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Arlington County police are conducting a death investigation along Langston Blvd, near Rosslyn.

A body was found in a wooded area late Sunday afternoon. Officers remain on scene today, collecting and documenting evidence. There’s no word yet on whether police consider the death to be suspicious.

“At approximately 4:18 p.m. on February 25, police were directed to the 2100 block of Langston Boulevard where human remains were located in a wooded area,” Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “The Arlington County Police Department is conducting a death investigation with assistance by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner who will work to positively identify the deceased and determine cause and manner of death.”

“The preliminary investigation has not revealed an ongoing threat to the community,” Savage added. She noted that the investigation is “in the early stages.”

Inside the Arlington County Detention Facility (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Arlington County Board and the Human Rights Commission are at odds over whether commissioners had the right to request an investigation into possible human and civil rights violations at the county jail.

Earlier this month, the commission sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, voicing concerns over reports that inmates at the jail lack adequate healthcare, a situation they argue could put them “at risk of death and severe harm.” This follows up on letters to the County Sheriff’s Office and the DOJ from the Arlington branch of the NAACP and its national organization, asking for an investigation after hearing from former and current inmates.

In response, County Board Chair Libby Garvey told the DOJ in a letter last week that the commission’s request “does not represent the position or opinion” of the Board, though she did not elaborate on the Board’s position on either the commission sending the letter or the conditions within the jail.

For County Board member Matt De Ferranti, there are at least grounds for procedural concerns. Before the commission approved the letter, he told them via email that state law requires County Board approval before “seeking assistance with the prevention or relief from discriminatory practices from external enforcement authorities.”

The commission argues it was not requesting the enforcement of a specific violation; rather, it wants the agency to look at the general policies and practices of the jail, Arlington Human Rights Commission Chair Bill Rice told ARLnow.

“We’ve been hearing reports of widespread discrimination in this area and asking for like an investigation into that, but that second part doesn’t necessarily result in like some type of enforcement action — it usually results in some type of report,” Rice said.

The Board’s response, meanwhile, has left Rice and other commissioners confused about where the Board officially stands, as no members have openly objected to the substance of the letter.

“The County Board knows about it already, or it should know about it already,” Rice said. “It’s been in the news, people have raised it with the County Board members before, and the NAACP has raised the issue with numerous people before. Sending the letter to the County Board would just be telling them something they already were aware of.”

Last month, ARLnow reported the Arlington County Sheriff’s Office is under pressure from personnel, inmates and the NAACP to improve conditions at the county jail amid claims of inadequate healthcare and chronic staffing shortages leading to excessive confinement and mismanagement.

Deputies have highlighted the safety risks associated with staffing shortages, and several former inmates, including John Parker and Moika Nduku, have since come forward to support these claims.

“I was there for 20 months… We came out a handful of times, literally seven or eight times, that we came out for food, to perhaps talk to our lawyers, over months and months at a time,” Nduku said during a special Human Rights Commission meeting held last month. “We’ve experienced something that’s way past inhumane, denying our basic rights.”

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The Arlington County Sheriff’s Office is facing mounting pressure from personnel, inmates and the NAACP to address worsening conditions at the county jail.

Current and former deputies, along with a former inmate, claim that chronic staffing shortages inside the jail have led to inmates being confined to their cells for up to 21 hours daily, deputies not following proper protocols, the mismanagement of medication dosages and inmates not being allowed to take showers.

A jail-based staff-led anonymous survey obtained by ARLnow chalks up the retention challenges to issues with leadership, salary, and work conditions, particularly mandatory overtime.

Sources caution that without intervention, the ongoing staff shortages at the jail pose a significant safety risk to deputies and inmates.

Nine deaths in eight years

On Oct. 2, 2020, Arlington County Jail inmate Darryl Becton, 46, was found unconscious in his cell at 4:17 p.m.

Twenty-eight minutes later, medics pronounced him dead at the scene. His death, later attributed to hypertensive cardiovascular disease, complicated by opiate withdrawal, generated significant county and community attention.

In the wake of Becton’s death, his family filed a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit against former Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur, Corizon Correctional Health — the jail’s now-former medical provider — and four medical staff members, citing negligence in properly monitoring his high blood pressure and withdrawal symptoms.

A Corizon nurse was charged in connection with Becton’s death but was later found not guilty.

In response, the jail hired a new medical provider, updated its safety protocols and announced it would equip some inmates with biometric wrist monitors tracking their vital signs. Current Sheriff Jose Quiroz piloted these wrist monitors this fall, distributing them to inmates in the jail’s medical unit.

“We’re going to pilot it with the folks in our infirmary who are, in my eyes, the most critical, the most vulnerable, whether it’s pre-existing medical conditions or anyone going through withdrawals or detox,” Quiroz told ARLnow during an interview in September 2023. “And so, I’m definitely committed to that.”

Like Becton, Jermaine Culbreath, a former Arlington County Detention Facility inmate, also suffers from high blood pressure. Although prescribed blood pressure medication during his incarceration, he told ARLnow he did not receive a wrist monitor.

Culbreath also alleges that on multiple occasions, the jail’s medical staff either failed to deliver his medication promptly in the morning or did not deliver it at all.

“If they did give it to me, they’d give me the medicine in the afternoon,” he told ARLnow. “Like, I’m supposed to take it in the morning because if I try to take this medicine after a certain hour, I can overdose because this is like me taking it twice.”

Over the last eight years, nine inmates — many of whom previously experienced homelessness — have died while in the custody of the Sheriff’s Office. The two most recent incidents this year involved 73-year-old Abonesh Woldegeorges and 55-year-old David Gerhard, both of whom were found unresponsive in their cells.

Gerhard died after going into cardiac arrest, and Woldergeorges died after falling out of her bunk and hitting her head, according to the Sheriff’s Office. Investigations into both cases are currently ongoing.

How staff shortages figure into current conditions

While it’s difficult to say they are directly related, sources, including Culbreath and retired Arlington County sheriff’s deputy Wanda Younger, trace the recent deaths and lapses to staffing shortages within ACSO and the impact they have on jail operations.

“There have been nine deaths in eight years,” Younger told ARLnow. “This is showing signs of the exacerbation that’s happening with the lack of staff, the daily shortages and these daily lockdowns.”

Situated directly opposite the Arlington County Justice Center on N. Courthouse Road, the 11-story jail, on average, houses about 364 inmates who are managed by a team of approximately 270 sworn deputies and civilian staff.

At any given time, the jail is supervised by up to 35 personnel — including 30 deputies, four sergeants, and one lieutenant — who work 12 to 12.5-hour shifts, Maj. Jonathan Burgess told ARLnow during a tour of the detention facility in September 2023.

Theoretically, 35 deputies per shift would be ample, but daily staffing levels are reportedly lower than that, says Younger, referencing conversations with those currently working inside.

“I’ve been told that the Sheriff’s Office is short-staffed almost on a daily basis,” she said.

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Jail entrance at the Arlington County Detention Facility (file photo)

A 55-year-old inmate has died in the Arlington County jail, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

This is the second death the detention facility has logged this year, after 73-year-old Abonesh Woldegeorges, booked on trespassing charges, was found dead in her cell this August.

David Gerhard, of Hedgesville, West Virginia, died today (Tuesday) after he was found unresponsive in his cell within the medical unit at the Arlington County Detention Facility, which the Sheriff’s Office runs.

Sheriff’s deputies and medical staff “began immediate resuscitation efforts until the arrival of Arlington County Fire & Rescue units,” per an ACSO press release.

Police and fire were dispatched to the report of cardiac arrest just before 8 a.m., according to a press release from Arlington County Police Department. First responders found Gerhard was still unresponsive.

“He was transported to Virginia Hospital Center where he was pronounced deceased,” the ACSO release said.

He died around just before 9 a.m., a sheriff’s office spokeswoman told ARLnow.

Gerhard was booked in jail on Nov. 20 for failing to comply with support obligations and contempt of court. Under certain circumstances, the court can order a person to be incarcerated for not complying with a court order concerning the custody, visitation or support of a child.

Gerhard’s family was notified of his passing, the release said.

“We extend our condolences to the family of Mr. Gerhard, during this difficult time,” Sheriff Jose Quiroz said in a statement.

The state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will conduct an autopsy to determine his cause of death. ACPD is investigating the death, following standard procedure, per the police press release.

Anyone with information related to this investigation is asked to contact the Police Department’s Tip Line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected]. To report information anonymously, contact the Arlington County Crime Solvers at 1.866.411.TIPS (8477).

Gerhard is the ninth person to die in the Arlington County jail over the past eight years. His death comes despite heightened attention on jail deaths and efforts to update health check protocols at the county lockup.

A number of inmates who have died in the last eight years were homeless or booked on so-called nuisance crimes, such as trespassing.

Gerhard was white, while most inmates who have died in the county jail have been Black. That disparity prompted the Arlington branch of the NAACP to call for a federal investigation into the deaths.

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Friends and family gather at a memorial for Jorge Rodríguez (courtesy Janeth Valenzuela)

A Wakefield High School freshman named Jorge Chavarria Rodíguez died Thursday evening, according to several sources.

The 16-year-old attended Barcroft Elementary School and Kenmore Middle School and had just started his 9th-grade year at Wakefield, per an email from Wakefield Principal Peter Balas to the school community.

“Jorge was a beloved member of the Wakefield, Kenmore, and Barcroft families, and impacted the lives of many of our students and staff members,” Balas said in the email, which Arlington Public Schools provided to ARLnow. “He was excited and happy to join the Wakefield family, with staff recalling his genuine smile.”

This marks the second death of a Wakefield student this calendar year. APS confirmed on Monday, a school holiday, that Jorge was not on school grounds at the time of his passing.

Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said police found a deceased teen last Thursday at an apartment building in the 5100 block of Columbia Pike. Officers were dispatched just before 8:30 p.m. on Thursday for the report of an unresponsive person on the ground.

First responders reported that the person was dead upon their arrival on scene, according to scanner traffic.

Now, ACPD is conducting a death investigation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death. She noted a preliminary investigation “has not revealed an ongoing threat to the community related to this incident.”

In a GoFundMe page created by Jorge’s mother, Luz, she writes in Spanish that she is living through the worst pain a mother can experience. She says her biggest wish is to give him the final goodbye he deserves as a beloved son.

An English-language description below describes Jorge as “a happy and playful child, a good student and an excellent son.”

“My heart is broken knowing that his dreams will not come true and that his life was short,” she says. “I thank you in advance for your expressions of affection and collaboration. I wouldn’t wish this pain on anyone. May my little Jorge rest in peace.”

Over the weekend, a tribute to her son, made of flowers and saint candles, started growing around a tree across the street from the Columbia Pike Plaza shopping center. The GoFundMe, meanwhile, has circulated on social media and received some 265 donations, totaling more than $13,000 of the $25,000 goal, as of publication.

The Arlington County Board briefly discussed the 16-year-old’s passing on Saturday.

Reading from texts he received, Board member Takis Karantonis said it was possibly an overdose, amid attempts by Chair Christian Dorsey to interject.

“Whatever the circumstances, it’s a tragic thing, and I’m really devastated and heartbroken about this,” Karantonis said.

Dorsey cut the the discussion short, saying that “resources are going to be made available to the students next week [and] details are not known at this time.”

In a statement, community activist Janeth Valenzuela said adults and responsible citizens need to act quickly or risk losing more children to death and addictions.

“We want to make changes, now,” she said. “Not tomorrow, today. Let us not allow this death to be one more of others, let us use this pain that burns our soul to gain momentum and defend our children and the children of our community with our claws.”

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Last night, hundreds gathered outside the family home of Cpl. Spencer Collart, who died tragically during a training exercise in Australia, to honor his life.

Despite the somber atmosphere at the Maywood home of Collart’s parents, Alexia and Bart, neighbors, friends and family offered prayers, shared fond memories and joined together to sing Spencer’s favorite song, “Africa” by Toto.

The 21-year-old was one of three Marines who lost their lives after their MV-22B Osprey aircraft crashed and caught fire on Melville Island, off the coast of Australia’s Northern Territory. The incident occurred about two weeks ago during a military training exercise involving forces from the United States, Australia, the Philippines, East Timor and Indonesia.

Twenty Marines survived, though three remained hospitalized as of Monday. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.

The Collarts said their son’s remains will be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, although a date for the service has not yet been confirmed.

During the vigil, Collart’s youth pastor, Greg O’Dell of Cherrydale Baptist Church, said he had many passions as a young adult, including video games and lacrosse. But those were overshadowed by his desire to join the Marines, which he did on Oct. 26, 2020, at age 18, after graduating from Washington-Liberty High School.

“And he really researched it. And he said, ‘This is where I need to go. This is this is my next step,'” O’Dell said, recalling a discussion he had with Spencer his senior year.

His parents say Collart served in Pensacola, Florida, and Jacksonville, North Carolina. He became a MV-22B crew chief and was then stationed in Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii.

Collart was promoted to the rank of Corporal earlier this year and had earned three awards: the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon.

O’Dell said the last “serious conversation” he had with Collart took place at the former neighborhood bar and restaurant, Thirsty Bernie, and the young Marine “could not stop talking about” how much he loved his work.

He said Spencer was responsible for making sure everybody who went up in the Osprey came home safe. He mused that his actions were part of the reason most people aboard the aircraft survived.

“He’s the one that would go up and down and pull their straps and make sure they were buckled down,” O’Dell said. “He’s the one if they needed to bail out, he would open the back door and start bailing them out. He was the one who was the door gunner, if they came in, under fire. And so, he protected his Marines that came on to that Osprey, and so did the pilots.”

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File photo

Arlington County police are investigating a death in the Penrose neighborhood.

The incident was first dispatched as a fire department call for a dumpster on fire near the intersection of 2nd Street S. and S. Veitch Street. Arriving firefighters then requested police after finding a person dead on scene.

The person is preliminarily believed to have set the dumpster on fire and then jumped in, according to scanner traffic.

“At approximately 11:42 a.m. on September 1, the Arlington County Fire Department responded to the report of a dumpster fire in the 200 block of S. Veitch Street,” Arlington County police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “Upon extinguishing the fire, an adult female was located deceased.”

“The Arlington County Police Department is conducting a death investigation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death,” Savage continued. “The preliminary investigation has not revealed an ongoing threat to the community. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s tip line at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] or anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS(8477).”

Hat tip to Alan Henney. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911. You can also call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, Arlington Dept. of Human Services’ emergency services line at 703-228-5160, or CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.

Jail entrance at the Arlington County Detention Facility (file photo)

Of the eight people who have died in the Arlington County jail in eight years, five appear to have been homeless, according to court records. 

Most recently, Abonesh Woldegeorges, a 73-year-old Black woman with no fixed address, died in the detention center on Sunday morning.

She was found at Dulles International Airport four times between 2019 and 2023 and then, this month, at Reagan National Airport, where she was arrested by airport police and sent to Arlington’s jail, the Washington Post reported. Although eventually granted bond, Woldegeorges remained in jail so she could be taken to Loudoun County for a hearing related to her Dulles charges.

Her case is not unique. Her death, however, returns the jail to the spotlight after previous inmate deaths generated a $10 million wrongful death lawsuit and a civil rights investigation by the Dept. of Justice, as well as a slate of changes by the Sheriff’s Office, which oversees the lockup.

Over the past year and a half it changed medical providers, purchased biometric sensors for select inmates and made other protocol changes. All of this occurred amid changing leadership: Beth Arthur retired before the end of her term and appointed as interim sheriff her Chief Deputy, Jose Quiroz.

Quiroz campaigned on improving inmate well-being and, after winning the Democratic primary, is the sole candidate for Sheriff on the November ballot. 

“Clearly, changing to a new medical contractor didn’t change anything,” says Michael Hemminger, president of the Arlington NAACP branch, which requested the federal inquiry he says is ongoing. “What level of care do these human beings deserve? Is it okay to continue outsourcing to a for-profit provider?”  

A holding place for people without homes and with mental disorders

Court records indicate three other deceased inmates, dating back to 2015, had no address listed or their housing situation was fluid, with an address that varied by the year of their offense. A fourth the Washington Post reported was homeless and suffering from alcoholism.

Of this group, Paul Thompson (died 2022), Clyde Spencer (died 2021) and Edward Straughn (died 2015) were in jail on trespassing or public intoxication charges. Anthony Gordon (died 2015) had been convicted of assault and battery of a family member and was sentenced to five years.

The remaining inmates who have died were listed as D.C. or Maryland residents. This includes D.C. resident Darryl Becton, whose family sued Arlington County for wrongful death for $10 million and were awarded $1.3 million about three weeks ago, according to Hemminger. 

That a majority of deceased inmates did not have stable housing comes as no surprise to Chief Public Defender Brad Haywood. He says the vast majority of inmates are indigent and his office has about a dozen clients right now with airport trespassing charges, specifically. 

“People who have homes to go to never have to trespass. People who have money almost never steal. People who are urinating in public — everyone I know would rather have a place to go inside,” he said. 

He added that more than half of jail inmates are also taking mental health medication. Statistics from the 2023 fiscal year indicate that psychotropic drugs were prescribed 1,582 times across 2,764 total commitments at Arlington’s jail. Other signs of elevated mental health issues inside the jail include the 1,102 inmates assigned a mental health alert.  

Jail statistics for the 2023 fiscal year (via Arlington County)

That the jail has a large population of unhoused inmates with mental health disorders is both a funding issue and the result of a disconnect among the people and agencies reporting and arresting people for trespassing, he said.  

“People don’t think about the social conditions that lead to this,” Haywood said. “It’s just a combination of a lot of issues that no one really wants to confront because they’re complicated and require a lot of resources.” 

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Jail entrance at the Arlington County Detention Facility (file photo)

A 73-year-old woman died this morning at the Arlington County jail.

Abonesh Woldegeorges was found unresponsive in her cell around 7 a.m. and, despite resuscitation efforts, later pronounced dead, according to Arlington County police.

Per scanner traffic, she was found bleeding on the floor of the cell, potentially after falling out of bed.

Woldegeorges was in jail after being arrested for trespassing by Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority police on Aug. 13. She “was being held at the Arlington County Detention Center awaiting transport to Loudoun County, Virginia for a Failure to Appear charge in relation to a prior Trespassing incident with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office,” ACPD said.

“Ms. Woldegeorges’ family was notified of her passing,” said a police press release. “Our condolences go out to her family and loved ones during this difficult time.”

“The Arlington County Police Department is conducting a death investigation and the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death,” the press release said. “Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact [email protected]. Information may also be provided anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).”

Woldegeorges is the eighth person to die in the Arlington County jail over the past eight years. Her death comes despite heightened attention on jail deaths and efforts to update health check protocols at the county lockup.

Prior to today, the last death at the jail happened on Feb. 1, 2022. Including Woldegeorges, all but one of the people to die at the jail over the past eight years have been Black.

Last year the Arlington branch of the NAACP called for a federal investigation into the ongoing series of deaths. In a statement Sunday night, the organization renewed its call for an investigation.

The Arlington Branch of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, responds to the news of a Black woman detained at the Arlington County Detention Center.

We are devastated and saddened to learn that another loss of life has occurred at our county jail and we send our most heartfelt condolences to the family and loved ones. In recent years, 8 people have lost their lives at the county detention center. All of them have been people of color. It is well-established that Black people are policed and arrested at significantly higher rates than their peers in Arlington, Virginia.

While Arlington is only 9% Black, the jail population on any given day is over 65% Black. “It’s unimaginable that a 73-year-old woman being held on trespassing charges would ultimately lose her life while in custody. Unfortunately, we have seen a pattern and practice of blatant disregard for basic care at the Arlington county jail and it is leading to deaths at an alarming rate,” said Michael Hemminger, President of the NAACP Arlington Branch.

After the seventh death in seven years, a $10M wrongful death suit was filed in Arlington County and the NAACP Arlington Branch called for a Department of Justice Investigation into the detention center. The Branch has reached out to government officials to discuss this incident and is currently awaiting a response. “Arlington County Sheriff’s Office and other county leaders have, again, failed to properly address the root problem, and another person has tragically lost her life,” said Hemminger. The NAACP will ensure a thorough and proper investigation is completed, and the organization will ensure that any civil rights violations are met with due accountability and justice.

The jail has been under new leadership since January, when long-time Arlington County Sheriff Beth Arthur stepped down and Chief Deputy Sheriff Jose Quiroz became the interim Sheriff. Quiroz won the Democratic primary for Sheriff in June, after running on a pledge of improving inmate well-being, and will be the sole candidate on the ballot in November.

Scene of fatal moped crash on Clarendon Blvd (photo courtesy anonymous)

A 44-year-old Arlington man died after he crashed into a light pole while riding a moped.

The crash happened around 9:45 p.m. Friday on the 1900 block of Clarendon Blvd, in the Courthouse area. The force of the crash caused the light pole to topple onto the sidewalk and reportedly left the moped rider in cardiac arrest, with significant facial injuries.

Police are investigating the crash but note that the moped was being driven at a high rate of speed.

One local resident who emailed ARLnow said the stretch of Clarendon Blvd where the crash happened is dangerous due to a steep downslope and bend in the road.

“This intersection is very unsafe and drivers go way too fast down the steep hill,” the resident wrote.

The full ACPD press release is below.

The Arlington County Police Department is investigating a fatal single-vehicle crash that occurred on the evening of August 11, 2023.

At approximately 9:44 p.m., police were dispatched to the 1900 block of Clarendon Boulevard for the report of a crash with injury. The preliminary investigation indicates the driver was travelling eastbound on Clarendon Boulevard on a moped at a high-rate of speed when the vehicle left the roadway and struck a utility pole.

The adult male driver was located unresponsive on the scene and was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

The driver of the moped has been identified as 44-year-old Solomon Zeleke of Arlington, Va.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident is asked to contact Detective S. Lafley at [email protected] or 703-228-4052. Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

File photo

Arlington County police are investigating the death of a man near the county office complex at Sequoia Plaza.

A family member called 911 around 4 p.m., reporting that he was attempting to kill himself, according to initial reports. He was found dead by arriving police and firefighters, in an outdoor area near the Arlington Dept. of Human Services offices and a county-run mental health facility.

“At approximately 4:04 p.m., police were dispatched to the 2100 block of Washington Boulevard,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said. “Upon arrival, an adult male was located deceased. ACPD is conducting a death investigation and based on the preliminary investigation, the death does not appear suspicious and there is no apparent ongoing threat to the public. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine cause and manner of death.”

A ramp between Washington Blvd and Route 50 was closed during part of the investigation.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger of self-harm, call 911. You can also call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, Arlington Dept. of Human Services’ emergency services line at 703-228-5160, or CrisisLink at 703-527-4077.

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