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The family of a man who died in Arlington County jail in 2020 has filed a wrongful death lawsuit blaming his death on willfully negligent care by the county and nurses.

Darryl Becton, 46, died in the Arlington County Detention Facility on Oct. 1, 2020. A state coroner determined he died of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, which is caused by sustained high blood pressure, complicated by opiate withdrawal.

The $10-million lawsuit filed in Arlington County Circuit Court names Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, the elected official who oversees the jail and the Sheriff’s Office, and Corizon Correctional Health, the jail-based medical provider at the time, as defendants. Four medical staff, including one who was arrested in connection to Becton’s death, and a sheriff’s deputy are also named.

The Sheriff’s Office declined to comment. Corizon did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

Becton, a D.C. resident, was booked on Sept. 29, 2020, on an alleged probation violation following his conviction on a felony “unauthorized use of a motor vehicle” charge in 2019.

The lawsuit says his death two days later — after succumbing to symptoms of heroin and fentanyl withdrawal and untreated high blood pressure — “was wholly avoidable.”

The lawsuit claims Becton told staff when he was booked that he had an opiate addiction and high blood pressure. These became obvious, the suit says, in the early hours of Oct. 1, when his blood pressure registered 191/102 — which would require immediate medical attention — and he began experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including vomiting, nausea, body aches, tremors and diarrhea.

The lawsuit alleges that, despite his obvious illness, medical staff did not properly address his withdrawal symptoms nor treat him for high blood pressure, while deputies assigned to periodically check in on him did not take note of his worsening symptoms.

“From 6 a.m. until 4:16 p.m., he was essentially left uncared for, untreated and alone,” said Mark Krudys, the attorney for the family during a noon press conference outside the jail today (Friday). “He was being casually monitored by the nursing and outright ignored by correctional staff. This did not have to occur. People don’t die from these conditions if they’re taken to medical [facilities] and receive the medical care they need.”

This is not the first time Corizon has been sued for inmate deaths allegedly connected to inadequate care. And Becton’s death, combined with the arrest of one nurse possibly connected to Corizon, prompted the county to cut ties with the provider and select a new provider, Mediko.

The lawsuit also alleges Becton was denied his civil rights in not receiving adequate medical care.

Many family members were present gave emotional tributes to Becton at the press conference.

His cousin, Janae Pugh, said it is every family’s “worst nightmare” to hear that a family member has died in the custody of people who are supposed to “protect and serve” the community.

“To stand here before you and expose my family’s suffering and pain is heartbreaking but very necessary,” she said. “The people in charge need to be held accountable for these preventable deaths. We are here today to seek justice and bring awareness to Darryl’s case.”

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2021 James B. Hunter Award Winners (via Arlington County)

Arlington’s Human Rights Commission is honoring four organizations and two individuals for their contributions to diversity and human rights over the past year.

Recipients include a seven-decade-old church in Arlington Ridge, the Arlington Branch of the NAACP and a community activist in the Halls Hill neighborhood.

A virtual celebration for the honorees will be held on Thursday, Dec. 9.

The James B. Hunter Human Rights Awards are given annually to individuals, community groups, non-profit organizations and businesses that best exemplify “outstanding achievement in the area of human rights and diversity made in Arlington County.”

The award is named after the former County Board member who championed the 1992 amendment to county law that prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation. Hunter died in 1998 at the age of 58 due to cancer.

Now in its 22nd year, the 2021 James B. Hunter award winners are Advent Lutheran Church, Arlington Thrive, the Arlington branch of the NAACP, Offender Aid and Restoration, Aurora Highlands resident Les Garrison and Langston Citizens Association president Wilma Jones Killgo.

Advent Lutheran Church (ALC) is located in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood and was first established in the 1950s.

“ALC willingly puts on the mantle of servant leadership and continually answers the call to help those in need, advance diversity, and advocate for human rights on behalf of the residents of Arlington County,” the press release says about why the church is being honored.

Arlington Thrive provides residents in need same-day, emergency financial assistance. The organization has been on the forefront helping the most vulnerable during the pandemic, providing a “safety net” for those who lost their livelihoods.

This year’s award also recognizes the Arlington branch of the NAACP for its recent work advancing racial, economic justice and equality. The organization called on the county to investigate an inmate’s death at the county jail, to fix conditions inside of the Serrano Apartments on Columbia Pike, and to change the county’s previous logo depicting Arlington House, the former home of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.

“The award is validation that our all-volunteer organization is bringing crucial social justice issues and impacting the forefront,” branch president JD Spain, Sr. tells ARLnow, while noting that there’s still much work to be done. “So we thank the committee for the award and look forward to joining hands to create a better future here in Arlington.”

Offender Aid and Restoration (OAR) is a five-decade-old nonprofit that provides a re-entry readiness program for those who have spent time at the county jail, amongst a host of other services.

“Racial equity and an authentic commitment to dismantling racism in Arlington flow through every aspect of how OAR operates — from service delivery to legislative advocacy to internal operations to community education and even to fundraising strategies,” said a press release about the awards.

Les Garrison of Aurora Hills is a long-time civic volunteer who worked to provide residents access to COVID-19 testing, vaccinations and food throughout the pandemic. His work to coordinate has been a “a beacon of selflessness and optimism for Arlington.”

Wilma Jones Killgo is a fourth-generation Arlingtonian who wrote a book about her childhood in Halls Hill, also known as High View Park. She’s a community activist, a fourth-term president of her civic association and a passionate voice for her neighborhood.

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A new installation outside Dorothy Hamm Middle School tells the story of the four students who integrated the building, formerly Stratford Junior High School, six decades ago.

Four free-standing panels and a wall-mounted panel, connected by a trail, depict Gloria Thompson, Ronald Deskins, Lance Newman and Michael Jones — the four students who desegregated the building on Feb. 2, 1959 — as well as Dorothy Hamm, the new school’s namesake and prominent civil rights activist in Arlington, and Barbara Johns, who at 16 led a student strike for equal education at a high school in Farmville, Virginia.

During a dedication ceremony for the new Stratford Commemorative Trail on Friday, several speakers said the installation equally inspires children to achieve greatness and charges Arlington Public Schools to continue making history.

“Rest assured that every child will leave this school knowing the civil rights history that happened here, understanding that while four students did begin the desegregation process in 1959, many others were denied that opportunity, and it came later,” school Principal Ellen Smith said. “Our students must know that as citizens of our school, our county, our state and our nation, they have the responsibility to speak up, to say something and make good trouble, as [former Rep.] John Lewis so aptly stated.”

The panels challenge those who walk the trail to take action and remind middle schoolers can make a difference at their age, she added.

In 2016, the school was designated a local historic district and APS convened a committee to find a way to honor its history. Soon after, APS embarked on a process to convert the school at 4100 Vacation Lane from a building housing the H-B Woodlawn and Stratford programs to a neighborhood middle school. It was renamed for Hamm and reopened to students in 2019. Final touches were finished during the 2020-21 school year.

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Lunch-In (Man at Segregated Diner) on the wall of Amy Schumer’s home (photo via Amy Schumer/Instagram)

The struggle to desegregate Arlington occupies not only local historical significance, but apparently a place of honor in the foyer of comedian Amy Schumer.

As noted by the Twitter account of Arlington’s planning office, Schumer recently posted posted a photo on Instagram yesterday that highlights a painting hanging on her wall.

The painting is by artist Julian Joseph Kyle — who specializes in work related to slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement — and based on a photo by Washington Star photographer Gus Chinn.

It shows a Black protestor, Dion Diamond, sitting at a segregated lunch counter at the Cherrydale Drug Fair in Arlington on June 10, 1960. The protester, who was part of an integrated group called the Non-Violent Action Group, is being harassed by white patrons.

Last year marked the 60th anniversary of a series of lunch counter sit-ins in Arlington, during which demonstrators endured harassment from white students, police officers, and Neo-Nazis.

The demonstrations continued through the summer and eventually some stores that had discriminated against Black customers changed their policies and integrating their lunch counters.

Schumer, who has previously faced controversy for making racist caricatures, said in a social media post that the painting hangs by her front door as a constant reminder.

“It’s called Lunch-In (Man At Segregated Diner) it’s by our front door so I see it before I go out into the world,” Schumer wrote.

Image via Amy Schumer/Instagram

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A new change to the County Code under review at the upcoming County Board meeting on Saturday (Jul. 18) would add gender identity to the list of identities protected from discrimination.

The move follows the approval of a similar state-level change that prohibited discrimination in public employment, housing and credit to Virginians on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The classifications fall under the county’s human rights ordinance, which authorizes the Human Rights Commission to investigate and resolve complaints of ordinance violations through the Arlington County Office of Human Rights.

The change was advocated for by the Human Rights Commission at its July 7 meeting.

Sexual orientation was added to the county’s human rights ordinance in 2019 and the proposed change in Arlington would also update the County’s definition of sexual orientation to match the state’s.

According to the ordinance, gender identity is defined as:

The gender-related identity, appearance, or other gender-related characteristics of an individual (including but not limited to transgender status, gender fluidity and gender expression), without regard to the individual’s designated sex at birth or as further defined by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or the United States.

The amended sexual orientation clause now defines it as:

A person’s actual or perceived heterosexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality or as defined by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia or the United States.

The proposed changes to County Code were made possible by the recent state legislation; Virginia is a Dillon Rule state in which localities cannot make laws not specifically delegated by the Commonwealth.

“The Virginia General Assembly’s amendment of Virginia Code during its 2020 Session to include ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation’ as bases protected from discrimination made it possible for the County to expressly include these protections n its Human Rights Ordinance,” the county noted in its preview of Saturday’s County Board meeting.

File photo

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Nazis picket Arlington, VA civil rights sit-in: 1960

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Arlingtonians are marching in the streets protesting for racial justice, but 60 years ago that fight took the form of sit-ins at Arlington lunch counters.

This day in 1960 marked the start of a series of demonstrations that remained peaceful despite harassment by local white students, police, and Neo-Nazis. The sit-ins went on for 13 days and were a pivotal moment in local civil rights history.

“On June 9, 1960, just after 1 p.m., about a dozen people walked into the People’s Drug Store at 4709 Lee Highway in Cherrydale and began what would become a peaceful County-wide demonstration for the right of all people to be served at what had historically been white-only lunch counters,” Arlington’s Historic Preservation Program said. “Although African Americans could patronize stores as clientele, employees refused to serve customers of color at the lunch counters within the stores.”

The Historic Preservation Program said other shoppers, including local students, harassed the protestors. A group of members of the Arlington-based American Nazi Party, led by George Rockwell, also showed up and were photographed harassing the protestors while wearing swastika armbands.

Images from the sit-ins showed black protestors sitting at the counter while white counter-protesters marched behind them with signs bearing racist slogans and images. The police were called but made no arrests, and the protestors left when the drug stores closed at 10 p.m.

Confrontation at the Cherrydale Drug Fair Counter: 1960

The next day, police arrested one of the leaders of the protests, Lawrence Henry, allegedly for driving without glasses or proper tags. Protestors returned to stores the next day even though the lunch counters had been closed.

“Protesters arrive around noon at the People’s Drug Store on Lee Highway, the Drug Fair at 5401 Lee Highway, the Howard Johnson restaurant at 4700 Lee Highway, and the Drug Fair at 3815 Lee Highway around noon,” wrote the Historic Preservation Program. “All lunch counters are closed, and eventually crowds, largely of high school students, gather to harass the demonstrators. At the Drug Fair at 3815 Lee Highway, George Rockwell and some uniformed followers try to provoke the protesters. Then, however, police required the Neo-Nazis and the ensuing crowd of over 100 to leave, allowing the protesters to remain.”

That evening, demonstrators announced a temporary halt to the protests for negotiations to take place, after which the heads of People’s Drug and Drug Fair said they would be willing to discuss mediation.

Arlington County government did not intervene, saying that store owners had the right to decline service. The sit-ins continued on June 18, and by June 22 some of the stores that had initially discriminated against black customers started to change their position.

The F.W. Woolworth store in Shirlington announced that patrons would be served indiscriminately and on June 22 an integrated group of protestors were served at the counter. The next day, 21 lunch counters opened to black patrons, including several where the protests had started.

“We remember and honor the 20 determined individuals who took a stand against unfair, discriminatory practices,” the Historic Preservation Program said. “Their bravery helped change Arlington, Alexandria, and surrounding localities, and brought about an important and visible step toward desegregating our community. They inspire us today in our ongoing efforts to achieve racial equity.”

Counter Closed During Sit-In: Arlington, Virginia: 1960

Photos via Washington Area Spark/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Petition for Intersection Improvements — “Last Friday, our life turned upside down when a car traveling upward of 40-50 mph mowed down our 10-year old daughter and puppy… We would like to see three simple measures put in place at each of these intersections – (1) stop signs, (2) crosswalk stripes on the asphalt and (3) curb extensions or mini-circles if deemed appropriate/necessary by County traffic experts.” [Change.org]

County: Support Civil Rights By Taking Census — “Census data on both race and origin are used to ensure civil rights protections including voting rights and fair housing. The data are also used to address employment discrimination, provide language services and fund schools, as well as many other programs and services.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Foot Chase in Falls Church — “Police received two separate calls about two women who felt threatened by a man while they were walking near the 400 block of W. Broad Street. Police located the man and pursued him as he fled on foot. Officers attempted to communicate with the man, but he became aggressive. Officers gave warning, then used capsaicin or “pepper” spray… After officers consulted with one of the victims, no arrest was made and no charges were pressed at this time.” [City of Falls Church]

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Arlington’s state senators aren’t alone in pushing for gun control in Richmond this legislative session — their counterparts in the House of Delegates have also proposed a number of bills on the topic.

Other bills being reviewed by Arlington’s delegates this session range from a local civil rights fight to the recognition of some Arlington cemeteries as historic places.

The all-Democrat group of delegates have been empowered by a new Democratic majority in the state legislature. Many of the gun control measures proposed in the House of Delegates and the State Senate have already faced substantial pushback, particularly from a crowded gun rights rally on Monday that drew national headlines, though a number of bills have passed at least one of the chambers.

Below are some of the bills that have been proposed by each of Arlington’s delegates.

Del. Mark Levine

Among bills introduced by Del. Mark Levine is HB 180, which would eliminate the requirement that the race of spouses be included in the marriage record filed with the state. Levine is also sponsoring HB 301, which would decriminalize simple possession of marijuana. Both bills were referred to committees, and HB 180 was recommended by a subcommittee on Tuesday.

The requirement of couples to list their race on marriage licenses is an obscure holdover from Jim Crow laws that’s gotten some pushback over the years, including a lawsuit in September by a local lawyer that ended with a judge ruling the law was unconstitutional.

Levine also introduced several gun control measures as well, including restriction of firearm ammunition, prohibitions on ownership after certain criminal convictions, and a prohibition on the sale or transport of weapons defined in the bill as “assault firearms.”

Del. Patrick Hope

Hope is also the sponsor of the House version of Favola’s bill that would eliminate the death penalty for cases involving a severe mental illness. Hope’s HB 1284 would eliminate the use of isolated confinement in state correctional facilities and juvenile correctional facilities. One bill, HB 1120, would also dramatically increase the tax on tobacco products, from the current 30 cents per pack to $1.80 per pack.

Hope’s gun control legislation, HB 1080, would prohibit school boards from authorizing or designating any person to possess a firearm on school property other than those expressly authorized by state law.

Also of note is Hope’s bill, HB 712, which would allow anyone required to post ordinances, resolutions, notices or advertisements in newspapers to publish instead in an online publication. The requirement for governments to only post notices in print newspapers is a standing rule backed by organizations like the Virginia Press Association. The requirement has gotten some pushback in recent years by local jurisdictions like Vienna, which argue that the law is costly and unfair to areas without print newspapers.

Del. Rip Sullivan

Among Rip Sullivan’s proposed legislation is HB 213, which would add out-of-state student IDs to the list of acceptable forms of voter identification, and HB 379, which adds three cemeteries in Arlington (Calloway Cemetery, Lomax Cemetery, and Mount Salvation Cemetery) to the list of organizations that may receive funds from the Department of Historic Resources.

Sullivan’s gun control legislation includes HB 674, which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from someone they deem poses a substantial risk, HB 458, which would make it a Class 1 misdemeanor for a fugitive to purchase, possess or transport a firearm, and HB 459, which would prohibit anyone convicted of assault and battery as part of a hate crime from possessing or transporting a firearm.

Del. Alfonso Lopez

Legislation from Lopez includes HB 1184, which opens up options for distributing generated solar energy by individuals and localities, and HB 219, which would automatically register individuals at the Department of Motor Vehicles who are applying for or replacing their driver’s license.

Lopez’s gun control legislation includes HB 264, which would remove the option for concealed handgun permit applicants to demonstrate competence electronically, and HB 260, which increases the allowed length of time for a background check from the end of the next business day to within five business days.

Crossover for legislation — when bills that pass one house are considered by the other — is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11, and the last day to act on remaining bills is March 5. Gov. Ralph Northam can sign or veto legislation until April 6, and the new laws will take effect July 1.

Photo courtesy former Del. Bob Brink

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An Arlington tribute to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. scheduled for Sunday is planned to include original songs and spoken word performances.

The ceremony “Prayers of a King” is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 19, at Wakefield High School (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street). Doors are scheduled to open at 4:30 p.m. with the program running from 5-6:30 p.m. The ceremony will feature music, dance and spoken word performances that tell the story of desegregation in Arlington, the county said.

According to a press release:

At 8:45 a.m. on February 2, 1959, four young students from the Arlington’s Halls Hill neighborhood entered Stratford Junior High School and became the first students to desegregate a public school in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The 2020 MLK Tribute program focuses on their journey; when they learn they will be the first African Americans to integrate a school in Virginia and into their first day of school, while simultaneously following Dr. King’s fight for equality during the same time period.

Admission to the event is free, though guests are encouraged to bring non-perishable goods to donate to the Arlington Food Assistance Center. Seating is given on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Photo via Wakefield High School

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Arlington’s Nauck neighborhood is now one step closer to changing its name back to Green Valley, thanks to the Arlington County Civic Federation.

The federation approved the Nauck Civic Association’s request to change its name to the Green Valley Civic Association on Tuesday. The vote came after neighbors requested the county nix the name they said obscures the true history of freed slaves who founded the community.

“We’re just very happy that it’s changed and it’s the name that’s always associated with it,” said Nauck Civic Association President Portia Clark.

The historically black neighborhood was first built partly by freed slaves Sarah Ann and Levi Jones. They bought 14 acres of land along Four Mile Run and sold parcels to other African Americans during and after the Civil War, according to research from Dr. Alfred O. Taylor Jr., who formerly led the Nauck Civic Association and the local NAACP chapter.

The renaming resolution passed by the Civic Federation notes:

“The residents of the area continually celebrate and honor the heritage of a ‘FREED’ community that reminds us of the many hills our ancestors had to climb, slavery, segregation and racial covenants that have bought us to today with the freedoms that we hold.”

Taylor wrote in a February open letter that his research indicates county officials began calling the area Nauck in the 1970s after Confederate soldier and German immigrant John D. Nauck, who purchased almost 80 acres of land in the area in the 1870s.

“It is inappropriate for the diverse community to venerate a person who fought to preserve slavery and whose memory evokes painful reminders of laws that segregated and excluded African Americans from public life,” Taylor wrote. “We find no record or evidence linking Nauck to efforts to improve the quality of life for its residents.”

Tuesday’s vote by the Civic Federation is not the last step in the process. The organization must transmit the matter to the County Board, which will then discuss and vote on the change.

Support for reconsidering the county’s Confederate vestiges has gained steam since the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally in 2017 and amid national conversations about the recent rise of racist hate groups.

In Arlington, leaders waged heated battles to strip Washington-Lee of the second half of its hyphenated name, which referenced Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They are also poised to remove the “Stratford” in Stratford School, which originated from the name of Lee’s birthplace.

The County Board previously has acknowledged Green Valley’s unique history. In 2013, members approved a historic location designation to the Green Valley Pharmacy in recognition of it being the first store in the county to serve black and white customers, including serving food at an integrated diner inside the shop.

The business closed in 2018, reportedly for renovations, a year after its owner Leonard “Doc” Muse died. Muse had run the shop for 54 years and was a fixture of the community.

Photo (2) via Nauck Civic Association, (3) via Google Maps

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The Black Heritage Museum of Arlington is hosting a talk with local civil rights activist Joan Trumpauer Mulholland.

On Tuesday, April 30, the Museum will hold a talk with Mulholland, who hails from Arlington and who will share her experiences as an activist in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

“She is known for taking part in sit-ins, being the first white to integrate Tougaloo College in Jackson Mississippi, joining the Delta Sigma Theta, joining Freedom Rides, and being held on death row in Parchman Penitentiary,” the museum said in a press release about the upcoming event.

Mulholland’s stories were previously chronicled in the 2013 documentary, “An Ordinary Hero.”

The event is free and will start at 7 p.m. in the Reinsch Library Auditorium at Marymount University (2807 N. Glebe Road).

Image courtesy of Black Heritage Museum

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