Acknowledging that “many residents are frustrated,” Arlington officials on Friday urged patience with the county’s vaccine distribution, while calling on the state for more doses.
Earlier this week, vaccinations in Arlington were happening at a pace of just over 200 per day. At that rate, it would take more than two years just to give a single dose of the two-dose vaccine to every adult resident of the county.
Over the past two days the pace has quickened, with more than 400 doses administered each day. As of Friday morning, a total of 4,573 doses had been administered and 550 people in Arlington had been fully vaccinated.
Still, ARLnow has received a barrage of emails in recent days from people saying Arlington should be moving faster, given the more than 3,000 coronavirus deaths per day nationwide and the growing prevalence of a more contagious virus strain.
“The inability to ramp up to a more reasonable speed is terrible,” said one person. “People are dying.”
In a press release today, the county said it is “moving quickly to ramp up access for eligible Arlingtonians.”
“This weekend, the Arlington County Public Health Division will hold two clinics to vaccinate 1,800 individuals from the Childcare/PreK-12 Teachers/Staff priority group identified in Phase 1b,” the press release noted.
But even that effort is not without controversy.
As ARLnow first reported Thursday, the county-led registration process for Arlington Public Schools employees to sign up for vaccinations was botched, with many not receiving the emails and links required to register. Some of those that did manage to register and get a confirmation email the first time around were subsequently told that it was not actually a confirmation of an appointment.
“You received the WordPress confirmation due to an error in the technology that allowed more appointments to be booked than were available,” school employees were told this afternoon, in an email from Arlington’s public health division.
Some who received that initial confirmation were not able to secure a spot when registration reopened last night, we’re told.
“There were limited slots available,” APS spokesman Frank Bellavia explained today. “Public Health sent an email last night to those staff who didn’t receive an appointment to schedule one of the remaining available slots. Those remaining slots were filled by this morning.”
Ryan Hudson, spokesman for Arlington public health, said the county is now waiting on more vaccine supply and cannot say for sure when the remainder of APS employees will be vaccinated.
“We can’t give a specific date when all APS teachers and staff will be vaccinated, as the ability to schedule appointments will depend on increased distribution of vaccine from Virginia,” he said.
“The expansion of people eligible under Phase 1b unfortunately does not increase Arlington’s limited supply of vaccine doses,” Hudson added. “The County began establishing its distribution plan and infrastructure in 2020. Arlington is prepared to expedite appointments as soon as the County receives additional doses from Virginia.”
County health director Dr. Reuben Varghese told the Arlington County Board earlier this week that the county was still working to establish infrastructure for mass vaccinations. Asked by ARLnow why that process did not start sooner, County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said much work was done leading up to the arrival of the first vaccine doses.
“Freezers were ordered, [a] website was developed and we already had a pre-existing relationship with Virginia Hospital Center,” he said today. “Many other infrastructure steps were taken, but demand [for the vaccine] so far exceeds supply. Other Northern Virginia jurisdictions and D.C. are also seeing similar challenges. We are working to get as much of the vaccine as soon as possible. We are asking for as much patience as folks can find.”
In this afternoon’s press release, de Ferranti defended the efforts of Varghese and County Manager Mark Schwartz.
“As the situation continues to change rapidly, our County Manager and Public Health Director are working flat-out to secure vaccines and to get them into arms,” he said. “The Board has assured them that we will provide whatever resources are needed to get this done.”
New video and audio is shedding additional light on the controversial encounter between Arlington police officers and a Black photographer in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood.
Bodycam footage of the Dec. 21 encounter and audio of a neighbor’s call to police, which prompted the incident, were released as a result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Arlington branch of the NAACP. The media was shared tonight with ARLnow.
During the call, an unidentified female neighbor tells police that the photographer, who was at the time sitting in his parked BMW, was taking photos of the gate to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, as well as “neighbors and people that are walking by.”
“We confronted him and he just wouldn’t engage… he’s just sitting there taking pictures,” the caller says. “I’m not sure if that’s illegal but it’s kind of creepy.”
The caller later reports that the photographer was “smiling and walking down the street, taking more pictures,” and then “engaging with a lady,” adding that “they apparently know each other.” She also noted that he had a “camera with a large lens.”
The man in question was Marlon Crutchfield, a professional photographer who’s retired from the military. He was hired by a family on the block to take holiday photos.
In a Dec. 23 Facebook post, Crutchfield said he was confronted by a neighbor — apparently the caller’s husband — but declined to answer his questions.
“Over the years I’ve had several run-ins with nosy neighbors concerned that a Black man was parked in their neighborhood,” he wrote. ” Well… the other day I was in Arlington parked waiting for an appointment when a man came over and asked me if I needed any help, of course I didn’t. I informed the gentleman that I didn’t need any assistance. Honestly — I was offended. Every Black person￼ knows what this means.”
“After the gentleman didn’t get the response he expected, he reached out to a few other neighbors one of them called the police,” Crutchfield wrote.
Bodycam footage released by the Arlington County Police Department shows three ACPD officers and three military police officers responding to the scene after the call. One Arlington officer knocks on the door of the house in which Crutchfield was shooting photos and asks to speak with him.
(Arlington police had just implemented body-worn cameras the week before the encounter.)
During the four-minute encounter, Crutchfield insists that, contrary to what the “very nosy neighbor” told police, he was just holding his camera and wasn’t taking photos of the base. He briefly flashes the officer an ID card — implied to be a military ID card, but edited out of the video — and says he knows better than taking photos of the military base.
“I’m offended,” Crutchfield says to the officer. “I’m at work… you’re interrupting my job.”
The officer asks the photographer, who is still holding his camera, to present identification.
“This is very racist, and you should know better,” Crutchfield says in response, refusing the request. Eventually, the homeowner also begins talking to officers, saying that “he’s with me” and agreeing that the call to police was “racist.”
(Updated at 11 a.m.) The Arlington County Police Department says the officers who questioned a Black man for taking photos in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood acted properly and professionally.
The Dec. 21 incident, which sparked headlines and a strong condemnation from the Arlington branch of the NAACP, happened after police were called to the neighborhood by someone who found real estate photographer Marlon Crutchfield to be suspicious.
In a Facebook post, Crutchfield said he was confronted by “nosy neighbors,” who then called police when he declined to explain why he was taking photos. Several officers arrived and, in a brief interaction that was video recorded, Crutchfield refuses the officers’ request to hand over an ID. Shortly after that, the officers appear to leave.
In response to a series of questions posed by ARLnow, a police department spokeswoman explained the series of events leading to the encounter, and defended the officers’ actions and the need to respond the call, which was placed by someone only identified as “a community member.”
“At approximately 10:35 a.m. on December 21, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious person and vehicle in the area of Southgate Road and South Orme Street,” ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark said. “The reporting party advised dispatch that the male subject had been taking photos of the Southgate entrance to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and people walking provided additional information that the subject had left the area of the entrance and entered a nearby residence.”
Clark said the response was justified based on the information provided to police.
Military installations are considered high value targets and events around the world, to include the events of September 11, 2001, have shown this to be true. If someone is taking photos of these areas, it is certainly cause for concern, and is worthy of reporting to law enforcement for investigation based upon guidelines published by the United States Department of Homeland Security. The area by the base is posted with signs prohibiting photography and, for this reason, the base was notified of the report the department had received.
The Department has a responsibility to respond to calls for service, investigate the circumstances, and determine appropriate action. Dispatched calls for service are based upon preliminary information provided by the reporting party and follow-up investigations may identify additional, or different, information than initially provided.
We recognize the emotional impact this incident has had on the involved individual The Department is committed to the principle that all individuals will be treated with dignity and respect and we will work with the community to achieve balance between ensuring the safety of our community and the ambiguity involving what may be considered suspicious.
Asked if officers should have done anything differently, ACPD defended their actions and professionalism.
The Department stands by its response to this incident. In order to ensure public safety within our community, officers have a duty to respond to dispatched calls for service and fully investigate the circumstances surrounding them. Efforts to address crime in our community are most effective when they involve strong collaboration and partnerships between law enforcement and the communities and citizens they serve.
While the behaviors described to ACPD were considered suspicious in nature given all of the circumstances, it was determined that no local crime had been committed, officers cleared the call without taking further action, and the entire interaction with the individual lasted under four minutes.
We appreciate that what constitutes suspicious behavior can be ambiguous, but we must work together to ensure police are notified of suspicious behaviors that could represent a threat to our community, while at the same time ensuring that the focus remains on the behaviors of a person and nothing else. […]
Our officers conducted themselves in a professional manner and came to the determination that no local crimes had occurred.
The Arlington NAACP, however, said in response that the police department should have investigated the origin of the initial complaint, which they claim was embellished in order to provoke a police response.
“ACPD should have started with the alleged witnesses before harassing a professional photographer and embarrassing him by pulling him out of the home where he was an invited guest and interrogating him in front of his client,” the organization said to ARLnow, in a statement.
“The police asked for the victim’s ID before even explaining why they were there or even asking him if he was near the base or what his activities were before entering the clients home,” the organization said. “That is sloppy police work guaranteed to elicit an emotionally charged response. Asking for ID first and only is a racially laden request in the Black community.”
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey says she has confidence in her Board colleague Christian Dorsey, despite his continued legal and financial troubles.
As first reported by the Washington Post, Dorsey’s long-running personal bankruptcy case was dismissed by a federal judge last week after Dorsey overstated his debt obligations in “an act of overt misrepresentation,” according to the bankruptcy trustee.
Dorsey told the Post that he “vigorously disputes” the allegation that he deliberately and fraudulently misrepresented his finances.
It’s not the first time that money issues have landed Dorsey in hot water. He failed to disclose a $10,000 political donation from a transit union, leading to his resignation from the WMATA board earlier this year. He promised to return the donation but initially failed to do so, at one point claiming that a check was lost in the mail, before finally delivering a cashier’s check in person to the union this summer.
Despite all the issues, Garvey said in a statement to ARLnow that Dorsey has her confidence.
“Throughout this most challenging year, Mr. Dorsey’s work and support have been extremely valuable as the Board and Arlington have navigated multiple challenges and crises,” Garvey said. “Because of my experience with Mr Dorsey this year and over past years, I am confident, despite his personal financial issues, that Mr. Dorsey has provided and continues to provide important service to the people of Arlington.”
“While I do not believe his personal financial issues affect his standing on the Board, the question for us all is how this affects Mr. Dorsey’s standing among the people we serve,” Garvey continued. “All our work is affected by perceptions among those we serve and with whom we work. At this time, I do not know how those perceptions will develop after this latest publicity nor how they will balance out with the very real benefit Mr. Dorsey provides to the Board and Arlington.”
ARLnow asked Dorsey whether he intends to continue serving his term on the Board, which runs through the end of 2023. Through a county spokeswoman, Dorsey said he “has nothing to add at this time beyond his quotes to the Post.”
(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) A fill-in-the-blank question during a science class at H-B Woodlawn has caused an uproar.
The chemistry question, asked Tuesday during what ARLnow is told was a 10th grade class, references the police killing of George Floyd.
“George Floyd couldn’t breathe because a police officer put his _____ George’s neck,” the question reads. The answer is “neon,” the element that sounds like “knee on.”
Classes are currently being held virtually at Arlington public schools. Shortly after the class, a screenshot of the question started circulating on social media, and parents started calling the school.
“There is no diversity in my school and apparently there was a bunch of white silence when this happened this morning,” a student’s social media post said. “White students were making excuses or seemed ‘too tired to talk about it’ shame on those people that’s disgusting.”
The teacher “tried to pass it off as something ‘everyone would know/easy to get,'” the post adds.
H-B Woodlawn’s student body is 4.4% Black, according to civil rights statistics published by Arlington Public Schools. That’s well under the 11% average across all APS high schools.
In a letter to families sent Wednesday, H-B’s principal said the secondary program — once known as “Hippie High” for its liberal approach to education — “does not tolerate any form of cultural or racial insensitivity.”
“We will be meeting directly with the students in the class, and will work with all of our H-B Woodlawn students to process the incident,” the letter goes on to say. “Our Student Services Team will be available for individual counseling and students can reach out directly to me as well.”
On Thursday, Superintendent Francisco Durán weighed in, with an email sent to all APS families.
“The content referenced the killing of George Floyd in an unacceptable and senseless way, which hurt and alarmed our students, staff, families, and the community,” Durán wrote. ‘The reference showed extremely poor judgement and a blatant disregard for African American lives.”
“The teacher has been relieved of classroom duties while an investigation related to this matter takes place,” Durán continued. “I want to assure everyone that this situation will be handled in accordance with our policies, and all staff are held to the highest standards of professional behavior.”
The principal’s letter, obtained by ARLnow, is below.
The H-B Woodlawn community does not tolerate any form of cultural or racial insensitivity. We prioritize making H-B Woodlawn a safe and inclusive space for all students, staff, and parents. Yesterday an incident occurred that conflicts with our core values of respect, trust, social justice, and diversity.
During a class presentation a teacher shared an example that showed significant racial insensitivity. It was unacceptable. We will be meeting directly with the students in the class, and will work with all of our H-B Woodlawn students to process the incident. We will use all of the HBW and APS resources at our disposal to do so. Students should reach out to a trusted adult at HBW if they want to discuss this matter further. Our Student Services Team will be available for individual counseling (emails below) and students can reach out directly to me as well.
Though this is an ongoing matter, and we cannot provide additional details, we appreciate all the students, parents, and alumni who have reached out — for their concern, and their thoughts and ideas on productively moving forward. We will continue to update the community on the steps we are taking both in the short-term and long-term. Every student deserves a positive educational experience where they feel safe, secure, and have a strong sense of belonging.
Arlington Public Schools will proceed with all but two winter sports, with some modifications, after talks with staff and neighboring school systems.
Swimming and diving, gymnastics, track and field, basketball, rifle and dance will proceed, but not wrestling — given the close contact that wrestlers engage in — or winter cheer, since competitive cheer can be offered outside later in the year, Superintendent Francisco Durán said in an email to families.
The decision comes after public outcry over the weekend to APS’s decision not to participate, which was announced on Thursday. People pointed to other school systems, which are allowing students to participate in winter sports.
“I have received many emails from students and families regarding my decision not to participate in Season 1 Winter athletic competition, due to current health metrics and safety concerns related to indoor sports,” Durán said.
The decision was discussed in the School Board meeting on Thursday, during which a few parents and School Board Member Tannia Talento asked him to reconsider.
Durán said he decided not to allow APS to participate in sports because it would not align with the return-to-school plan, which has been put on pause until 2021.
But with new modifications, such as a ban on in-person spectators and limited to no use of locker rooms, Durán said winter sports can move forward.
“We are exploring opportunities to livestream some competitions for spectators and will share information once arrangements have been made,” he said.
If community health conditions worsen, APS may modify or suspend athletics activities in consultation with health experts, he said.
“We will continue to monitor health metrics and work with school athletic staff and other school divisions to protect our athletes, coaches, employees, and families,” Durán said.
“We want to fill up their inboxes so we can’t be ignored,” she wrote in her update to the Change.org petition.
In the first day after she created the petition, more than 1,800 people signed, she said in her update. Since then, the total has grown to 2,100 people as of Tuesday afternoon.
Student athletes and families will receive additional guidance closer to the start of the season, which begins Dec. 7.
“Our plans are evolving with the current conditions, and we will be flexible and responsive to the needs of our students whenever possible, assessing all options to safely support our students’ academic successes, mental health, and social-emotional well-being,” Durán said.
The Virginia High School League, a statewide sports league comprising public and private high schools, approved a Championship + 1 schedule in September that would allow students to play 60% of their sport’s regular season schedule, starting in December, with modified regional and state championships.
On Oct. 29, Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order that allows the proposed VHSL schedule to begin in December as scheduled. In a statement published by VHSL, Northam said the league been a partner during the pandemic and has drafted thoughtful guidelines for reinstating sports.
Two residents of the Fairlington Arbor condominiums were told by the condo board to dig up their spooky gravestones that seek to lay bigotry to rest.
Katrina Reed and her husband Joe decked out their yard with six decorative gravestones, but they papered over the space for names of the deceased to bury hate, racism, religions discrimination, sexism, homophobia and white supremacy instead.
Both Reeds teach and coach high school basketball. As teachers, Katrina said they strive to create an inclusive environment in their remote and in-person classrooms.
“Our thought process was, ‘Why wouldn’t we want to be inclusive at home?'” she said.
The death-to-discrimination markers received a lot of love from neighbors, but drew the ire of the Fairlington Arbor management. The dispute centers around whether the gravestones are signs, which are not allowed unless the Board of Directors approve them, or seasonal decor, which are allowed if they are “modest and in keeping with community norms.”
A letter from management and addressed to the Reeds on behalf of the Fairlington Arbor Board of Directors asked them to “correct this matter” to “avoid further action by the Board of Directors.”
The letter treats the gravestones as decor, but the messages as signs.
“While the frames on your sign are compliant, the content is not,” the letter said. Joe disputed the application of the bylaw in an email to management.
“The signs displayed are not deemed ‘seasonal’ by the board since they display a message that does not fit the Halloween occasion,” Arbor management said in response.
The letter’s author, Fairlington Arbor’s general manager, declined to comment further. In an automated message, Matt Duncan, the President of the Board of Directors, said he is out of office and referred inquiries to management.
In a private neighborhood Facebook group, Katrina asked her neighbors for advice and to see if others had similar experiences. The response was overwhelming, with more than 175 comments on Katrina’s post so far.
“People went nuts,” she said. “They were ready to light their pitchforks and find the board members.”
One Facebook commenter said of the decorations: “We thought they were awesome. 10/10. Do not take them down.”
“These have made me very happy every time I walk by!” another said.
The couple maintains that stifling free speech causes more division than signs promoting inclusivity.
“If you can let people express First Amendment rights within a time period, I think it solves these issues,” Joe said.
The couple said the bylaws need to be clarified and they plan to speak about it during the next board meeting on Oct. 27. Joe said ironically, he was on the board and helped write the bylaws.
“I don’t envy them,” he said.
On Facebook, some theorized that the condo board was pushed to take action by a handful of complainers.
“Neighbors have been complimentary of our messages of inclusion, but I seem to have offended the racists, homophobes, etc.,” Katrina wrote in her post.
Others guessed that the current political climate might have caused an overreaction by condo management.
“It’s probable that no one is offended by your decorations but management just wants to head off something truly objectionable,” wrote one commenter, who congratulated the couple for speaking up.
This summer, the S. Abingdon Street bridge over I-395 in Fairlington was the site of a showdown between those supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and counter-demonstrators who replaced BLM slogans with pro-Trump messages.
If you live in the right type of home in the right place, Arlington County will reserve street parking for you and your neighbors for much of the day.
But the Residential Permit Parking program is under review and a county staff recommendation on whether it should continue as currently conceived is expected soon.
The review has dragged on since it was launched in 2017, when the county put a moratorium on approving new permit parking zones, and was further delayed by the pandemic. County officials, however, now say they’re going to skip holding more public engagement meetings on the topic, either virtual or in-person, and move forward with the aim of County Board action in January.
Meetings had been planned for the spring, but were cancelled due to health concerns. A county spokeswoman says county staff decided against additional meetings due to equity concerns.
“Staff looked into holding the dialogues online but decided that holding online dialogues would not be an adequate replacement,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien told ARLnow. “There are tools for holding the dialogues online, but there are challenges to bringing together a diverse group of Arlingtonians for a meeting of three hours or more online.”
“An inclusive group of participants at the dialogues would be especially necessary because residents are divided on the RPP program,” she continued. “The County could have waited until in-person public meetings resume but continuing to delay the RPP Review increases the chance that decision-makers will see the feedback currently captured as out-of-date. Delaying the review also continues the moratorium on petitions for new or modified restrictions.”
There are few issues that raise local passions like parking, and the RPP program has sharply divided residents.
The program started in the early 1970s, when Aurora Highlands residents successfully petitioned the Arlington County Board to approve restrictions that would keep Crystal City commuters from parking in the neighborhood. The county won a Supreme Court challenge to the restrictions and gradually expanded the program to other neighborhoods.
Eventually, residents of new apartment buildings and condos were excluded from the program, as access to street parking became a sticking point with neighbors of proposed new developments. And neighborhoods well away from Metro stations and office districts started getting approved for restrictions.
The tide started to turn against the program a few years ago, as more neighborhoods sought to add parking restrictions, raising questions about the fairness of reserving increasingly large portions of the public road network for the vehicles of certain residents.
Last year, the County Board repealed some RPP restrictions in the Forest Glen and Arlington Mill neighborhoods, which apartment residents said made it difficult to park in the neighborhood for those who do not work a traditional 9-5 job. The decision was contentious, however.
A recently-released report on the RPP review process includes comments from surveys that further reflect the divide.
“It doesn’t seem fair to me who is eligible now. Higher density homes with less curb space should be eligible as single family homes,” said one resident quoted in the report.
“The County should NOT make apartment, condo, and townhouse residents eligible for parking permits because it will encourage more cars and further overcrowd parking resources,” said another.
The report notes that the population eligible for RPP skews whiter and more affluent than those who are not eligible. White residents are 84% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 76% of the population outside of RPP zones. Households making $200,000 or more are 32% of the population in RPP zones, compared to 19% in non-RPP zones.
Furthermore, only 25% of those enrolled in RPP live in multifamily buildings like apartments and condos; by comparison, 71% of Arlington’s overall population lives in multifamily housing.
(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) A month and a half ago, the Arlington branch of the NAACP publicly called for the county’s logo to be changed. Over the weekend, members of the County Board voiced support for that change.
Arlington’s logo, along with its flag, depicts Arlington House, the county’s namesake that sits atop a hill in Arlington National Cemetery. The house was built by enslaved persons in the early 1800s on the orders of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington’s adopted son.
The house was later home to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, who married into the slave-owning Custis family, before the property was seized by the federal government during the Civil War and ultimately turned into the nation’s most hallowed military cemetery.
Julius Spain, Sr., head of the Arlington NAACP, spoke at Saturday’s County Board meeting and reiterated the branch’s call for the logo to be nixed — saying it should be done as soon as possible, rather than after a prolonged process.
“Let me be perfectly clear: atrocities were committed in the area of Arlington House,” he said. “That is a fact, and for that reason alone that should be enough.”
Spain’s remarks were supported by a half dozen other locals during the virtual meeting, including former Arlington School Board member Emma Violand-Sanchez.
Recently-elected County Board member Takis Karantonis was the first to respond to Spain’s comments and the most forceful in agreeing that the logo has to go now.
“It is nothing more and nothing less than a plantation house, and we cannot look away from this,” Karantonis said. “This simply cannot represent our government. For sure it doesn’t represent me and I don’t think it represents any of you, my colleagues, the County Manager, our civil servants.”
Karantonis then held his County Board business card up to the camera.
“I cannot say that Black lives matter today, in this summer of 2020, and at the same time pull out a business card with a plantation house printed on it,” he said. “So I believe this is urgent and compelling, and we can… retire this logo. It is time to move on from this.”
Other County Board members who spoke agreed with the need to change the logo, but did not commit to doing so as quickly as hoped for by Spain.
“It’s critical that we begin this community conversation,” said Katie Cristol.
“Arlington’s seal and logo must be replaced as soon as is reasonably possible,” said Matt de Ferranti. “Both are visible representations of a building that’s principal legacy is as a slave plantation, and thus must be replaced to be consistent with the inclusive, diverse community we aspire to be.”
De Ferranti said the Board needs to consider the process and standard for replacing the logo, while also remaining focused on other racial justice matters.
Christian Dorsey, the only Black member of the Board, said the county must deal with systematic racism, including the logo, in a comprehensive manner.
“I’d take perhaps a broader view that there are other symbols and names in our community that predate the confederacy, that postdate the confederacy, that are nonetheless symbols of systemic racism and oppression,” Dorsey said. “To address one without addressing the other to me is beneath the capability of our community to actually move forward with a symbolic and a substantive approach to dealing with systemic racism. I hope people will be patient.”
County Board Chair Libby Garvey said the county’s logo will be the topic of further discussion during the Board’s meeting on Tuesday. Arlington is also planning community roundtable discussions on systemic racism, and has kicked off an effort to rename Lee Highway.
Spain, meanwhile, said that the county flag and street names are not nearly as meaningful as the county’s chosen logo, and the latter should take priority. In a letter, he said the Board should be able to remove the logo within 2-3 months.
The owner of the Arlington Smoke Shop in Green Valley says charges have been dropped against the alleged burglar shot by a store employee.
Jowan Zuber said this week on a GoFundMe page for the employee, Hamzeh Abushariah, that the “mastermind of the burglary” was “allowed to walk free” by prosecutors — while Abushariah remains under house arrest, facing serious charges in connection to the March 29 shooting.
Two other alleged burglars are still facing charges, after police say they broke into the store at 2428 Shirlington Road early in the morning and attempted to steal items. Abushariah was sleeping in a backroom of the store at the time, but woke up and grabbed the store’s gun. Zuber says the person who was shot is being “protected” by prosecutors.
“I can’t believe they’re protecting the criminal,” he said last night on Tucker Carlson Tonight, his second appearance on top-rated the Fox News opinion show. “I’m sure if the criminal broke into their house they would be doing 10 years in jail right now.”
Prosecutors, meanwhile, declined to confirm that charges were dropped against the suspect, who — like the other two — are juveniles.
“Based on the ethical rules which govern lawyers and prosecutors, we are very limited in what we can say about cases — and even more limited in what we can say about juvenile cases,” Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti said Monday, in response to an ARLnow inquiry. “The only question I can answer is that the case of the adult (shooter) is still pending.”
ARLnow previously reported that the third suspect had not been charged and was still “in a medical facility” almost one month after the shooting. Zuber told the Daily Caller that he appeared in court in a wheelchair.
Despite the juvenile’s injuries, Zuber said last night that it was not fair for Abushariah to be facing charges and the alleged organizer of the crime to be free, suggesting without additional evidence that there might be a political motivation.
“This is so sad and so shocking, the justice system is not working in Arlington,” he said. “The prosecutor’s office is very upset that I came on your show and spoke the truth and now they’re looking at the whole thing a different way.”
Following a preliminary hearing on July 30, Abushariah’s case is now heading to Arlington Circuit Court. Zuber wants police to release the full surveillance video of the shooting, which he claims shows the now-free suspect “lunging” at Abushariah before the shooting. Prosecutors say the boy was shot “point blank” in the back.
“I hope that Arlington County will share the video exactly,” Zuber said.
Zuber noted that Abushariah is under house arrest and cannot work or take his kids to the park, but still has to pay more than $1,000 per month in child support and fees for his court-mandated GPS monitor. The GoFundMe for Abushariah has raised more than $10,000 since last night’s “Tucker” show, and now stands at $13,349 of a $100,000 goal.
Zuber said the handling of the burglary case sends a bad message to young people.
“Hey you can go rob and steal and the prosecutor will stand next to you and defend you,” he said. “This is sad for justice, this is injustice.”