Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The driver of a landscaping truck, accused of ramming at least three vehicles, a bus stop and a house in Lyon Park earlier this week, is now facing criminal charges.

Arlington County Police say 33-year-old Jose Gomez of Gaithersburg, Maryland was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence and Driving with Open Container of Alcohol after Monday’s incident on N. Barton Street.

From an ACPD crime report:

At approximately 3:29 p.m. on March 2, police responded to the 700 block of N. Barton Street for the report of a vehicle crash with property damage. Upon arrival, it was determined that the driver of the striking vehicle allegedly hit a parked vehicle, overcorrected and then drove through a bus stop, a County light pole, metal trash container, and into two parked vehicles. The force of the impact sent one of the parked vehicles into a residence, causing structural damage. The driver of the striking vehicle remained on scene. Officers administered field sobriety tests and executed a warrant for a blood draw. Jose Manuel Carranza Gomez, 33, of Gaithersburg, MD was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence and Driving with Open Container of Alcohol.

The crashes destroyed the bus stop near N. Pershing Drive and, we’re told, might have caused foundation damage to the house, prompting a building inspector to place a large, orange sticker on the door.

Today a blue tarp covered the spot where a car was pushed partially into the house.

A short video of part of the incident, shared with ARLnow, shows the truck backing up onto the sidewalk and then pulling forward again, as residents yell at the driver to stop.

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This weekend, Cinco de Mayo revelers can score a free Lyft ride home thanks to a partnership aimed at reduced drunk driving.

The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program has partnered with ride-hailing service Lyft to provide free rides home from 4 p.m. on Sunday, May 5 through 4 a.m. Monday, May 6.

WRAP announced instructions for how Lyft users can access the free rides:

During this twelve-hour period, area residents age 21 and older celebrating with alcohol may download Lyft to their phones, then enter a SoberRide code in the app’s “Promo” section to receive their no cost (up to $15) safe transportation home. WRAP’s Cinco de Mayo SoberRide promo code will be posted at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 5 on www.SoberRide.com.

This year marks the fifth in a row that the organization has organized free ride-hailing for party goers during the holiday.

WRAP said in a statement last month that 897 people in the Greater Washington area used the free rides they organized during Cinco de Mayo last year.

“Over one-quarter (28%) of all U.S. traffic fatalities during Cinco de Mayo 2016 involved drunk drivers according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” Kurt Erickson, WRAP’s president, said in a statement. “Nearly one-fourth (20%) of U.S. drivers in fatal crashes during the 2016 Cinco de Mayo period had BACs of .15 or higher.”

Steve Taylor, Lyft’s D.C. general manager, said in a statement that the company was “proud” to help reduce drunk driving in the D.C. area.

“Here in the D.C. area, partnering with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program allows us to take our commitment to providing reliable, convenient, and responsible transportation a step further, particularly during times of the year when people are out celebrating and in need of a ride home,” Taylor said.

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Police are encouraging people not to drink and drive during Arlington’s St. Patrick’s Day festivities this weekend with a free event about blood alcohol levels.

The annual event, called “Don’t Press Your Luck,” will be held Saturday from 5-7 p.m. on N. Hudson Street between Wilson Blvd and 13th Street N. by the James Hunter Dog Park and Don Tito restaurant.

Police will be using the “Virtual Bar” app by Responsibility.org to show how a person’s gender, weight, and food consumption affects their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and impairs their ability to drive.

Officers plan to close the two blocks of N. Hudson Street from 4-8 p.m. Saturday for the event, and are warning drivers to look out for temporary “No Parking” posted signs nearby.

Virtual Bar was touted as “way to help promote responsible drinking decisions, especially as people explore how foods they are likely to consume when out drinking.”

Arlington County Police are organizing the event together with Responsibility.org and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), which advocates for ways to reduce drunk driving across the Greater Washington region.

WRAP’s annual St. Paddy’s Day $15 Lyft discount to discourage drunk driving also returns this year. The promo code will be posted on WRAP’s website at 3 p.m. Sunday and the code will work for the first $1,500 customers between the hours of 4 p.m. Sunday and 4 a.m. Monday.

From ACPD:

St. Patrick’s Day can be a celebratory time, often including alcohol. The green beer and merry-making of the holiday unfortunately lead to dangerous driving conditions as party-goers head home. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017, 59 people were killed in drunk-driving crashes over St. Paddy’s Day holiday weekend across the nation. And, more than one-third (37% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involved drunk drivers. The Arlington County Police Department (ACPD), the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) and Responsbility.org are teaming up to remind that if your plans include drinking, plan ahead to take a sober ride home.

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An employee of an Arlington car wash is now behind bars after police say he stole and then drunkenly crashed a customer’s vehicle.

County police believe 61-year-old Rigoberto Folgar Hernandez was sent home Friday afternoon (Sept. 28) after showing up to work drunk at a car wash along the 4100 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive.

But Hernandez returned to the business a short time later, when he “drove a customer’s vehicle off the property, went over a median and struck a concrete piling and a parked vehicle,” police say.

Hernandez then exited the vehicle and went back to the car wash, where he was arrested shortly afterward. He’s now facing charges of grand larceny: motor vehicle theft, destruction of property, hit and run, and drunk in public.

Hernandez is set for a hearing on those charges in Arlington General District Court on Nov. 20, and is being held without bond.

Full details from a county crime report:

GRAND LARCENY (Significant), 4100 block of S. Four Mile Run Drive. At approximately 11:34 a.m. on September 28, police were dispatched to the report of a hit and run. Upon arrival, it was determined the suspect had been sent home from his employment at a car wash due to showing signs of intoxication. The suspect returned to the car wash and, shortly after, drove a customer’s vehicle off the property, went over a median and struck a concrete piling and a parked vehicle. The suspect then exited the vehicle and fled the scene on foot back to the car wash. Rigoberto Folgar Hernandez, 61, of Arlington, Va., was arrested and charged with Grand Larceny: Motor Vehicle Theft, Destruction of Property, Hit and Run, and Drunk in Public. He was held on no bond.

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County police will participate in the national “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign beginning today (Aug. 17).

ACPD joins a national effort, which runs through Sept. 3, that aims to reduce drunk driving through increased public safety messages and augmented enforcement.

As part of that work, officers will conduct a “sobriety checkpoint” in the county on Aug. 23, stopping all vehicles who pass through it. Drivers will be asked to show their licenses and will be taken off the roadway for observation and potential intoxication testing if they seem to be under the influence.

ACPD has also worked to discourage drunk driving through its SoberRide vehicle, developed in partnership with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program and ride-hailing service Lyft.

Photo via Arlington County

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Free Lyft rides will be available to those looking for a safe ride home on St. Patrick’s Day this weekend.

The promotion is being offered by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, a local nonprofit, and will run from Saturday, March 17 at 4 p.m. through March 18 at 4 a.m..

“During this twelve-hour period, area residents age 21 and older celebrating with alcohol may download Lyft to their phones, then enter a SoberRide code in the app’s ‘Promo’ section to receive their no cost (up to $15) safe transportation home,” the organization said in a press release. “WRAP’s St. Patrick’s Day SoberRide promo code will be posted at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 17 on www.SoberRide.com.”

Last year, 460 people used WRAP’s SoberRide Lyft services on St. Patrick’s Day in the D.C. area.

“Almost three-fourths (69%) of all U.S. traffic deaths occurring during the six evening hours following St. Patrick’s Day [in 2016] involved alcohol-impaired drivers,” noted WRAP President Kurt Gregory Erickson.

Courtesy photo

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This Halloween, patrons at select Arlington restaurants will be praised not for the creativity of their costumes, but for getting home safely.

Anti-DUI superhero "Soberman" in Clarendon (file photo)Designated sober drivers will be publicly recognized this Friday night by Checkpoint Strikeforce and the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) as part of an anti-drunk driving campaign.

From 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., representatives from the campaign will be outside three Clarendon nightspots to thank designated drivers and those who choose to take public transportation, a taxi or ride sharing service home.

The three restaurants that will be reference points for the “surprise and delight” thanking events are:

  • Clarendon Ballroom at 3185 Wilson Blvd.
  • Spider Kelly’s at 3181 Wilson Blvd.
  • Don Tito at 3165 Wilson Blvd.

This year’s campaign is aimed at stopping people ages 21 to 35 from drinking and driving. According to a release, 36 percent of highway fatalities in Virginia last year were alcohol-related, and more than 40 percent of people killed in alcohol-related crashes were within the campaign’s target age range.

Festive holidays, like this weekend’s Halloween celebration, often see a spike in DUI-related incidents.

WRAP will also offer free taxi rides on Saturday through its SoberRide program.

File photo

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Unveiling of a half cab-half police cruiserAs it does on many particularly festive holidays, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program will be offering free taxi rides on Halloween through its SoberRide program.

The free rides will be offered from 10 p.m. on Saturday to 4 a.m. on Sunday. In order to get a free ride, revelers have to book their cab by calling 1-800-200-TAXI.

In its press release (below), WRAP noted that nearly half of all Halloween traffic deaths in the U.S. are caused by drunk drivers.

As a means of making the Washington-metropolitan area’s roadways a little less frightening this Halloween, free cab rides will be offered to would-be drunk drivers throughout Arlington County, Virginia on the evening of Saturday, October 31st.

Offered by the nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP), the Halloween SoberRide® program will be in operation at 10:00 pm on Saturday, October 31st (Halloween) and operate until 4:00 am on Sunday, November 1st, as a way to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers during this traditionally high-risk, holiday period.

During this six-hour period, area residents ages 21 and older celebrating with alcohol  may call the toll-free SoberRide® phone number 1-800-200-TAXI and be afforded  a no-cost (up to a $30 fare), safe way home. AT&T wireless customers can dial #WRAP for the same service.

Local taxicab companies throughout the Washington-metropolitan area provide this no-cost service to local residents age 21 and older who otherwise may attempt to drive home after drinking.

SoberRide® is offered in the: District of Columbia; throughout the Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s; and throughout the Northern Virginia counties of Arlington, Fairfax, (eastern) Loudoun and Prince William.

“The scary fact is that nearly half (43%*) of all U.S. traffic deaths occurring during Halloween are caused by drunk drivers,”said Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s President.

Sponsors of this year’s Halloween SoberRide® offering include: AAA Mid-Atlantic, Anheuser-Busch, Constellation Brands, Diageo, District of Columbia Association of Beverage Alcohol Wholesalers, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility, Giant Food, MillerCoors, Red Top Cab of Arlington, Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, Volkswagen Group of America and the Washington Area New Automobile Dealers Association.

Participating taxicab companies include: Alexandria Yellow Cab; Barwood; Fairfax Yellow Cab; Loudoun Yellow Cab; Northern Virginia Checker Cab; Red Top Cab; Silver Cab of Prince George’s County; Yellow Cab of D.C.; and Yellow Cab of Prince William County.

Last Halloween’s (2014) SoberRide® program provided nearly 300 (278) free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Washington-metropolitan area.

Since 1993, WRAP’s SoberRide® program has provided 62,773 free cab rides home to would-be drunk drivers in the Greater Washington area.

Founded in 1982, the nonprofit [501(c)(3)] Washington Regional Alcohol Program (www.wrap.org) is an award-winning public-private partnership working to prevent drunk driving and underage drinking in the Washington-metropolitan area. Through public education, innovative health education programs and advocacy, WRAP is credited with keeping the metro-Washington area’s alcohol-related traffic deaths consistently lower than the national average.

More information about WRAP’s SoberRide® initiative can be found at www.soberride.com.

File photo

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Jefferson Edwards, 26, who died in a rollover accident by the Key BridgeThe driver of the SUV that crashed in the early hours of April 16 by the Key Bridge has died.

The Arlington County Police Department identified the deceased as 26-year-old Jefferson R. Edwards IV, of Arlington.

According to Edwards’ obituary, published in the Washington Post on Friday, he was 26 years old, a former member of the United States Coast Guard and had worked as a personal trainer at Fitness First and Gold’s Gym in Arlington.

Edwards went by “J.R.” and grew up in Jacksonville, Fla. According to Sternbeck, alcohol and speed were factors in the crash that resulted in Edwards being ejected from his GMC Yukon at the intersection of Ft. Myer Drive and Lee Highway.

He was taken to George Washington Hospital, where he remained in critical condition for at least a day before he succumbed to his injuries.

“J.R. lived life to the fullest and left his footprint along the way,” his obituary reads. “Everything J.R. did was larger than life. J.R. was larger than life. J.R.’s splash was like a cannonball, we didn’t just get wet, we got soaked. J.R. not only jumped, he catapulted. J.R. not only hugged you, he lifted you off your feet. J.R. not only lit up the room, he lit up the stadium. J.R. not only raised the flag, he flew it.”

Photo via Facebook

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Aman Lail (Photo courtesy Arlington County Sheriff's OfficeThe man who killed a 24-year-old Alexandria resident last January in a drunk-driving collision in Rosslyn was sentenced to 12 years in prison this morning.

Aman Singh Lail was sentenced to 20 years, with nine suspended, for aggravated involuntary manslaughter, plus 12 months for driving under the influence. Lail pleaded guilty to the charges last summer.

The sentence was the maximum allowed upon the plea agreement, and Arlington Circuit Court Judge Louise DiMatteo apologized to the family of the victim, Chowdhury Saqlain, saying no sentence could replace the son they lost.

“I don’t even know what to say to the family seated over here,” she said from the dais. “It’s completely unfair what’s happened to you. It’s wrong.”

Lail had previously been arrested twice and convicted once of DUI in Virginia. He had also been charged with multiple reckless driving and speeding charges, totaling more than 30 citations and arrests.

On Jan. 24, 2014, Lail was driving on Lee Highway at between 53 and 64 mph — the Commonwealth’s Attorney and Lail’s attorneys dispute the speed and blood-alcohol content of the case — when his Jeep Wrangler slammed into Saqlain’s sedan at the intersection of Ft. Myer Drive. Lail could not complete a field sobriety test and initially lied to detectives, telling them a friend “Moe” had been driving his SUV.

“He drove like a maniac, was outrageously drunk and displayed callousness after the fact,” Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Jay Burkholder said during the hearing. Witnesses said he drank between four and five vodka and orange juice drinks and two tequila shots at a hookah bar in Fairfax County. “Because of perverted fate, the defendant is alive and [Saqlain] is dead.”

Lail’s mother testified that her son had been an alcoholic and told her the evening after the crash he didn’t remember what happened. In the 15 months since the crash, Lail’s attorney claimed he had grown up, and asked for leniency in the sentencing.

Chowdhury Saqlain's father, left, and his mother, right, after his killer's sentencing hearing“He has changed a lot, he understands and he knows he took someone’s life,” Lail’s mother said. “He is a very nice boy, he is very good-hearted.”

After the hearing, Saqlain’s family and their attorney, David Haynes of The Cochran Firm, held a press conference outside the courthouse and announced they would be pursuing a civil suit against Lail, asking for $20 million in damages.

Haynes said the family hopes Saqlain’s legacy is fewer drunk-driving deaths. They are also calling on state legislators to make bars and restaurants liable in drunk-driving accidents that occurred after over-serving their patrons.

“Without this law on the books, we are unable to hold these establishments responsible,” Haynes said.

During the sentencing hearing, Saqlain’s stepfather read testimony written by his wife — the victim’s mother — who was quietly sobbing in the front row.

“There will be no more birthdays, he will always be 24,” he read. “My heart aches knowing he had no warning, no ability to prepare. He couldn’t say goodbye.”

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Nancy Tinoza (photo via Facebook)(Updated at 2:55 p.m.) A 26-year-old Arlington woman was killed in Northeast D.C. early Sunday morning, when the driver of a car in which she was a passenger slammed into a parked tractor trailer.

Nancy Tinoza, an immigrant from Zimbabwe, was killed in the collision at about 3:12 a.m. on the 3400 block of Eastern Avenue NE, according to the Metropolitan Police Department. She was pronounced dead after being transported to the Washington Medical Center’s trauma center.

The driver of the car and another passenger were also hospitalized, and after officers interviewed the driver, Momodu Bello, they arrested him and charged him with second-degree murder.

According to the criminal complaint filed in D.C. Superior Court, Bello, a 35-year-old Fort Washington, Md. resident, was intoxicated and speeding on Eastern Avenue, which has a 25 mph speed limit. According to police, Bello said he had two beers and a shot of Hennessy at Club Mango in Bladensburg, Md., before driving, and “thought that the truck was moving.”

Bello was driving a Volkswagen Passat, which “submarined” under the truck during the collision. Tinoza suffered “massive blunt force trauma” to the head and was rendered unconscious.

“[A witness] saw the defendant had dragged [Tinoza] out of the vehicle by her arms and began shaking [her] violently when she did not respond to the defendant’s attempts to speak with her,” the complaint reads. “At one point, the defendant dropped the unconscious decedent, causing her head to strike the asphalt pavement.”

Bello was denied bond at an arraignment hearing yesterday, District of Columbia U.S. Attorney spokesman Bill Miller said in an email. His first preliminary hearing is on Friday.

Tinoza worked as a research assistant with the International Monetary Fund, according to her LinkedIn profile, and graduated from the College of Wooster in 2012 through the U.S. Student Achievers Program (USAP), which places international students in U.S. colleges. The program has set up a fundraising page to support her family in Zimbabwe — as of 1:30 p.m. the page has raised $8,483 of a $20,000 goal.

“We are saddened and devastated by this loss — she will be remembered for her kindness, energy, optimism and brilliance,” the USAP wrote on the fundraising page. “She was a role model to many, and full of promise and potential. She will be greatly missed by her family, friends, and all she has touched.”

Photo via Facebook

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