Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Soldier Cleared of Charges After Months in Jail — “A former Old Guard member who was arrested with a carload of weapons near Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Northern Virginia had all of his charges dropped — but says the incident has already destroyed his life. Curtis Wells spent seven months in jail for alleged crimes that were just thrown out by an Arlington County judge.” [NBC 4]

Stabbing at East Falls Church Metro — “The male victim and the known male suspect became involved in a verbal dispute, during which the suspect produced a knife. The victim put his hands up to protect himself, during which he suffered a laceration. The victim was treated at the hospital for a minor injury.” [ACPD]

Drug Take-Back Day Coming Up — “On Saturday, April 24, 2021, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the Arlington County Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will provide the public the opportunity to prevent pill abuse and theft by ridding their homes of potentially dangerous expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs. This disposal service is free and anonymous, no questions asked.” [ACPD]

What It’s Like to Work at the Rosslyn Safeway — “We talk in an airless, subterranean breakroom at Safeway store 1048 in Arlington, Va., a typical, prosperous suburb of Washington, D.C. The low-slung store sits partially submerged next to an underground parking garage on the main drag of the Rosslyn neighborhood, full of gleaming office buildings and apartment towers that look like office buildings… The one thing Safeway’s workers have going for them is their union.” [In These Times]

A Look Back at Arlington’s Rock Scene — “I spoke with Pete Crigler about my old band Eggs, and the Arlington, Va., indie-rock scene of the ’90s.” [Twitter, Virginia Rock/Pop Music Spot]

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An Arlington man was sentenced yesterday (Feb. 24) to 12 years and 7 months in prison for his participation in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Cornelius Frazier, 32, would press pills containing fentanyl so that they would resemble prescription pills (like Oxycodone) so that he could distribute for financial gain, according to a U.S. Justice Department press release and court documents.

“As this case demonstrates, fentanyl is not only extremely dangerous because of its potency, but also because it may be hidden in counterfeit prescription pills,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who took over the role on an interim basis last month. “We are grateful to the numerous law enforcement agencies that worked with our Office on this investigation and prevented kilograms of fentanyl from poisoning our communities and harming our loved ones. Their tireless efforts are saving lives.”

A number of local law enforcement agencies were involved, including the Arlington County Police Department, Falls Church Police Department, and Alexandria Police Department, per the release.

On June 1, 2020, a search of Frazier’s vehicle found more than 5,000 pills which tested positive for fentanyl as well as two brick-like packages weighing more than 1.6 kilograms which also tested positive for the presence of fentanyl.

A search of Frazier’s home ended in the seizure of a blender with about a kilogram of a mixture containing fentanyl. Law enforcement seized paraphernalia often associated with prescription drug trafficking including dust collectors with residue, a hydraulic jack, cutting agents, and pill presses containing markings consistent with Oxycodone, according to federal prosecutors.

Also found: nearly $35,000 in cash, a loaded AK-47 with thirty bullets loaded in the magazine, and other guns.

Opioid overdoses remain a huge risk in Arlington County. 2020 saw a resurgence in opioid-related overdoses locally; there were more opioid related deaths in 2020 than in 2018 and 2019 combined.

Some officials believe that the pandemic holds much of the blame for the resurgence.

Full press release is below.

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A local teen is in custody and two others are being sought by police after an alleged drug deal led to a serious assault.

The incident happened shortly after 11 p.m. last night in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood, near Ballston. Police say an arranged sale of narcotics ended with the victim being beaten with batons by several people.

The victim was hospitalized with serious but non-life-threatening injuries.

Police searched the area and arrested a 19-year-old suspect while he was walking along the nearby Custis Trail. Two other suspects have been identified and are expected to face charges, police said.

More from today’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING BY MOB, 2020-12140181, 4600 block of 13th Street N. At approximately 11:17 p.m. on December 14, police were dispatched to the report of a fight in progress. Arriving officers located the victim, who had sustained serious injuries, and rendered aid prior to the arrival of medics. The victim was transported to an area hospital with serious, but non life threatening injuries. The investigation determined that the victim and three suspects met for the arranged sale of narcotics, and a physical altercation ensued between the parties. The suspects allegedly struck the victim multiple times with batons, causing lacerations. A bystander yelled at the involved parties, at which time, the suspects fled on foot. Officers canvasing the area located Suspect One walking on the Custis Trail, made contact with him, and took him into custody without incident. Anthony Silvers, 19, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Malicious Wounding by Mob. He was held on no bond. The other involved suspects were identified and charges are pending.

Also on Monday, a pair of suspects broke into, damaged and stole from four businesses in Clarendon and East Falls Church.

From ACPD:

COMMERCIAL BURGLARY (series), 2020-12140035/0039/0052/0089, 2100 block of N. Westmoreland Street/1100 block of N. Hudson Street/ 3000 block of Washington Boulevard. Overnight on December 14, two unknown suspects forced entry to four businesses, causing damage. At approximately 2:27 a.m., the suspects forced entry to business one in the 2100 block of N. Westmoreland Street, tampered with items, and stole a safe. At approximately 2:20 a.m., the suspects forced entry to business two, also in the 2100 block of N. Westmoreland Street, and rummaged through items, however, nothing was reported stolen. Between 1:30 a.m. and 2:00 a.m., the suspects forced entry to a third business in the 1100 block of N. Hudson Street and stole a safe and an undisclosed amount of cash. At approximately 2:45 a.m., the suspects forced entry to a fourth business in the 3000 block of Washington Boulevard, and stole an undisclosed amount of cash. Suspect One is described as a tall male, wearing a light colored jacket with the hood up, dark pants, black shoes and light colored gloves. Suspect Two is described as a tall male, wearing a black sweatshirt with the hood up, black pants, white gloves, black shoes, and a light colored face wrap. The investigations are ongoing.

Map via Google Maps

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A gunshot was fired during a robbery in the residential Fairlington neighborhood last night, according to police.

The incident happened around 9:45 p.m. on the 2800 block of S. Buchanan Street, a couple of blocks from Abingdon Elementary.

A woman was robbed by two male suspects, one of whom was armed with a gun, during a “pre-arranged sale of narcotics,” Arlington County Police said in a press release Sunday afternoon. After the robbery, the armed suspect allegedly fired a single gunshot in the victim’s direction.

More from ACPD:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating an Armed Robbery and Attempted Malicious Wounding in the Fairlington neighborhood that took place on the evening of December 5, 2020.

At approximately 9:48 p.m., police were dispatched to the 2800 block of S. Buchanan Street for the report of an armed robbery. The investigation revealed the female victim and two unknown male suspects were meeting at the location for the pre-arranged sale of narcotics. Suspect One approached the victim and engaged her in conversation. Suspect Two then approached, knocked her to the ground, brandished a firearm and demanded cash before stealing her purse. The suspects fled the scene on foot and fired a single shot in the direction of the victim. She was not injured. A perimeter was established by responding officers and a canvas of the area returned with negative results.

Suspect One is described as a Black male in his late teens, wearing all black and a blue face mask. Suspect Two is described as a White/Hispanic male wearing all black, a black beanie hat and dark blue face mask.

This remains an active criminal investigation. Anyone with information related to this incident and/or home surveillance that may assist the investigation is asked to contact the Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit at 703-228-4180 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

Map via Google Maps

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(Updated at noon) The Arlington County Circuit Court rejected a plea bargain that would place a Maryland man on two years of probation for allegedly bringing 50 pounds of marijuana and 400 cartridges of hashish oil into the county.

The suspect is accused of arriving on a flight to Reagan National Airport in November 2018 with a checked bag stuffed with drugs. He was arrested by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority at baggage claim.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and the attorney representing the alleged drug carrier agreed that the defendant would plead guilty to two felony charges and be placed on probation, wrote the presiding judge. After completing the probation and 200 hours of community service, he would be able to withdraw the pleas to the felony charges and instead plead guilty to two misdemeanor charges while having a $100 fine imposed but then suspended.

Judge Daniel Fiore, II, in a memorandum of opinion that was obtained by ARLnow, said the punishment would not deter the defendant, or anyone else, from carrying large amounts of drugs into Virginia for distribution.

“Virginia jurisprudence has long and consistently recognized deterrence as means for a court to determine an appropriate sentence, no matter the criminal statute violated,” Fiore wrote. “Deterrence disincentives unlawful behavior both for the individual and for society.”

Excerpts of Fiore’s opinion were published in late September in Virginia Lawyers Weekly. A call to judge’s chambers was not returned. Dehghani-Tafti told ARLnow that she could not comment on the case at this point.

This rejected bargain is part of a larger theater taking place across the nation, as some prosecutors are changing their approach to drug crimes and judges are fighting back. The tug-of-war reached Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who signed a law last month that would require judges to dismiss charges when both the prosecution and defense agree to a bargain or deal.

Fiore wrote that he rejected the bargain in part because the prosecution and defense had understated how much marijuana and hashish the defendant had. The amounts, once disclosed, merited prison sentences between five and 40 years and fines of up to $500,000, Fiore wrote.

Focusing on the quantity of drugs strikes Public Defender Brad Haywood as a bit naive, considering the defendant was likely a low-level “drug mule” put in a high-risk situation by higher-level drug traffickers. He might not have known the quantity of drugs he was carrying, as mules often do not, Haywood said in an email, adding that mules are often thought of as victims of drug trafficking.

“They are under duress; fearful for their safety, desperate for money, or desperate to feed their own addictions,” he said. “They are easy to manipulate precisely because they are suffering. They can even be pressured into doing something as irrational as traveling on a plane with tons of narcotics.”

Given the risk involved, mules are often caught, Haywood said. Instead of harshly prosecuting mules, however, the government frequently offers them leniency so they can help apprehend the supplier.

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This Saturday, local residents can drop off their expired, unused and unwanted prescription drugs in Arlington for safe disposal.

The Arlington County Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Administration is offering contactless, drive-thru disposal of pills and patches from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at police department headquarters (1425 N. Courthouse Road) and Fire Station No. 5 (1750 S. Hayes Street). It’s part of a nationwide effort by the DEA.

“This disposal service is free and anonymous, no questions asked,” ACPD said in a news release. “This is the DEA’s 19th nationwide event since its inception 10 years ago.”

The program comes as the number of police-investigated opioid incidents in 2020 has surpassed those in 2019, with 16 fatal overdoses so far this year — nearly equal to that of the past two years combined.

First responders have been working to counter the overdose trend. In the first seven months of 2020, officers using Narcan helped nine people recover from opioid overdoses.

“Based upon the preliminary investigations into these incidents, police suspect the deaths are linked to heroin and prescription painkillers mixed with fentanyl,” said ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark. “While the investigation into these incidents has revealed no direct evidence that the increase is fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely a factor given timing, the loss of income and jobs and the isolation of stay-at-home orders.”

The pandemic forced the police department to cancel the spring iteration of the drug take-back event, which is normally held twice annually. This Saturday, all participants are expected to practice physical distancing and wear a face covering while dropping off items for disposal.

Upon arrival, participants should stay in their vehicle until they reach the unloading areas, where officers will be on hand to take items for disposal. A separate area will be available for those arriving by bike or foot.

The event does not accept liquids, nor needles and syringes, collectively known as “sharps.”

“For those looking to dispose of sharps, Arlington County recommends placing the item in hard plastic container such as detergent bottle, cap securely and place in trash cart,” the news release said. “Do not put this container in your recycling.”

During the take-back event in October 2019, 211 pounds of medications were collected, Clark said.

Arlington County has four permanent drug take-back boxes available. To date, these boxes have collected 1,572 pounds of medications in 2020, and nearly 5,068 pounds of prescription drugs since they were installed in June 2018.

The public can safely dispose of prescription medications, ointments and patches, pet medications, vitamins and over-the-counter medications 24/7, “no questions asked,” at the following locations:

  • Fire Station #2 (4805 Wilson Blvd.)
  • Fire Station #5 (1750 S. Hayes Street)
  • Fire Station #9 (1900 S. Walter Reed Drive)
  • Arlington County Police Department (1425 N. Courthouse Road)
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A SWAT raid prompted a large police presence just north of Ballston this morning.

At least one lane of N. Glebe Road was blocked as Arlington County police executed a search warrant at a home near the corner of Glebe and 13th Street N., in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood. Numerous police vehicles and a fire department vehicle could be seen in the area.

The police activity has now largely cleared out.

ACPD spokeswoman Kirby Clark said the deployment was “part of an ongoing narcotics investigation.”

There were at least two other drug-related SWAT actions earlier this year in Arlington, although it’s unclear if either are related to today’s raid.

In February a man was arrested after a SWAT team swarmed a condo complex across from the Virginia Square Metro station. In March ACPD tactical teams took several people into custody after surrounding a vehicle in a parking lot near Columbia Pike, as part of a narcotics investigation.

Courtesy photo

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Arlington County police are again sounding the alarm about opioid abuse and its dangers.

In a press release, ACPD says that it is seeing a new “spike” in drug overdose deaths.

“In the month of August, the Arlington County Police Department has investigated five deaths as possible drug-related overdoses,” the department said in a press release today. “Based on the preliminary investigations, police suspect the deaths are linked to heroin and prescription painkillers mixed with fentanyl. Due to the severity of this spike, members of the public who may be affected by addiction or opioid use are urged to take steps to protect themselves and others through available resources in Arlington.”

As ARLnow reported earlier this month, two people died of suspected overdoses in the Buckingham neighborhood on Aug. 2. Prior to that, Arlington had recorded 10 opioid overdose deaths in 2020, four more than in all of 2019.

On July 23, ACPD said its officers had saved nine people from overdoses so far this year via use of Nasal Naloxone — also known as Narcan.

Advice on recognizing, responding to and preventing overdoses, from today’s press release:

Signs of an Overdose

This is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation. If you observe someone experiencing the following overdose symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately:

  • Slow or shallow breathing
  • Dizziness or confusion
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Vomiting or gurgling
  • Blue lips and/or fingernails
  • Not responsive or sleeping and cannot be woken up
  • Deep gurgling or rattling snore

Overdose Reversal

Arlington County first responders carry Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan®), a safe and effective medication that can reverse an overdose from prescription painkillers or heroin. Narcan is available over the counter without a prescription. Arlingtonians can request free Narcan and REVIVE (Narcan) training by emailing the Department of Human Services.

Programs and Services

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are numerous treatment resources available in Arlington and through the Department of Human Services. Assistance is also available through Operation Safe Station, a designated safe environment where individuals wishing to seek help with their drug use can self-report and receive services, without fear of prosecution and incarceration. Community members are also encouraged to prevent medication misuse or overdose by safely disposing of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medication in one of Arlington’s four permanent drug take-back boxes or by requesting a free deactivation bag.

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Narcotics may have claimed two more lives in Arlington over the weekend.

Police removed two bodies from an apartment along N. George Mason Drive in the Buckingham neighborhood Sunday night, a local resident told ARLnow. A police spokeswoman tells us that the preliminary death investigation pointed to drugs as a likely cause.

“At approximately 6:52 p.m. on August 2, police were dispatched to the 300 block of N. George Mason Drive for the report of a possible death,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

“Upon arrival, an adult male and female were located deceased inside a residence,” Savage continued. “Based on the preliminary investigation, the deaths are being investigated as possible overdoses. Cause of death will be determined by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.”

Arlington has seen a resurgence in opioid overdoses and deaths this year, as the pandemic leaves people jobless and at home, exacerbating substance abuse issues. The surge threatens to reverse progress since the opioid crisis in Arlington peaked in 2017.

Two weeks ago, ACPD revealed that its officers had used life-saving Naloxone to reverse opioid overdoses nine times so far this year. Prior to the weekend’s deaths, the county had recorded 38 opioid overdoses and 10 deaths so far this year, compared to 42 overdoses and 6 deaths for all of 2019.

More from a police press release:

Since the start of the year, nine individuals have recovered from opioid overdoses following the deployment of Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan®) by responding officers. This comes as the number of police investigated incidents involving opioids begins to rise, with fatal incidents now surpassing those reported in 2019. The opioid crisis remains a significant issue facing our community. The Arlington County Police Department is sharing information and resources to promote awareness, prevention and action to ultimately save lives.

Addressing the Opioid Crisis in Arlington

Starting in 2016, the Arlington community began seeing a significant increase in the number of opioid overdoses and deaths reported in the County. To help individuals, families, parents and friends understand the risks associated with opioids and resources available to help with this growing crisis, Arlington developed the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI). AARI is a collaborative program comprised of stakeholders from across the county including treatment providers, first responders, the justice system, schools, the hospital, and non-profit organizations. The initiative takes a multi-faceted approach to addressing the opioid epidemic by focusing on prevention and education, addiction treatment, response and recovery and criminal investigation and enforcement. […]

Investigating Opioid-Related Incidents

Detectives from the police department’s Organized Crime Section assist with every opioid-related overdose and collaborate with detectives from the Homicide/Robbery Unit on fatal incidents to ensure a complete and thorough investigation. Prioritization has been placed on investigating cases involving heroin and opioids and identifying those that distribute dangerous controlled substances within our community. Whenever possible, overdose victims are referred to the DHS’ overdose outreach program for follow-up after an incident involving opioids. This referral system has led to an increase in the number of individuals seeking treatment for opioid use disorders through County programs.

Additional Resources

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, there are numerous treatment resources available in Arlington and through the Department of Human Services. Assistance is also available through Operation Safe Station, a designated safe environment where individuals wishing to seek help with their drug use can self-report and receive services, without fear of prosecution and incarceration. Community members are also encouraged to prevent medication misuse or overdose by safely disposing of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medication in one of Arlington’s four permanent drug take-back boxes or by requesting a free deactivation bag.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Arlington is rolling marijuana in with efforts to prevent opioid abuse, but some see the anti-weed campaign as outdated.

Nicole Merlene, a former state Senate candidate and an ARLnow columnist, noted on Twitter that Arlington is promoting a campaign called ‘NoWeedArlington.org’, which links back to a county health department page on the dangers of marijuana.

“Despite the fact that marijuana is legalized in many states, marijuana still poses many health risks including the risk for addiction,” the page says. “The surgeon general has put out a warning related to marijuana use – specifically related to the risks of marijuana use during adolescence.”

Kurt Larrick, assistant director of the Arlington Department of Human Services, said the campaign is meant specifically to prevent marijuana use among children and teenagers, and is part of a larger effort to prevent opioid abuse.

“The ad is an awareness campaign against marijuana use by youth,” Larrick said. “The information conveyed in the message is directly from the current Surgeon General’s message of the negative impact of marijuana use on the adolescent developing brain. The correlation between early marijuana use and opioid abuse later in life is a commonly known fact within prevention/substance use literature.”

Larrick said the campaign was not launched in response to the impending decriminalization of marijuana in Virginia.

The movement towards decriminalizing marijuana has also taken hold at a local level, with Commonwealth Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti ousting an incumbent last year with promises to stop prosecuting marijuana cases, among other reforma. Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano was elected in Fairfax with a similar platform.

“This ad has nothing to do with ‘decriminalization’ or ‘legalization’ of marijuana,” Larrick said. “The ad was developed by [Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative] and Prevention with support/approval from DHS leadership. The ad is supported by SOR (State Opioid Response) funds and approved by the grant administrator.”

Larrick said the County’s position and its partnership with other local organizations is longstanding and also addresses other underage drug abuse issues.

“Arlington County, the Department of Human Services, Arlington Public Schools, and our community partners — including the Arlington Partnership for Children, Youth and Families, the Ready Coalition, and the Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative have long been on the same page when it comes to the harmful impact of marijuana on the teenage brain,” Larrick said. “We have also partnered on initiatives related to underage drinking, smoking, and vaping.”

While the legalization of marijuana is lighting up across the U.S., the impacts of marijuana use on brain development remains a topic of study.

Photo by Roberto Valdivia on Unsplash

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A search for a suspect wanted for armed robbery prompted police helicopter activity over Arlington early Thursday morning.

An officer spotted the wanted suspect near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Garfield Street in Clarendon shortly before 12:30 a.m. Upon seeing the officer about to make a traffic stop, the suspect pulled his car over, bailed out and took off running, according to Arlington County Police.

The Fairfax County Police helicopter was called in to help search for the suspect. Despite the chopper circling the area for some 30-60 minutes — as seen in the flight path map above — the suspect was not found and the search was called off.

While the suspect made a clean getaway, another vehicle occupant was arrested and charged with drug possession and identity theft, police said.

More from ACPD:

NARCOTICS VIOLATION (Significant), 2020-04090001, Wilson Boulevard at N. Garfield Street. At approximately 12:22 a.m. on April 9, an officer on patrol observed a vehicle believed to be occupied by a known wanted subject. As the officer prepared to make a traffic stop, the subject pulled his vehicle over and fled the scene on foot. A perimeter was established and the area was searched with the assistance of Fairfax County Police Helicopter. The search concluded with negative results. The subject is described as a Hispanic male in his 30s, approximately 5’7″ tall with dark facial hair. He was wearing glasses, a black hoodie, black shirt and jeans at the time of the incident. Two additional occupants of the vehicle were detained by officers on scene and, following the investigation, one was arrested and charged. Cindy Tosti, 29, of Alexandria, Va. was charged with Possession of a Scheduled I/II Controlled Substance and Identity Theft. She was held on no bond. The investigation is ongoing.

Photo courtesy Stephan P.

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