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Amazon announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it is shutting down its charitable e-commerce platform AmazonSmile, which lets customers support their favorite nonprofits while shopping.

Instead, the tech company says it will focus on areas of more “meaningful change,” chiefly, investments in affordable housing. One of the first examples it highlighted was its contributions in Arlington County, the home of its forthcoming second headquarters.

“In one year alone, our investments have been able to increase the affordable housing stock in communities like Bellevue, Washington and Arlington, Virginia by at least 20%,” it said.

That’s a fair statement, according to Arlington County.

Per a 2022 annual report on affordable housing, Arlington County had 8,650 total committed affordable units (CAFs) in the 2020 fiscal year.

“With Amazon’s support, we added 619 CAFs via Crystal House in FY21 and 1,334 CAFs via [Barcroft Apartments] in FY22, which is 1,953 total CAFs added between those two projects and a more than 20% increase over the FY20 CAF total,” says Erika Moore, a spokeswoman for the Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development.

In December 2021, Amazon loaned $160 million — on top of a $150 million from Arlington County — to real estate developer Jair Lynch to  facilitate the purchase of the Barcroft Apartments on the condition that Jair Lynch preserve 1,334 units for affordable housing.

In January 2021, Amazon issued another loan to help the Washington Housing Conservancy purchase the Crystal House apartment complex (1900 S. Eads St) and stabilize rent at the complex, one block from Amazon’s future HQ2.

Arlington County has selected a developer to oversee the construction of 655 CAFs of infill development within the site, which would further increase the number of affordable units with ties to Amazon donations.

“We’re investing $2 billion to build and preserve affordable housing in our hometown communities,” the company said. “In just two years, we’ve provided funding to create more than 14,000 affordable homes — and we expect to build at least 6,000 more in the coming months. These units will host more than 18,000 moderate- to low-income families, many of them with children.”

The end of AmazonSmile, which the company says has not created “the impact we had originally hoped,” comes just a few days after the tech company announced it will lay off 18,000 employees. The company maintains it will still bring 25,000 jobs to its second headquarters, despite slowing growth.

Should it hit that mark, the tech and retail giant will be able to claim $550 million in state grants through 2042, and another $200 million should it hire 37,850 full-time HQ2 employees by 2035. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin has proposed setting aside $78 million in the new two-year state budget to help fund the grants, the Washington Business Journal reports.

The full AmazonSmile announcement is below.

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Developer Jair Lynch says it is exploring ways to make some units at the Barcroft Apartments even more affordable to families.

This comes as two organizations, Arlington Community Foundation and advocacy group ACE Collaborative, have put pressure on Jair Lynch to deepen affordability at the site over concerns of displacement.

“We have heard the assertions that tenants won’t be displaced, but we are asking for detailed plans for the displacement prevention,” ACE Collaborative Director Mitchell Yangson tells ARLnow, adding that rent for legacy residents should “be rolled back to a level that will prevent their displacement for as long as they live at Barcroft, not just on a temporary basis.”

Around this time last year, Jair Lynch acquired the Barcroft Apartments with the intent to renovate some units and redevelop other parts of the site with $310 million in loans from Arlington County and Amazon. It received these loans after promising to preserve at least 1,334 units for households earning up to 60% of the area median income (AMI).

But deepening affordability remains a live issue for two reasons. First, most residents make less than 60% of the area median income, according to the developer’s Master Financing and Development Plan, submitted to the county in late October — equating to $85,380 for a family of four. Second, the developer says next year it will begin phasing in 3% rent hikes.

A majority of the 1,100 residents living in Barcroft before the sale reported earning 40-50% AMI, or $56,920-$71,150 for a family of four, while some reported earning up to 30% AMI, or $42,690 for a family of four.

“There are some rent-burdened people here,” Jair Lynch Development Senior Vice President Ruth Hoang said in an Arlington Housing Commission meeting in November. “We are also concerned about overcrowding hiding some rent burden as well.”

The federal government defines being rent-burdened as spending more than 30% of one’s income on rent.

Range of incomes reported as of Oct. 1, 2022 at Barcroft (via Arlington County)

Jair Lynch and Arlington County have said that households will not be displaced. Rent in 2022 was frozen at 2021 levels, and increases capped at 3% per year will start in 2023.

The developer also says it will work on a case-by-case basis with residents who feel they cannot afford any rent hikes.

“As we roll out the 3% increases, those residents who are concerned and feel like they can’t pay, we’ll have those meetings with them and look at their incomes to see what they can and cannot support,” Hoang said.

Jair Lynch has committed to trying to find on-site options for those earning more than 60% AMI.

Per the financing report, Jair Lynch says it can still meet its original goals despite “significant economic and financial headwinds.”

These include scarcer affordable housing financing due to the more than 2.5 percentage point increase in interest rates and increases in operating and constructing housing, due to 8-10% inflation and a 15-20% increase in construction costs.

The report listed additional funding sources that could be used to deepen affordability levels, similar to those Arlington Community Foundation identified in a report showing how 255 units could be preserved for extremely low-income households, or those earning 30% AMI.

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Our Savior Lutheran Church on S. Taylor Street (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 4 p.m.) Two weeks before Christmas, someone has apparently stolen a nativity scene from a church in the Barcroft neighborhood.

But the pastor of Our Savior Lutheran Church (825 S. Taylor Street), Wayne Fredericksen, is turning the other cheek.

“My focus is fresh hope and fresh encouragement,” he said. “This is where my head and heart are going, to remind us of the Bible story and see how it provided hope and encouragement before the birth and also still for us today.”

He was still processing the news when ARLnow spoke with him Monday morning. Fredericksen says he wished whoever stole the scene, if the intent was to resell, would instead connect with the resources that the church support, including Path Forward, Bridges to Independence and Arlington Food Assistance Center.

“Since we don’t know the circumstances or the situation, we wish the best for that person,” he said. “We’re sad they thought that was an action we thought was good for them. We wish them good in other ways and we move forward in forgiveness.”

Police were called but do not have much to go on at this point.

“Between December 11 at 12 a.m. and December 12 at 12 a.m., the unknown suspect(s) stole an outdoor nativity set,” Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage told ARLnow via email. “There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.”

Fredericksen called the loss of the scene, which was a gift to the church, “disappointing.” He says the decoration contributes to the communal celebration of Christmas and reminds people to support the ministerial work of houses of worship as well as local nonprofits that help people in need.

“It can feel overwhelming, but when you see how many people are at work trying to do good, it doesn’t take a lot to come alongside and support in some way, whether it’s with a gift, or a gift of time,” Fredericksen said.

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(Updated at 4 p.m. on 12/15/22) The Penske truck rental location on Columbia Pike — which once had an ART bus crash into it and stay there for a month — has closed.

And the replacement for the storefront and expansive parking lot, at the Pike’s intersection with S. George Mason Drive, may be something completely different.

The site is expected to figure into plans from Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners to revamp the neighboring Barcroft Apartments over the next decade. It sits at one edge of the sprawling garden apartment complex, next to a 7-Eleven store, and was purchased by the developer around the time of the buzzy housing acquisition.

Jair Lynch also purchased the small strip mall with the South and Central American eatery Cafe Sazón and a Goodwill location at 4704 and 4714 Columbia Pike, respectively.

“The Penske Truck Rental Mart location at 4110 Columbia Pike in Arlington has permanently closed as of Sept. 30,” Alen Beljin, a Penske Truck Leasing spokesperson, told ARLnow. “Our company had leased the building, so we did not have the opportunity to renew when the property was sold.”

While Penske packed up, the local nonprofit Arlington Community Foundation (ACF) wrote a report that shows how Jair Lynch could set aside some units for residents making less than 30% of the Area Median Income (AMI), using the commercial site and county development tools. Jair Lynch has pledged to set side 1,344 apartments for people making 60% or less of AMI for the next 99 years, supported by loans from Amazon and Arlington County.

“Our vision is that in perpetuity, 30% AMI households can live there,” said Michael Spotts, an Arlington resident who runs the consulting firm Neighborhood Fundamentals, and a co-author of the ACF report. “Barcroft has been a place where people at those income levels can call home. As this neighborhood redevelops, we want to ensure people can continue to call that neighborhood home.”

ACF published the analysis ahead of the Master Financing and Development Plan Jair Lynch is expected to file with Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz at the end of October. This plan will spell out how the developer plans to renovate existing apartments, build new housing and keep down rent for lower-income residents.

“The plan is part of the financing agreement with Amazon and Arlington County,” David Hilde, Vice-President of development for Jair Lynch, told Arlington’s Tenant-Landlord Commission last month. “It goes through how to maximize the investments Arlington and Amazon made, whether that’s baseline preserving affordability, or exploring options to deepen affordability.”

The developer did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.

What ACF recommends

Jair Lynch could build a standard market-rate, mixed-use apartment building on the Penske lot, per the ACF report, as developers who follow the Columbia Pike Commercial Centers Form-Based Code are not required to provide affordable units.

But, using the commercial sites, the tools ACF laid out and another $20-30 million, the developer could set aside 255 units for low-income households earning 30% AMI or less for the next 30 years, ACF says.

“We think this is going to be challenging to accomplish and it’s going to require a lot of commitment from stakeholders,” Spotts said. “We’re optimistic, based on conversations we’ve had, that this can be pulled off.” Read More

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(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) A suspect fired gunshots at police in Arlington, sparking a high-speed chase down Route 50 that ended in the West Falls Church area of Fairfax County.

The incident started around 7:45 p.m. when Arlington County police were notified that a suspect that had fled from Prince George’s County police was entering the county, per scanner traffic.

The suspect was said to be driving a Honda Civic, similar to that involved in a gun brandishing incident with sheriff’s deputies in Courthouse this morning. During that incident, a man stopped in a crosswalk near police headquarters and flagged down deputies, before fleeing when the deputies saw a gun in his lap.

Around 8:10 p.m. an officer radioed that shots were being fired at police, reportedly on the 600 or 700 block of S. Wakefield Street in the Barcroft neighborhood, north of Columbia Pike. The suspect then drove down 4th Street S. and up George Mason Drive near the National Guard Bureau before getting on Route 50 and fleeing towards Fairfax County at high speeds, with a large contingent of Arlington police and Virginia State Police in pursuit, according to scanner traffic.

The suspect reportedly drove the wrong way down Route 50 while trying to avoid traffic and caused a crash at Route 50 and Annandale Road in Fairfax County, before getting out of the car and beginning a foot chase, during which more shots were fired at police, near a Shell gas station at the intersection of Route 50 and Graham Road, according to scanner traffic.

The suspect is now in custody and a gun with an extended magazine was found by officers, Fairfax County police confirmed. There are no reports of officers injured.

“Tonight, an individual who recklessly discharged a firearm at police officers on more than one occasion and in the vicinity of community members is in custody due to the courageous and professional efforts of members of the Arlington County Police Department, the Fairfax County Police Department, and the Virginia State Police,” Arlington police chief Andy Penn said at a press conference in Fairfax County, near where the chase ended.

Penn confirmed that police believe tonight’s suspect was the same that deputies encountered this morning. Arlington police obtained warrants for the suspect — on charges of eluding, brandishing and hit and run — after the morning incident, Penn said.

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A new family-owned Peruvian chicken restaurant is opening on Columbia Pike.

Cabaña Restaurant is looking to start serving roasted chicken and other Peruvian food at 4815 Columbia Pike, perhaps later this month.

Management is just waiting on the county to do its inspections and issue licenses, co-owner Soledad Marreros told ARLnow. The restaurant is also waiting on approval of its liquor license from Virginia ABC.

Marreros owns the restaurant with her brother. Together, they also both run Restaurante El Salvador located only a few doors down from its new restaurant. That eatery has been open for about 30 years, she said, and will continue to operate along with the new restaurant.

Cabaña Restaurant will be its own restaurant with a new menu and a different type of cuisine, Marreros said.

With the population increasing along Columbia Pike, particularly residents originally from Central and South America, the time felt right to open another restaurant, Marreros said.

Plus, with so many other restaurants closing over the last two years due to the pandemic, space became available close to their original restaurant. Prior, 4815 Columbia Pike appears to have been home to Ginger Beef.

Cabaña Restaurant is nestled between a cell phone store and an Ethiopian market in the Barcroft Shopping Centre at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Buchanan Street.

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(Updated at 10:10 a.m.) Firefighters battled a two-alarm blaze at a house in the Barcroft neighborhood this morning.

The fire on the 4600 block of 6th Street S. was reported shortly before 5:30 a.m. First arriving units reported heavy smoke and flames coming from the roof of a two-story home.

It took firefighters from several local jurisdictions about an hour to fully extinguish the blaze, which appeared to have mostly burned the top floor or attic area.

“Crews made an initial interior attack on the fire but were pulled out due to deteriorating conditions,” Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Nate Hiner tells ARLnow. “After attacking the fire from the exterior, units were able to enter the structure again to put out the remainder of the fire. The bulk of the fire was extinguished in 40 minutes.”

“A second alarm was requested to bring this fire under control,” Hiner noted. “Roughly 75 firefighters responded to the scene, and ACFD was assisted by the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department as well as the City of Alexandria Fire Department.”

No injuries were reported.

One nearby resident said the home was unoccupied at the time. Another told ARLnow that they could smell smoke from the blaze from Columbia Pike.

The cause of the fire is now under investigation.

“The Fire Prevention Office remains at the scene to investigate the cause and origin,” said Hiner.

Photos courtesy Dennis Dimick/Flickr and the Arlington County Fire Department/Twitter

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The Barcroft Apartments, a 1,334-unit, market-affordable apartment complex along Columbia Pike (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A progressive group says an Amazon- and county-funded plan to keep the Barcroft Apartments affordable will actually displace low-income residents.

The more than $300 million purchase of the 60-acre, 1,334-unit complex along Columbia Pike will take what are currently aging but affordable market-rate apartments and renovate or reconstruct them, while converting them to dedicated affordable units.

The hasty and hefty purchase happened, county officials said, in response to the possibility that the complex could be redeveloped without affordability protections. That is what happened to the nearby Columbia Gardens Apartments, which are being torn down to make way for townhouses.

But the group Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE), an offshoot of Alexandria-based New Virginia Majority, says the Barcroft Apartments plan is flawed and will actually displace some long-time residents. The rent they are currently paying, according to rates listed online, is actually lower than the dedicated affordable rates that the rents could eventually rise to.

ACE is holding a rally this afternoon at Doctor’s Run Park, across the street from the apartments in the Douglas Park neighborhood, to speak out against what it says is the “predicted displacement of Arlington tenants within next year in [the] highly diverse Barcroft Apartments.”

From a press release:

On May 12, 2022 at 4 p.m., Asian American Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Collaborative (ACE) organizers and tenants from Barcroft Apartments will hold a press conference and rally at Doctor’s Run Park, 1301 S. George Mason Drive. During the press conference, tenants will share their experiences trying to prepare for skyrocketing rental costs, and organizers will reveal the results of a recently completed survey conducted by organizers and Marymount University predicting tenant displacement of low-income residents.

Barcroft Apartments provides a home to one of the most culturally-diverse neighborhoods in the area, and was recently sold to new owners Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners. The current agreement involving Arlington County, Jair Lynch Real Estate Partner, and Amazon’s Housing Equity Fund risks displacing long time tenants in the upcoming years because their rental rates will be increased by 3% every year up to 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI) starting next year. A majority of the long-time tenants that were surveyed by ACE make below 60% AMI which also increased this year as well.

Tefera Negash, a five year tenant, said, “This was the last place in this area that was in our budget. This will bring too much inconvenience in our life on top of the economic difficulties we are experiencing recently.”

Nupur Chowdhury, community organizer for ACE said, “I’m a Bangladeshi-American living here in Arlington. My family and I have lived in Barcroft for 17 years. As someone who is living and active in this community, I am afraid that the scheduled rent increases year after year will make it too expensive for our diverse community to continue living here.”

Asked about the rally, Arlington County Housing Director Anne Venezia said she and Jair Lynch, the developer that is buying the complex with the loans from Amazon and Arlington, have been in touch with ACE.

“No Barcroft residents are being displaced,” Venezia asserted.

She issued the following statement in response to inquiries from ARLnow.

The Jair Lynch team and I have been working one-on-one with ACE since early this year. Last week we spoke with them directly to talk about their survey, the results, and their concerns. Our conversations have been collegial and constructive. We continue to share that no Barcroft residents are being displaced. Starting in 2023, rents may increase a maximum of 3% annually, up to the 60% AMI rent limit. The County remains committed to working with residents who need financial assistance. Last Friday and again this Tuesday, I followed up with additional information for families facing financial hardship, including a handout in 11 different languages about existing County programs that they could share with any residents. We are working to connect struggling families with rental resources, such as housing grants, including the potential for an information event about County resources at the property. County staff continues to be available to ACE and all Barcroft residents and to provide information and resources as needed. The Arlington Department of Human Services team is also available to help Barcroft residents with assistance for food, rent, and other services, regardless of immigration status. Residents can call 703-228-1300.

A representative with Jair Lynch echoed Venezia in saying that no residents will be displaced.

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Morning Notes

New Irish Pub Now Open in Pentagon City — “If your notion of an Irish pub is a static menu of fish n’ chips in a shamrock-decked bar, chef Cathal Armstrong wants to change that perception with Mattie and Eddie’s. The James Beard-anointed chef, who championed seasonal Irish cooking over 14 years at Alexandria’s Restaurant Eve, just opened the gastropub with a large outdoor patio in Pentagon City.” [Washingtonian]

Extended Power Outage in Barcroft — A driver crashed into a utility pole at S. Buchanan Street and 6th Street S. in the Barcroft neighborhood Sunday, initially knocking out power to thousands. Hundreds of homes were still in the dark until early this morning. [Twitter]

Candidate Comes Out Swinging At Dem Meeting — “[Chanda] Choun, who is attempting to unseat sitting Democrat Takis Karantonis in a June primary, did not pull many punches in an April 7 kickoff speech before the Arlington County Democratic Committee rank-and-file. ‘Takis was not the best candidate to represent Arlington’ during a politically and racially charged era, Choun said… If elected, Choun said he would be an elected official who ‘goes beyond the platitudes and buzzwords’ to promote an aggressively left-leaning agenda. One example: Choun said he wanted the county to establish a ‘truth and reconciliation commission’ to focus on equity issues.” [Sun Gazette]

School Board Advances Budget Proposal — “The School Board adopted its FY 2022 Proposed Budget at its April 8 meeting. The proposed budget expenditures total $699,919,805. The School Board amended the Superintendent’s FY22 Revised Proposed Budget by reducing the budgeted expenditures by $6,796,056 and 35.00 FTE and replacing the 2% cost of living adjustment with Compensation Option 1. Compensation Option 1 provides different compensation models by employee scale to ensure that every employee in the school division receives a compensation increase.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Pentagon Police Officer Faces Murder Charges — “Takoma Park police have charged the off-duty Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer they say shot and killed two men Wednesday morning in Montgomery County, Maryland. The officer has also been charged for an alleged assault that happened last year. David Hall Dixon, of Takoma Park, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, two counts of use of a handgun in commission of a felony and reckless endangerment.” [WTOP]

Don’t Hang Up on 911 — From Arlington County: “Oops, did you call 911 by mistake? It’s OK, just stay on the line and tell the friendly dispatcher it was an accident. That way, they can confirm there’s no emergency… Otherwise, we’ll have to call you back, taking away a dispatcher who could help someone who needs it.” [Twitter]

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(Updated at 5:20 p.m.) A wanted man fled from police on foot and caused a brief scare at an elementary school this morning.

The incident started around 7:30 a.m. in the Barcroft neighborhood, amid reports of a domestic dispute.

“At approximately 7:33 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the 900 block of S. Buchanan Street for the report of a dispute between known individuals,” Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “During the course of the investigation, it was determined that one of the involved subjects was wanted by another jurisdiction.”

Police patrolling the area later located the man in the Green Valley neighborhood, where he led officers on a chase that ended near Drew Elementary School.

“Following a short foot pursuit, the subject was taken into custody,” Savage said.

Later, after an investigation, it was determined that the 19-year-old suspect had thrown a rock through the victim’s window. He is facing a local charge related to that, as well the warrant for his arrest from another jurisdiction.

A witness to the arrest said the man was arrested in a field near the school amid a large emergency response. An Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirmed to ARLnow that Drew Elementary was placed in “secure the school” mode — a step just short of a full lockdown — between 9:30-9:40 a.m. due to the incident.

Separately this morning, another suspect led police on another chase, a couple of blocks from the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road, after a report of a man trespassing at an under-construction property.

“At approximately 9:46 a.m. on April 6, police were dispatched to the 1100 block of S. Highland Street for the report of a trespassing,” Savage said. “Upon observing the arrival of the responding officer, the subject fled the scene on foot. Officers located the subject and following a short foot pursuit, he was taken into custody. The investigation determined the subject was related to a destruction of property incident reported yesterday at this location where the side mirrors of two vehicles were damaged.”

A 29-year-old man from Annandale was arrested and charged with Destruction of Property and Trespassing.

Courtesy photos

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Morning Notes

Columbia Pike Resident Goes Missing — “ACPD seeks the public’s assistance locating Ms. Amanda Aniston, last seen Dec. 12, 2020 in the 1200 blk of S. Courthouse Rd. She is described as a Black female, brown hair, brown eyes, approx. 5’9″, 140 lbs. She may be in need of medical services.” [ACPD]

Did False Report Lead to Police Encounter? — “The head of the Arlington NAACP, Julius D. Spain Sr… said he would seek a meeting with Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and ‘if someone needs to be charged with making a false report, so be it.’ Crutchfield said in his complaint that ‘the neighbor who called the police lied about me taking pictures of the military base nearby to trigger a police response.'” [Washington Post]

Early Voting ‘Here to Stay’ — “Arlington is likely to provide a number of satellite centers for early voting in the 2021 general election – but how many there will be, and where they will be located, remain open questions. ‘Early voting is here to stay,’ predicted county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer, briefing Electoral Board members during a Dec. 16 meeting.” [InsideNova]

County May Help With Caucuses — “Find yourself in need of holding an election? The Arlington County Electoral Board soon may be able to help. Board members voted 3-0 on Dec. 16 to move forward on a policy that would allow political parties and, potentially, other groups to rent equipment and use election-office personnel during their own elections… Those doing the renting also would have to reimburse the cost.” [InsideNova]

New Rosslyn Apartment to Be Temporary Hotel — “Penzance Cos. is bringing in a pop-up hotel startup to help fill a portion of its massive mixed-use project on the western side of Rosslyn. Kasa Living is looking to use 100 units at The Highlands at 1555 Wilson Blvd. as temporary hotel rooms, according to a new filing from Penzance with Arlington County planners. The fully furnished apartments will serve as short-term rentals offered up by Kasa for up to seven years.” [Washington Business Journal]

Christmas Eve Scare for Barcroft Residents — “Missile into occupied dwelling… 4600 block of 9th Street S. At approximately 3:56 p.m. on December 24, police were dispatched to the report of destruction of property. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victims were inside a residence when they heard a loud noise and observed an object had been thrown at a window, causing it to break.” [ACPD]

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