirror and started to bark for the first time,” says Matt. “Then, we couldn’t shut her up after that.”

A few years later, the Eichler got another addition to their family.

“When we brought [our son] home from the hospital, Jazz welcomed him to the house,” says Matt. “She would pop up on her hind legs and look into the cradle.”

On walks, Jazz was protective of the baby, barking at passers-by.

“She was a good older sister,” Matt says.

As the years have passed, Jazz has slowed down a bit. Her eyes have gradually gotten worse, her hearing is going, and her mobility isn’t great. But she still has a great sense of smell, always tracking down her treats.

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