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Shots were fired early this morning near an entrance to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.

The gunfire was reported around 2:30 a.m. at Washington Blvd and S. Walter Reed Drive. That’s near the Hatfield gate to Fort Myer, some apartment buildings, ramps to and from Route 50, and the Sequoia Plaza complex, which houses Arlington County and Arlington Public Schools offices.

Arlington County police were called to the scene by a caller who reported hearing gunshots and a car speeding off.

“Upon arrival, officers met with the reporting party who advised that approximately 20 minutes prior, he heard several gunshots and the sound of a vehicle fleeing the scene,” said ACPD. “Officers canvassed the area and recovered evidence confirming shots had been fired. At this time, no injuries or property damage have been reported. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.”

This is the second shots fired incident of this nature over past week.

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Morning Notes

Health Directors Urge Mask Wearing —  “Today, all five Northern Virginia Health Directors issued a joint letter of interim recommendations for mask wearing in Northern Virginia. The letter was issued by Health Directors from the City of Alexandria, as well as Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties to Northern Virginia Mayors, Chairs and Chief Administrative Officers with the recommendation that individuals wear masks while indoors in government and other public settings, regardless of vaccination status.” [City of Alexandria, PDF]

Flags at Half-Staff to Honor Fallen Officer — From NBC 4’s Jackie Bensen: “Secretary of Defense orders Pentagon flags flown at half-mast to honor Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer killed in the line of duty this morning.” [Twitter]

Metro Changes for Pentagon Investigation — From WMATA: “Pentagon update for tomorrow (Aug 4): Pentagon Station expected to remain closed all day. Yellow & Blue line trains will bypass the station. All Metrobus service to/from Pentagon Transit Center will operate from Pentagon City (S Hayes near 12th St).” [Twitter, Twitter]

Delayed Request for Assistance at Pentagon — From local public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Heard shots at approx 10:37 am. This video was at 10:38 am. I’d love to know why Pentagon Protection Force Agency waited until 10:50 to request @ArlingtonVaPD & @ArlingtonVaFD for an active shooter?” [Twitter, Twitter]

Training Exercise Today at Fort Myer — “Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall will hold a routine training event for its first responders Wednesday, Aug. 4, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Myer side of the base. Wright Gate, located at N. Meade Street and Marshall Drive in Arlington, will be closed from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m… Arlington County first responders will also participate in the training, so expect to see an increase in emergency response vehicles near the base.  Neighboring communities may hear the base’s external ‘giant voice’ loudspeaker during the training.” [Press Release]

Former Red Top Cab Exec Dies — From the Washington Regional Alcohol Program: “Today, WRAP mourns the passing of former, longtime WRAP Director George Pakidis. The former VP of Red Top Cab in Arlington, George was a beloved member of WRAP’s Board for 14 years 12 of which he ably served as the nonprofit’s #SoberRide Committee Chair.” [Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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(Updated at 4 p.m.) Portions of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall were closed this afternoon after a suspicious package at one of the gates.

A witness described seeing a “large law enforcement response inside the base with crime scene tape and everything blocked off within a few hundred yards” of the Hatfield Gate, near the intersection of 2nd Street S. and Washington Blvd.

Around 2:30 p.m., a spokeswoman confirmed to ARLnow an “active situation” at the base.

“Hatfield Gate, the main gate at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall accessed of Washington Blvd., is closed at this time due to an incident at the gate,” said JBMHH Community Relations Officer Leah Rubalcaba. “Details of the incident are not in as it is an active situation. In the interim, traffic to the base is being diverted to Wright Gate and the Henderson Hall Gate.”

Via social media, the base announced that its medical clinic and exchange store, along with some roads, had been closed. ARLnow also hears that the child care center on the base was evacuated.

Just before 4 p.m. the “all clear” was given.

“There was a suspicious package detected at the gate,” Rubalcaba said. “It was checked out and we just received the ‘all clear’ a few minutes ago. Hatfield Gate has re-opened and operations are back to normal.”

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For the second year in a row, the pandemic is preventing the annual Easter sunrise service at Arlington National Cemetery from being an in-person event.

This year’s service, hosted by Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, will be live-streamed on Facebook starting at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, Apr. 4.

The event will be a Protestant service celebrated by Chaplain (Col.) Michael T. Shellman, Command Chaplain for the Joint Force Headquarters and Chaplain (Brig. Gen.) Andrew R. Harewood, Deputy Chief of Chaplains for the Army Reserve.

“The Easter Sunrise Service supports military families and service members by providing spiritual enrichment and supports the joint base command’s mission to provide for the free exercise of religion in the military,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Scott Kennaugh, Deputy Chaplain at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, in a statement.

To comply with COVID-19 guidelines and keep the number of people at the service as low as possible, a brass quartet and four vocalists from the U.S. Army Band will be on-site along with a sign language interpreter.

In case of inclement weather, the service will be live-streamed from the joint base’s Memorial Chapel, also in Arlington. 

A Facebook account is not required to view the event.

Photo by Tim1965

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The D.C. area is a bit on edge, and the sounds of howitzers firing this afternoon probably won’t help. But it’s necessary to prep for next week’s inauguration.

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall said today (Thursday) that the U.S. Army’s Presidential Salute Battery will be conducting “blank fire drills” this afternoon in preparation for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on Wednesday.

The cannon fire at Fort Myer often can, depending on weather conditions, be clearly heard in parts of Arlington and D.C.

The drills are held as practice for “ceremonies in honor of the President of the United States, for visiting foreign dignitaries, during official government ceremonies, regional celebrations… and while rendering honors during the funeral services of our nation’s fallen service members and veterans,” a base spokeswoman previously told ARLnow.

Photo by Sgt. Jose A. Torres Jr courtesy of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall

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(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.”

The website OpenMHz captured audio of the initial police dispatch.

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.”

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Morning Notes

BBC Airs Segment on AFAC — The Arlington Food Assistance Center, which is seeing record food need and lines throughout the day, was profiled in a segment that aired on BBC World News this week. [Twitter]

Fares to Return on ART Buses — “ART buses will resume front door boarding and fare collection starting on Sunday, January 3, 2021. Riders will begin boarding buses through the front door and will pay their fare at the fare box using a SmarTrip card or exact change. The regular ART bus fare for a one-way trip is $2.00.” [Arlington Transit]

Teens Launch Hot Cocoa Company — “In July, Wakefield High School rising seniors Farah Bahr and Sithiya Reshmee (who goes by the nickname ‘Resh’) founded F&R Sweets, a line that includes chocolate-dipped strawberries, churro cheesecake (made with croissant dough, cream cheese filling and cinnamon sugar) and hot chocolate bombs… the bombs ($3-$10 each) grabbed my attention. They are bonbon-like orbs filled with mini marshmallows, Swiss Miss cocoa mix (regular, caramel or peppermint) and sometimes other add-ins.” [Arlington Magazine]

AWLA Treats Dog With Skin Condition — “On Sunday, we were very surprised when a brown-eyed dog with a severe skin infection and hair loss came through our doors. He desperately needs us, and together we can start him on the path to healing. Rufus was found all alone on the side of the road and was brought to AWLA for help.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Patch]

Fort Myer Bowling Alley Back Open — “The [Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall] Bowling Center had a small grease fire last week that temporarily shut down operations. Today, the fire department and health inspections were completed and they were given approval to re-open at 2 p.m.” [Twitter]

Arlington is Soldier’s Resting Place, At Last — “An Army sergeant from Panama, Oklahoma who was killed during the Korean War has been identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency,” from the 55 boxes containing remains of American service members turned over by North Korea in 2018. “Rodgers will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, at a later date that has yet to be determined.” [Times Record]

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Morning Notes

APS Statement on George Floyd — “The tragic death of George Floyd and many others before him, as well as the events that have unfolded since, are bringing into stark focus the pervasive injustice and inequality that African Americans face every day in our society from systemic and institutionalized racism. As Superintendent and the School Board, we acknowledge the anger and hurt that our APS community and the nation are experiencing, especially our African American community.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Fort Myer on High Alert — “The Pentagon has ordered forces and bases in the Washington D.C. area to ‘Force Protection Condition Charlie,’ a threat condition that indicates ‘likely’ targeting of military forces and or terrorist action and the second highest alert level available.” [Newsweek]

Crash on George Mason Drive — From Tuesday afternoon: “Lanes blocked on S. George Mason Drive near the intersection with Columbia Pike due to crash. One person with minor injuries was reported to be trapped in a vehicle, requiring extrication.” [Twitter]

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If you hear some explosions Tuesday morning, don’t worry — it’s just cannon fire practice for Arlington’s military neighbors.

The Presidential Salute Battery Platoon will be conducting ceremonial training Tuesday around 7 a.m., Arlington National Cemetery said on social media Monday night.

When the platoon has practiced in the past, different parts of Arlington have heard “booming” or “banging” sounds, depending on weather conditions.

As ARLnow previously reported, Presidential Salute Battery teams work together to fire howitzers and 21-gun volleys during the practice. The goal is to time the shots with a ceremony or song, but the guns were not always ceremonial, according to the platoon’s website.

The platoon is equipped with ten M5, 75mm antitank cannons mounted on the M6 howitzer carriage. Each gun weighs 5,775 pounds. The M5 cannon saw service in North Africa, Italy, and Northwest Europe from 1943 until the end of World War II. Today, the Presidential Salute Battery fires the 75mm blank ceremonial shell with 1.5 pounds of powder….

Ceremonies require a five-man staff and a two-man team for each gun. The staff consists of the Battery Commander, who initiates fire commands and ensures the proper number of rounds is fired; the Sergeant of the Watch, who marches the battery into position, controls the firing of the backup gun, and monitors the watchman and his assistant; the Watchman controls the timing between rounds and gives the command to fire; the more experienced Assistant Watchman ensures the Watchman stays in time; and the Counter, counts the rounds and signals the last round to the battery.

The platoon conducts the training in preparation for firing cannons “at ceremonies in honor of the President of the United States, for visiting foreign dignitaries, during official government ceremonies, regional celebrations… and while rendering honors during the funeral services of our nation’s fallen service members and veterans,” a spokeswoman said last year, noting that the training sessions end prior to Arlington National Cemetery’s visiting hours.

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With Arlington National Cemetery closed to all visitors other than loved ones of the deceased, the cemetery’s annual Easter sunrise service will be broadcast online.

Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall announced the planned live stream (which will be hosted on its Facebook page) this morning:

The annual Easter Sunrise Service, hosted by Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, will be live-streamed via Facebook beginning at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, April 12, from Arlington National Cemetery.

The Easter Sunrise Service has annually been held in the cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater, but given the closure of the cemetery due to the COVID-19 threat and the fact that the amphitheater is undergoing renovations, this year’s service will be virtually live-streamed from the Tanner Amphitheater, the cemetery’s historic structure built in 1873 that served as the cemetery’s main public meeting space until the completion and dedication of the Memorial Amphitheater in 1920.

The Easter Sunrise Service is a non-denominational worship service and will begin with the call to worship at 6:30 a.m. by Chaplain (Colonel) Michael T. Shellman, the Senior Army Chaplain at Arlington National Cemetery.  The U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains, Chaplain (Maj. Gen.) Thomas L. Solhjem, will deliver the Easter message. To maintain the required mandate for social distancing and to keep the number of personnel participating in the service under ten, the chaplains will be joined by just three members of the U.S. Army Band, “Pershing’s Own,” and a sign language interpreter.

According to one of the Easter Sunrise Service coordinators, the deputy chaplain at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Chaplain (Maj.) John Lee, the heart of the Easter message is hope.  “Everyone needs hope,” said Lee. “Human life is not perfect, we all have life challenges. Through resurrection you still have hope to start again.”

In case of inclement weather, the service will be live-streamed from the joint base’s Memorial Chapel located on the Fort Myer side of the base in Arlington, Va.

Please access the JBM-HH Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/jbmhh/ at 6:30 a.m. Sunday, April 12, to view the live feed. You don’t need a Facebook account to view the service.

More on Arlington National Cemetery’s visitor restrictions, and a look at springtime at the cemetery, below.

Photo by Tim1965

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Morning Notes

Lane Closures Near Ballston — Sewer relining work is closing the right-hand lane of portions of Fairfax Drive and Wilson Blvd in the Bluemont neighborhood, near Ballston. [Twitter]

Arlington’s Young Population Drives Trends — “One of the reasons Virginia’s Arlington County is consistently rated highest for health and fitness is because of its young demographic. Take Ballston, for example, where 47.7% of the adult population is between 25 and 44 years old.” [WTOP]

Courthouse Metro Rescue Makes National News — “We would like to thank @ABCWorldNews for broadcasting our rescue of a @wmata rider last Friday. The patient is in stable condition. If you find yourself on the tracks and are unable to exit, roll towards the platform side to the area of refuge.” [Twitter, ABC News]

Fort Myer Gate Temporarily Closed — “Attention DoD ID card holders: @JBMHH’s Old Post Chapel Gate that provides entry onto the base from Arlington National Cemetery will be temporarily closed beginning today through the end of April for construction.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Nearby: Proposed Arlandria Redevelopment — A “D.C. developer filed preliminary plans with Alexandria earlier this month for the project, looking to completely overhaul a Mount Vernon Avenue shopping center near Four Mile Run Park, now called Del Ray North. It’s currently home to a MOM’s Organic Market, but has seen a variety of retail vacancies recently.” [Washington Business Journal]

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