Arlington, VA

The County Board last night unanimously approved consideration of a new ordinance that would effectively ban carrying firearms on county-owned property.

The move is the first step towards making the ordinance part of county policy, though it will still need to undergo a public hearing and a vote at the Board’s next meeting.

According to a staff report:

The proposed ordinance would restrict the possession, carrying or transportation of any firearms on specified locality property. Buildings and other property will be posted to notify the public of the restrictions. The proposed ordinance provides for a Class 1 Misdemeanor penalty for violations.

The ordinance would ban carrying or transporting firearms in buildings owned, leased or used by the County as well as in parks, recreational or community facilities owned or used by the County. Staff clarified that in buildings only partially used by the County, the restriction would be in effect for parts of the building the county government was operating out of.

“The legislation also authorized these prohibitions in public streets where there is a permitted event, whether or not the event actually received its permit,” the staff report said. “We believe this added authorization allows the County to enforce this prohibition on public streets during an event operating under a Special Event Permit.”

Those not affected by the ordinance would include:

  • Military personnel acting within the scope of their official duties
  • Sworn or retired law enforcement officers
  • Private security personnel hired by the County
  • Historical reenactors and those possessing inoperative, unloaded firearms when such persons are participating in or traveling to/from special events that involve the display or demonstration of these firearms
  • Senior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps programs and intercollegiate sports where the sport includes the use of a firearm

The move comes after the General Assembly approved legislation allowing localities to adopt certain prohibitions on firearms. The first advertisement for the proposed ordinance was at a County Board meeting Wednesday night, with a full public hearing scheduled for Sept. 12.

The legislation is nearly identical to similar legislation passed recently in Alexandria and is shaping up to face similar opposition. County Manager Mark Schwartz vowed to craft the ordinance to be in-line with policies in neighboring jurisdictions.

During the public comment yesterday, there were roughly 60 speakers, with County Board Chair Libby Garvey noting that an unusually high number of speakers who were not Arlington residents.

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Morning Notes

GOP Senate Primary Today — “Three Republican candidates for U.S. Senate in Tuesday’s Virginia primary are hoping to win a chance to defeat incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Warner in November’s general election. Alissa Baldwin, Daniel Gade and Thomas Speciale will be on the Republican primary ballot.” [The Center Square]

Pike Housing Proposal Delayed Amid Outcry — “Faced with criticism on multiple fronts, Arlington County Board members on June 16 essentially threw a staff proposal under the bus, delaying for three months consideration of a controversial plan on how to prioritize affordable housing in the Columbia Pike corridor… It would have increased the maximum threshold, from the current 60 percent of area median income to up to as much as 100 percent, for individuals to qualify for assistance in buying properties.” [InsideNova]

River Rescues Near Chain Bridge Saturday — “D.C. firefighters and police officers on Saturday rescued eight adults and four children who became trapped on rocks in the Potomac River and were cut off from shore by rapidly rising waters in a sudden rainstorm.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Arlington Home Show Cancelled — The pandemic has led to the cancellation of the annual Arlington Home Show and Garden Expo, which had earlier been rescheduled for Saturday, June 27. [Arlington County]

ACPD Investigating Brandishing Incident — “On June 21, police were dispatched to the report of a brandishing. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was driving in the area of 31st Street S. and S. Abingdon Street when he was allegedly cut off by the suspect. The suspect then waved the victim in front of him and began following him. When the victim parked, the suspect pulled alongside his vehicle and a verbal dispute ensued, during which the suspect brandished a firearm.” [Arlington County]

Traffic Getting Back to Normal — “Car and truck volume trends in Virginia are moving back toward normal after plummeting during the COVID-19 shutdown, according to numbers released Friday by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Pandemic traffic on state-maintained interstates and primary roads hit a low on April 12, a Sunday… The numbers have gradually rebounded since, climbing back to around 20 percent below normal by the end of May.” [Virginia Mercury]

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Arlington County Police are investigating an armed carjacking that occurred in Pentagon City over the weekend.

Officers were dispatched to a parking garage on the 1300 block of S. Eads Street, across the street from Amazon’s under-construction HQ2, around 10 p.m. Friday. A man told police that three suspects, one of whom was armed with a gun, approached him when he was in his car. The victim exited the car and the suspects drove off with it, according to ACPD.

A tipster tells ARLnow that the carjacking happened in an apartment building’s parking garage and that the garage door was broken at the time, allowing the suspects to enter the garage freely.

So far, no arrests have been announced.

More from an ACPD crime report:

CARJACKING, 2020-05150162, 1300 block of S. Eads Street. At approximately 10:00 p.m. on May 15, police were dispatched to the report of an armed carjacking. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was inside his parked vehicle in a garage when he was approached by two suspects, one of whom displayed a firearm and tapped on the window. A third suspect approached the scene in a vehicle, while the other two suspects rummaged through the victim’s vehicle and demanded the keys. The suspects entered the victim’s vehicle and fled prior to police arrival. Suspect One is described as a black male, age 15-20, 5’9″-5’11”, 140-160 lbs. Suspect Two is described as a black male, 15-20 years old. Suspect Three is described as a black male, 15-20 years old, driving a hatchback vehicle. The victim’s vehicle is a gray 2007 Toyota Avalon with Virginia license plate XFY3363. The investigation is ongoing.

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Arlington County Police have charged two juvenile suspects in connection with an alleged burglary in Green Valley that drew national media attention.

Police say the two juveniles broke into the store —  the Arlington Smoke Shop at 2428 Shirlington Road — early on a Sunday morning in late March and were in the process of stealing items when an employee emerged from a backroom with a gun and opened fire.

One of the suspects was shot “point blank in the back,” and the shooting was caught on video surveillance, prosecutors said. The employee, 33-year-old Hamzeh Abushariah, is now facing serious charges including Malicious Wounding. Gun rights advocates have taken up his cause, which has received national attention on Fox News and other, mostly conservative-leaning media outlets.

While Abushariah’s case is pending, police today announced that two of the alleged burglars are also now facing a slew of charges.

“Charges have been sought against two juvenile suspects related to the breaking and entering which occurred on March 29,” ACPD said. “The suspects have been charged with Burglary, Attempted Grand Larceny, Conspiracy to Commit a Felony, Conspiracy to Commit Larceny and Destruction of Property. In accordance with Virginia law, their identities are not releasable.”

An investigation into the role of a third suspect — who has not yet been charged — “is ongoing,” police said.

The individual who was shot was one of the two suspects facing charges, Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. That suspect “remains in a medical facility,” she said.

Photo via Google

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A Maryland man is facing multiple charges after police say a dispute over a parking space escalated to violence.

The incident happened shortly before noon Sunday, on the 4400 block of 31st Street S. near Shirlington and a number of apartment buildings.

Police say two drivers “became engaged in a dispute over a parking spot” that resulted in the suspect assaulting the victim after the victim had parked. The suspect also drew a gun during the incident, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

More from ACPD:

BRANDISHING, 2020-04190043, 4400 block of 31st Street S. At approximately 11:41 a.m. on April 19, police were dispatched to the report of a person with a gun. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim and suspect became engaged in a dispute over a parking spot. After the victim parked, the suspect exited his vehicle, allegedly approached the victim, grabbed him and assaulted him. The suspect then went inside of a residential building, but immediately returned and brandished a firearm at the victim, before fleeing into the building again. During the course of the investigation, officers developed a possible suspect description. Officers located and made contact with the suspect and took him into custody without incident. The victim was transported to an area hospital with non-life threatening injuries. Desmond Young, 30, of Fort Washington, Md., was arrested and charged with Strangulation, Brandishing a Firearm and Assault & Battery.

File photo

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The following op-ed was written by Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington), chair of Virginia House Public Safety Committee, following Gov. Ralph Northam signing several gun violence prevention measures into law.

Knocking on doors last summer and fall, I asked Arlington voters their top legislative concerns. The largest response, by far, was for the General Assembly to take action to reduce gun violence.

That same sentiment has been growing across the commonwealth for years due to the lack of response to tragedies, such as, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Parkland, Columbine, and more recently, Virginia Beach. But the gun violence prevention movement is not just about the mass shootings you see and hear about in the media. It’s the daily acts of gun violence — over 100 a day — occurring in our communities and firearm suicides that you don’t hear about.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 there were 1,041 gun deaths in Virginia. The Virginia firearm suicide rate has increased by 15% over the last decade and the firearm homicide rate increased 45%. Of all the suicides, nearly two-thirds are by firearm. Thirty-two children die by firearm every year in Virginia. Year after year, advocates from Moms Demand Action, Everytown for Gun Safety, the Brady Campaign, Giffords, and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence come to Richmond to lobby for commonsense solutions only to be rejected.

But the 2020 legislative session would be different. I could tell gun violence prevention was going to be a rallying point for voters ever since Governor Ralph Northam, who called for a July 9 special session following a mass shooting in Virginia Beach, had his call to action thwarted by Republicans who immediately adjourned the session without taking any action. Virginia Democrats made gun violence prevention a central campaign theme in the 2019 election. Legislators finally listened to the voices of voters and we delivered.

House Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn tapped me to chair the House Public Safety Committee to oversee the passage of one of the House Democrats highest priorities: gun violence prevention. Those items that passed and recently signed by the Governor include:

  • Universal background checks on all firearm sales;
  • Reinstate the law allowing the purchase of only one handgun within a 30-day period;
  • Requiring lost or stolen firearms be reported to law enforcement within 48 hours;
  • Create an Extreme Risk Protective Order that would allow a court to order the temporary separation of firearms from an individual determined to be danger to self or others (this bill was patroned by Del. Rip Sullivan);
  • Prohibiting the person the subject of a protective order from possessing a firearm (this bill was patroned by Sen. Janet Howell);
  • Enhancing the penalty for recklessly allowing child access to a loaded firearm;
  • Allowing localities, such as Arlington, to prohibit firearms in County buildings, parks, or recreation centers.

These laws will save lives.

Other bills that passed include the requirement for a person to receive a concealed handgun permit to demonstrate competence in-person (patroned by Del. Alfonso Lopez); creation of a Virginia Gun Violence Intervention and Prevention Fund; adding child day centers to the list of schools where firearms are not allowed; prohibiting the possession/sale of bump stocks; and my bill to clarify school boards are prohibited from arming untrained personnel for school protection; and another to require family day homes to lock up firearms during operating hours.

The House passed a bill to ban military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines but, unfortunately, the bill was defeated in a Senate Committee. This bill was patroned by Del. Mark Levine.

Critics say the House moved too fast. It may seem that way if you are used to doing nothing or preferred we did nothing. In my view, however, we struck the right balance acting only on measures that have been proven to save lives. Many of these bills have been introduced, studied, and debated for years. It was time to be responsive to Virginia voters and act.

Why does this issue mean so much to me and so many others? Kris Brown, Arlington resident and President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, summed it up best when she recently tweeted: “There are too many children living in constant fear in their schools, in their homes, and in their neighborhoods. We owe them all a better future.” As the father of three children, I couldn’t have said it better.

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A lot of local businesses are struggling during the coronavirus outbreak, but at least one seems to be doing just fine.

Nova Armory, the Lyon Park gun store that generated controversy when it opened four years ago, has had lines out the door for at least the past week.

The store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive, which did not respond to a request for comment from ARLnow, said via social media last week that it was only allowing six people inside at a time and increasing sanitation efforts, in order to reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

Gun stores across Virginia have been seeing an increase in business amid the pandemic, NBC 4 reported.

The News 4 I-Team requested statewide data since the beginning of March and found the highest number of requests for background checks, 3,753, on Saturday, March 7, the very day Virginia announced its first COVID-19 case.

In the 10 days that followed, background check requests were up 45% from the same time period last year.

But Virginia State Police say this uptick hasn’t come close to the single-day record of 5,645 background check requests, set on Black Friday in 2019, shortly after Democrats won control of the Virginia legislature.

On Sunday, Nova Armory said it would be shifting to primarily appointment-based sales, starting Tuesday.

“All appointments will take priority over any walk-in customers,” the store said.

Photos courtesy anonymous

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Morning Notes

NPS Seeking Funds for GW Parkway Upgrades — “[National Park Service] officials are pursuing funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Infrastructure for Rebuilding America grant program to support the [GW Parkway’s] North Section Rehabilitation Program. That program will rebuild a 7.6-mile section of the parkway from Spout Run Parkway to Interstate 495, address serious deterioration of the roadway and implement significant safety improvements.” [InsideNova]

Update on Cupid the Cat — “‪We want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who has donated so far to Cupid’s recovery! We have been overwhelmed by all of your support, and are so grateful for your kindness and generosity. We’re happy to report that today Cupid is doing really well after his surgery yesterday! He has a good appetite, is getting lots of rest and just wants to spend as much time as possible snuggling with our staff.” [Facebook]

Shirlington Employment Center to Relocate — “Arlington County Board members later this month are slated to approve the move of the Shirlington Employment & Education Center (SEEC) into space at the Arlington Mill Community Center. The non-profit organization will occupy 845 square feet of space on the fourth floor at the center, located at the intersection of Columbia Pike and South Dinwiddie Street. It currently occupies space in the Four Mile Run corridor.” [InsideNova]

Mother Climbs Mountain After Son’s Death — “After losing a teenage son, Henry, to leukemia, Arlington resident Heather Burneson had to take life one step at a time. She took that attitude to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa on ‘a healing trip,’ for her and several family members.” [Connection Newspapers]

Armed Man Protests at Del. Levine’s House — “A Republican official from Hopewell, Virginia drove to Alexandria this weekend for a small, armed protest outside Delegate Mark Levine’s home in Old Town.” The state lawmaker, who represents parts of Alexandria Arlington and Fairfax County, “said when he found out about the protest, he called the police.” [ALXnow]

Nearby: Local Sears Store Closing — “The Seven Corners Sears is closing April 12. There are deep discounts throughout the store. Signs in the store say all sales are final, no returns are allowed, and points may be redeemed on purchases.” [Annandale Blog]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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Michael Bloomberg’s presidential campaign is ramping up in Arlington.

Tonight the campaign is holding an official opening celebration for its new office at Pentagon Row, located between DSW and Planet Fitness.

This weekend the office will be hosting a leg of the campaign’s Gun Violence Prevention Bus Tour, featuring D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and the mother featured in Bloomberg’s gun violence-focused Super Bowl commercial.

More from the campaign:

On Sunday, February 9, two national surrogates for Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and senior Bloomberg advisor Debbie Weir, will travel to Hampton Roads, Richmond, and Arlington as part of a multi-state bus tour highlighting the urgent need to prevent gun violence in America.

Calandrian Simpson Kemp, a mother from Texas whose son, George Kemp Jr., was shot and killed is featured in the ad that aired during the Super Bowl, and her husband George Kemp, will participate in the tour. Simpson Kemp is an active member of Moms Demand Action, the grassroots movement fighting for public safety measures to protect Americans from gun violence.

Joining the Kemp family will be two Virginians who were highlighted in Bloomberg’s recent digital ads. Colin Goddard was shot and injured in the mass shooting at Virginia Tech on April 16, 2007, in which 32 classmates and faculty were killed. Brenda Moss’ 34 year-old son, Shawn, was killed on August 26th, 2014 in Lynchburg, VA. He was shot 17 times in a senseless act of gun violence. Brenda has become an outspoken advocate for gun violence prevention and an active member of Moms Demand Action.

Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York City and founder of Bloomberg LP, plans to double his campaign’s already prodigious ad spending in the wake of the chaotic conclusion to the Iowa caucuses. Once considered a long-shot to capture the Democratic nomination, Bloomberg’s poll numbers have been rising — tied for third with Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a recent national poll.

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Morning Notes

Dorsey Hasn’t Returned Union Donation — Arlington County Board and WMATA board member Christian Dorsey, “who promised three months ago to repay a $10,000 campaign donation that violated the board’s ethics policy, has not yet refunded the money and is likely to be replaced as Virginia’s representative on the regional board. Dorsey said Wednesday that he is working on a wire transfer to return the money to a transit union that routinely negotiates with Metro.” [Washington Post]

Beyer Slams Impeachment Trial — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) issued the following statement… ‘Today Senate Republicans ended their impeachment show trial. It will go down as one of the most craven events in American history.'” [Press Release]

County Board Race Fundraising Update — “The two Democrats vying for Arlington County Board entered 2020 with roughly the same amount of cash on hand, according to figures from the Virginia Department of Elections. Incumbent Libby Garvey had $16,823 in her campaign kitty as of Dec. 31, while challenger Chanda Choun had $16,155, according to data reported after the Jan. 15 filing deadline.” [InsideNova]

West Glebe Road Bridge Open House — “The deteriorating West Glebe Road Bridge, on the Arlington border near I-395, will be the topic of an open house next week. The bridge is currently closed to large vehicles weighing more than 5 tons due to structural deficiencies. It’s set for a major rehabilitation project, likely starting later this year.” [ALXnow]

Forum to Discuss Repealing Second Amendment — “Encore Learning will present a forum on ‘Repeal the Second Amendment: The Case for a Safer America’ on Monday, Feb. 10 at 3 p.m. at Central Library. The speaker, American University professor Allan Lichtman, will discuss his perspectives on gun safety and will argue for national legislation and the potential revision of the U.S. Constitution.” [InsideNova]

Dirt Closes Restaurants in Miami, Too — “On Thursday at 11 p.m., employees were told via a text message from DIRT Regional Director of Operations Aaron Licardo that both the Sunset Harbour and Brickell locations were closing for good. The two Miami spots closed on the heels of the Virginia location shuttering; that restaurant, located in Ballston, lasted less than a year. The message employees received claimed the company ‘found no other way to keep these locations open.'” [Miami Herald]

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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating the third reported carjacking at a Pentagon City parking garage in the past two weeks.

Around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, according to police, a male suspect pulled a gun on a man as he was getting out of his car. The suspect drove off with the car and some of the man’s personal belongings.

“The suspect is described as a black male, approximately 6’0″, 20-30 years old, with a thin build, dark complexion, low voice and wearing a black coat,” ACPD said in a crime report. “The victim’s vehicle is described as a Blue Honda Accord with Virginia license plate UYN7195. The investigation is ongoing.”

The suspect description is similar to that of the man suspected of a carjacking in a nearby parking garage last Thursday night. Police say they’re stepping up patrols in the area.

“The Department is conducting extra patrols in the garages and the public can expect to see an increased visible law enforcement presence throughout the Pentagon City area,” ACPD said.

ACPD released a statement about the series of carjackings — and a separate armed robbery of a cell phone — late Wednesday afternoon.

The Arlington County Police Department’s Homicide/Robbery Unit is investigating four recent armed robbery incidents, which occurred in garages in the Pentagon City neighborhood. During three of the incidents, the victims’ vehicle was stolen and two of the vehicles have subsequently been recovered in Washington D.C. All four cases remain ongoing investigations and detectives are actively working to determine if the cases are related and if there are any links to cases reported in the region.

Three of the four incidents appear to have happened at the Pentagon City mall parking garage. The latest carjacking happened on the 1100 block of S. Joyce Street, according to police, but it’s not clear which garage was involved.

ACPD offered some safety tips in the wake of the carjackings:

Police are reminding the public to follow these safety tips:

  • Exit your vehicle and continue to your destination promptly after parking
  • Park in well-lit, high traffic areas.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when entering and exiting your vehicle
  • Limit your use of devices that may distract you, such as cell phones and headphones
  • Don’t leave items unattended or visible in your vehicle

Separately, in today’s crime report, police say seven rental cars were stolen from a parking garage. Several rental car companies operate out of the mall.

More from ACPD:

GRAND LARCENY AUTO (Significant), 2020-02040149, 800 block of Army Navy Drive. At approximately 2:15 p.m. on February 4, police were dispatched to the report of several stolen vehicles. Upon arrival, it was determined that a car rental company was conducting an inventory when they discovered seven vehicles missing, with keys left inside. The theft of the vehicles are estimated between September 2019 and February 4, 2020. All stolen vehicles are described as white or gray 2020 Toyota four door sedans. The investigation is ongoing.

In July, a would-be armed robber in the Pentagon City mall garage was shot and killed with his own gun.

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