(Updated at 10:40 a.m.) There was a break-in this morning at Nova Armory, the recently-opened gun store in Lyon Park, but no guns were taken, according to police.
Officers were dispatched to the scene just after 5 a.m. for an activated burglar alarm.
“Arriving officers located a broken door to the business and secured the scene,” according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report. “The suspects had fled prior to police arrival.”
Some items were stolen during the burglary, police said.
“Empty firearm cases were taken but there were no weapons inside,” said ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.
Police remained on scene to investigate.
A photo of the store’s back entrance shows doors and windows smashed in. The entrance is currently being repaired, we’re told.
POLICE ACTIVITY: PD responded to burglary alarm at gun store in 2300 block of N. Pershing Drive. No weapons taken. Police remain on scene.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 19, 2016
The road rage incident happened around 9 p.m. on Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. The man was later located by police and arrested.
From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
BRANDISHING, 160902041, 1300 block N. Wilson. At approximately 9:07 p.m. on September 2, a male suspect brandished a firearm after the victim attempted to merge his vehicle into the same lane as the suspect. The suspect fled the scene prior to police arrival but was later located and positively identified by witnesses. Sergio Martinez, 52, of Arlington VA was arrested and charged with brandishing a firearm. He was held on a $5,000 secure bond.
The incident happened around 10 a.m., when police received a report of a man who threatened a family member with a gun, at a home near the intersection of S. Kenmore Street and 22nd Street, according to ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage. The man was said to be holed up in the home’s basement with gun and a machete.
The incident ended as quickly as it began, when the man came out of the home and was placed in handcuffs.
“He has been taken into custody without incident,” Savage said. “This is an active investigation and police remain in the area.”
Beyer Participates in House Sit-In — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was among the Democratic members of the House of Representatives participating in a sit-in for gun control. Beyer gave a speech on the House floor at 4:15 this morning. [C-SPAN, Twitter]
Arlington’s 11-Year-Old Police Chief — Carlin Springs Elementary student Nathnael Abraham, 11, served as Arlington’s Police Chief-for-the-Day on Tuesday. As chief Nathnael was especially concerned about bank robberies. “I think the most important crime problem would be robberies — bank robberies, because they’re taking money that belongs to other people, and that’s not OK,” he told NBC4’s Pat Collins. [NBC Washington]
Garvey: Vacancy Rate Still Too High — Even though it’s come down by 1 percent in the past year, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey says Arlington’s 20.2 percent office vacancy rate is way too high. The county has been actively working to attract businesses and bring the rate down. Each 1 percent of vacancy costs the county about $3.4 million in tax revenue. [Arlington County]
Whistleblower Hotline to Be Expanded — Arlington County will be expanding its recently-implemented waste, fraud and abuse hotline this fall. The hotline, currently only available for county employees, will be opened to the general public. In its first year, the hotline received 13 complaints, one of which resulted in a policy change and two of which are still under review. No widespread waste or fraud was uncovered, the county says. [InsideNova]
New Agreement With JBMHH — On June 15 Arlington County and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall signed a new memorandum of agreement for a partnership that will provide services and cost savings to the base. [Pentagram]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin
Last night, dozens gathered in Courthouse Plaza to wear orange for National Gun Violence Awareness Day.
The rally was organized by Moms Demand Action. Among those attending were family members of gun violence victims and a number of elected officials.
Arlington School Board member Barbara Kanninen issued the following statement about the event.
On January 21st, 2013, Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old high school student from the south side of Chicago, marched in President Obama’s 2nd inaugural parade. One week later, just after taking final exams, Hadiya was shot and killed in a Chicago park.
First Lady Michelle Obama attended Hadiya’s funeral and three weeks later, President Obama talked about Hadiya in his State of The Union address. He talked about how she loved Fig Newtons and that she was a majorette.
Later that year, on Hadiya’s birthday, June 2nd, Hadiya’s friends began the Wear Orange Campaign. They chose orange because it was Hadiya’s favorite color. It’s also what hunters wear in the woods to protect themselves and others.
On average, 48 children and teens are shot and 7 die from their injuries each day in the United States.
What started in a south side Chicago high school to celebrate Hadiaya has turned into a nationwide movement to honor all lives cut short by gun violence. Wear Orange is also a celebration of life – and a call to action to help save lives from gunfire.
Wear Orange is sponsored by the National PTA, National Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, American Public Health Association, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, YWCA and Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, among many other groups and organizations.
Today, on Gun Violence Awareness Day, we remember Hadiya, the students of Sandy Hook Elementary School, the students of Virginia Tech, and the many, many students in elementary school, middle school, high school, and college, who have been injured or killed by guns. This includes students who attended school right here in Arlington and have died far too young, due to suicide.
Thank you for supporting Wear Orange, for raising awareness, and for remembering all those affected by gun violence, especially the children.
Video by Omar DeBrew
Zoning Board Rules in Favor of Gun Store — Arlington Board of Zoning Appeals has rejected a challenge to the Certificate of Occupancy for Nova Firearms, the gun store at 2300 N. Pershing Drive in Lyon Park. A group of residents filed the appeal, claiming that the store’s owner submitted false information to the county. [Daily Caller]
Complaints About Aircraft Noise in Barcroft — Residents of Arlington’s Barcroft neighborhood are organizing a working group to address the issue of aircraft noise, particularly noise from low-flying helicopters. [Chamandy.org]
Another IRS Phone Scam — Arlington residents are reporting yet another phone scam. If someone calls you out of the blue, says they’re from the IRS and tries to get you to reveal personal information, it’s probably a scam. [WJLA]
New Leader for Arlington Arts Center — Holly Koons McCullough has been named the new executive director of the Arlington Arts Center. Previously, McCullough served as director of the Greater Reston Arts Center. [Washington City Paper]
New Director of Transportation for APS — The Arlington School Board has approved the appointment of Angel Garcia-Ablanque as the school system’s new Director of Transportation. He was previously Assistant Director of Transportation for Montgomery County Public Schools. [Arlington Public Schools]
Fundraiser at Celtic House — Celtic House (2500 Columbia Pike) is holding a fundraiser for two veterans organizations today. The Irish pub, an ARLnow.com advertiser, will be donating a portion of all sales today to Wings for Warriors and Links to Freedom.
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Nova Armory, a firearms retailer, opened in March in Lyon Park amid local controversy. The store’s owner, Dennis Pratte, is now suing dozens of residents and lawmakers, accusing them of trying to interfere with his business.
Five local residents launched their own legal offensive when they filed an appeal to Arlington’s Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), challenging the county’s decision to issue Nova Armory a Certificate of Occupancy, which is required for businesses with a physical location in Arlington.
Arlington County has previously said that there is nothing it can do legally to prevent a gun store from opening, as long as it follows zoning rules and files all the proper paperwork.
The appeal was submitted by residents Julia Young, Emily Hughes, Bernadette Brennan, Grace Chan and Nathan Guerrero on March 2, along with the $575.40 filing fee.
In a report to the BZA, Arlington’s Acting Zoning Administrator, Arlova Vonhm, recommends denying the appeal and upholding Nova Armory’s Certificate of Occupancy at 2300 N. Pershing Drive. Vonhm addressed each of the challenges made by the residents:
- Appeal: In a media interview, Dennis Pratte said his 16-year-old daughter was the store’s owner, and thus he erroneously listed himself as the owner on the application.
Staff position: “Mr. Pratte has clarified in subsequent media interviews that he is training his daughter to take over the business, but that he remains the principal on all leases, permits, and legal documents.”
- Appeal: The description of the store as a “retail” location is false because Nova Armory’s website describes “wholesale pricing.”
Staff position: “While the applicant’s website advertises wholesale pricing, this appears to be an advertisement of advantageous pricing to retail consumers, rather than a statement of intention to engage in wholesale trade.”
- Appeal: The store is called NOVA Armory, but the business name was listed as Broadstone Security, LLC on the application.
Staff position: “The Zoning Ordinance does not prohibit the use of fictitious trade names, which is a common practice for retail businesses.”
- Appeal: The Zoning Administrator who issued the Certificate of Occupancy “did not research whether or not the applicant was a valid holder of a Federal Firearms License.”
Staff position: “Given that the Zoning Administrator does not have the authority to enforce state or federal laws and regulations, the Zoning Office does not as a matter of general practice verify required compliance with state or federal licensure requirements for firearms store or any other type of business.”
- Appeal: The Certificate of Occupancy “should be revoked due to an inaccurate record of ownership of the premises.”
Staff position: “Property owner information was not material to the review of the proposed land use or the issuance of the permit to authorize said land use on the subject property, therefore it would not be a valid reason for the Zoning Administrator to revoke it.”
The BZA is slated to consider the appeal, along with a long slate of others, either Wednesday night or at a possible carryover meeting Thursday. The board is not required to follow the staff recommendation when making its decision.
Apparently misunderstanding the nature of the appeal — any citizen who says they’re “aggrieved” by a zoning decision can file an appeal — Nova Armory posted several messages on Twitter Tuesday decrying elected officials and an “abuse of power” by county government.
Arlington holds so-called public meeting to try & close gun shop but fails to tell owner or landlord- tomorrow 7pm pic.twitter.com/vkOluYWHBg
— NOVA Armory (@NOVAarmory) May 10, 2016
NOVA Armory will continue to fight this abuse of power and attempts to close us down. Anti's and elected's want to play hardball- game on!
— NOVA Armory (@NOVAarmory) May 10, 2016
Update at 5:00 p.m. — A copy of the lawsuit can be downloaded here.
Nova Armory claims that opponents “conspired to destroy the business, harassed the owner and landlord and mailed death threats,” reports the Washington Post. The business is suing the 64 people in Richmond Circuit Court, seeking $2.1 million for “lost revenue and damages.”
The lawsuit makes good on threats the store made in March.
“The actions of these local crazies against our business is approaching the level of ‘tortious interference,'” the store said in a press release at the time.
Among those reportedly being sued are the seven state lawmakers who signed a letter of opposition to the store’s landlord, plus County Board member Christian Dorsey and School Board member Barbara Kanninen.
“We’ve told our lawyers to concentrate on any actions in which we are deprived of our civil liberties by these so-called public servants — they’ll regret any abuse of their authority,” the March press release said.
The Lyon Park Citizens Association tells ARLnow.com that neither it nor its attorney is aware of any legal action against the civic association, which held meetings and votes in response to residents’ concerns about the store.
This morning, before news of the lawsuit was confirmed, John Goldener, president of the civic association, called any such action “a flagrant abuse of the legal system.”
“Our focus is and has always been communication and community,” Goldener said. “If Mr. Pratte’s focus, however, is on generating frivolous lawsuits to frighten residents and artificial controversy to drive sales, then we have grossly misjudged his intentions and stated commitment to become a part of our community.”
The arrival of two new gun stores in Northern Virginia in close proximity to families and schools set off a wave of concern from constituents. First, NOVA Firearms opened near Franklin Sherman Elementary School in McLean. Then NOVA Armory opened its doors in Arlington’s vibrant Lyon Park neighborhood. Almost every person who contacted me expressed strong opposition to gun stores at these locations.
Thanks to Virginia’s Dillon Rule, state control preempts local authority. In these cases, it means Arlington and Fairfax Counties cannot prohibit these stores from opening, regardless of the overwhelming will of local families and schools. The power to stop this from happening rests with a gun-friendly General Assembly, which has refused to help, despite the efforts of Northern Virginia’s delegation in Richmond.
It is difficult to reassure constituents that the federal government can help them when Congress has spent a decade undermining oversight of gun dealers by the agency tasked with inspecting them: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.
Over time the gun lobby and its allies in Congress have deliberately limited the enforcement capability of the ATF, using “appropriations riders,” restrictions snuck into must-pass spending bills that are meant to force a change in policy. The gun lobby has used appropriations riders to prevent the ATF and other law enforcement from properly regulating the sale of guns and investigating illegal gun purchases. Limits on trace data could be used to crack down on bad apple gun dealers, but use of trace data has been blocked by Congress. These tactics jeopardize the oversight ability of the ATF and potentially put our communities in danger.
Yesterday I introduced a bill, the ATF Enforcement Act, to undo these restrictions on the ATF’s enforcement authority. The bill would also remove the requirement that the ATF’s Director be confirmed by the Senate. Since 2006 lawmakers backed by the gun lobby have refused to confirm the nominees of both Democratic and Republican presidents. Only one Director has been confirmed in the last decade.
My bill would repeal these restrictions on the ATF and let them do their job of inspecting gun dealers and preventing criminals and people who are legally barred from owning guns from acquiring them.
It is not the role of the federal government to intervene in local zoning, but we can at least make sure that the federal entity charged with regulating the sale of guns is able to do so properly, without the insidious roadblocks which Congress has put in their way.
Whether or not you agree with their trade, most gun dealers are law-abiding. It is nearly impossible, however, to discipline or prosecute the ones which break the law in the current environment, even the ones who repeatedly supply guns used to commit crimes.
The ATF Enforcement Act will not solve the problem of gun violence or wipe away the objections which so many have expressed against these gun stores. If it passes, however, it will at least help the ATF hold them accountable.
Congress tells ATF to protect the public from criminals who commit crimes with guns, but simultaneously hampers their enforcement capabilities. It’s hypocrisy of the worst kind, and innocent people die because of it. I’m putting forward this legislation to call the gun lobby’s bluff and give ATF the tools it needs to effectively protect our communities.
Congressman Donald S. Beyer Jr.
Virginia’s 8th Congressional District
The incident happened just after noon on Tuesday, on the 3700 block of Wilson Blvd in Virginia Square.
Police say a man was following a woman down the street, exposing his genitals to her. The only problem: she didn’t notice. A man who did notice the indecent exposure came over and alerted the woman, who called police.
From an Arlington County Police Department crime report:
INDECENT EXPOSURE, 160412028, 3700 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 12:03 p.m. on April 12, a male witnessed a male subject following a female victim and exposing his genitals to her. Yaser Mansour Alio, 35, of no fixed address, was arrested and charged with indecent exposure. He is being held without bond.
Also on Wednesday, a man was robbed at knifepoint by two suspects as he was leaving a building.
The incident happened around 10:40 a.m. on the 6100 block of Wilson Blvd, near Seven Corners.
Police are still investigating the the brazen, broad daylight robbery, during which one of the suspects held a knife to the victim’s throat. At one point the man tried to flee and had his hand slashed by the knife-wielding suspect, police said.
ROBBERY, 160412025, 6100 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 10:40 a.m. on April 12, two unknown subjects approached a male from behind and held a knife to his throat. When the victim attempted to flee, his hand was cut with the knife. The subjects fled the scene with the victims backpack. The first suspect is described as a black male, approximately 6’0″ tall. He was wearing a black hoodie and black pants. The second suspect is described as a black male, approximately 6’0″ tall. He was wearing a blue hoodie, jeans, and white shoes.
On Wednesday afternoon, meanwhile, a Dumfries man was arrested in Clarendon for allegedly brandishing a gun while driving.
The gun brandishing was observed by a police officer, who at first thought the man was threatening her. She called for backup and then conducted a traffic stop.
The man said he was not brandishing the gun at the officer, but rather at the car behind him, which was following too closely, according to Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage. He was charged with brandishing a firearm near a school — since the New Directions school was located less than 1,000 feet away, on the 2800 block of Wilson Blvd, Savage said.
BRANDISHING FIREARM NEAR SCHOOL, 160412032, 3000 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 2:45 p.m. on April 12, while on patrol, an officer observed a male subject brandish a firearm in his vehicle near school property. Jeffrey M. Volan, 36, of Dumfries VA, was arrested and charged with brandishing a firearm near a school. He was held on an unsecured bond.
The store, which has an existing location in McLean, had its lease in Cherrydale canceled last summer after a community outcry. In February, it opened an “annex” location in Falls Church, citing “high demand [in] that location for transfers and firearm purchases.”
On Friday, just two months after opening, the store announced that it would be closing.
“Regretfully due to recent neighborhood events and our desire to act in the best interests of the community in partnership with Falls Church Police, we have decided to close up this store in order to look for a more ideal location,” the company said.
A store manager explained that there were security concerns with the Falls Church location that came to light after its opening.
“Conversations in partnership with the Falls Church police department and the ATF revealed a rash of burglaries and firearms thefts in the area, and the security of the building at 909 West Broad Street, came into question,” wrote Erik Lorentzen. “In the interest of doing what was best for the community and preventing an unsavory situation with stolen firearms on the streets, we chose to close the store and move the inventory back to the more secure McLean location.”
(The McLean location was burglarized in December.)
Lorentzen said there were also “some business related reasons” for the closure.
“The Falls Church annex… was always a bit of an experiment to see if it was financially viable,” he said. “Over the two months the store was there, no such market revealed itself to us, and the store barely covered its operating expenses.”
Moving forward, NOVA Firearms says it’s focused on “building better relationships with the communities where we reside.”
“Falls Church was actually very welcoming and we had what we felt was a very good relationship with our neighbors,” said Lorentzen. “We were never protested and never received any pressure from anyone pushing us to close down. We simply looked at the situations… and made the call ourselves that this was the right and moral thing to do. We greatly appreciate all the support we have received from our customer base, and look forward to seeing everyone at the McLean store, which isn’t going anywhere.”
NOVA Firearms is not to be confused with NOVA Armory, the gun store that is now open in Arlington’s Lyon Park neighborhood despite vocal opposition from some in the community.
On Saturday, March 26, 16-year-old Lauren Pratte took part in the grand opening of her new retail gun store, NOVA Armory, on Pershing Drive in the Lyon Park neighborhood.
The public turned out in big numbers to check out the inventory in Pratte’s store. Officials from the National Rifle Association, headquartered in Fairfax County, and the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a pro-gun organization, also showed up to celebrate the store’s opening.
The popularity of guns in the United States has never been stronger. More Americans own guns today than ever before. The strong demand for guns is excellent news for gun retailers like Pratte. Black Friday 2015 was the single biggest gun-purchasing day ever in U.S. history, with more than 185,000 background checks processed by the FBI.
Although only 16, Pratte had long considered the idea of owning her own business and controlling how it is run. Pratte chose to open a gun store largely due to her father’s experience as a gun store owner.
“When I brought up the idea to my dad, he was really supportive and he was all for it, willing to help me open this and run it. I’m very excited about the future for this,” Pratte said in an interview with ARLnow.
At the grand opening, Pratte stood near the front door, inviting people to check out the store’s inventory. The handguns on display cost anywhere from $249 to $999, while many of the shotguns, rifles and other firearms have much higher price tags. When she wasn’t greeting people at the door, Pratte was working behind the store’s counter answering questions about the shop’s merchandise.
Because she is only 16, Dennis Pratte, Lauren’s father, holds the federal firearms sales license for the store and applied for and signed the store’s certificate of occupancy. In an interview with the Washington Post, Dennis Pratte said NOVA Armory is “a family owned and operated business — and more specifically a female, minority-owned business.” Dennis Pratte’s wife, Yong OK Pratte, is listed on paperwork as an officer for one of Pratte’s previous gun businesses.
Dennis Pratte told ARLnow that Lauren, a junior in high school, wants to go to law school and eventually become a corporate attorney. “What a better way to learn about business than actually start a business,” Dennis Pratte said at the store’s grand opening. “From day one, she’s filed all the paperwork, and I signed it. That’s what we thought would be a great education for her.”
Lauren emphasized she will never be working at the store by herself. She will always have her father or another licensed gun seller with her when she is working at the store.
The gun store, the first in Arlington aside from a pawn shop at the corner of Lee Highway and Kirkwood Road that sells guns, has generated controversy over the past month as nearby residents and local politicians expressed concerns about a gun retailer opening in the neighborhood.
On March 2, state lawmakers who represent Arlington, sent a letter to the landlord who is leasing the space to NOVA Armory expressing their concerns about the gun store. “We strongly encourage you to reconsider your decision to grant a lease to NOVA Armory,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter.
“It’s not appropriate for people, elected officials specifically, to treat legal business owners as they did,” Dennis Pratte said in the interview.
Buyers Found for Market Common — A pair of buyers has reportedly been found for the Market Common mixed-use development in Clarendon. Regency Centers and AvalonBay are said to be partnering to buy the shopping center and apartment complex for $410 million. [GlobeSt.com]
Lyon Park Gun Store Opens — After a month of controversy, Nova Armory opened its doors on Saturday, with dozens of gun enthusiasts showing up to support the store. In a rally nearby, local lawmakers urged residents to continue the fight against the store, but said that due to Virginia law there was nothing else they could legally do to prevent the shop from opening. [Washington Post]
Teen Employment Expo Scheduled — Teens seeking summer jobs and employers seeking seasonal help will be meeting next month at Arlington’s 2016 Teen Summer Expo. The expo, on April 23 at Wakefield High School, is expected to attract some 1,200 teens looking for summer jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities. [Arlington County]
Arlington Tech Event Tomorrow — There’s one day left before ARLnow.com’s Arlington Tech discussion and networking event. The event is taking place starting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at Highline RxR (2010 Crystal Drive) in Crystal City. Food and a drink will be provided. [Eventbrite]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
The new gun store in Lyon Park is planning a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Saturday morning. At the same time, opponents of the store will be holding some counter-programming: a “community celebration” in the park.
The grand opening for Nova Armory is scheduled for 9 a.m., at the store on 2300 N. Pershing Drive. Among those scheduled to be in attendance are Del. Rich Anderson (R-Prince William), Virginia Citizens Defense League President Philip Van Cleave and “distinguished members” of the National Rifle Association.
The event will feature a ribbon cutting ceremony, some free Nova Armory schwag, a “gun coupon give-away,” and free coffee and pastries, according to the store’s website.
The anti-gun store group Act4LyonPark, meanwhile, is planning to host a number of local lawmakers during their “family-focused event,” from 9-10:30 a.m. in Lyon Park (414 N. Fillmore Street).
Scheduled speakers at the event include a trio of Democratic state lawmakers who represent Arlington — Sen. Barbara Favola, Del. Alfonso Lopez and Del. Mark Levine — along with Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington.
The Lyon Park event will also feature children’s activities, refreshments and “ways to stay involved.” From an Act4LyonPark press release:
We are gathering in our community park to demonstrate what Lyon Park, Ashton Heights, and Arlington are all about. We are civic-minded, community-oriented, and family-focused and we choose to live and work in a region and county that is safe, friendly, and fun. This is a celebration of our home.
“As members of the community, we have the right to protect the well-being of our families and our recently revitalized business area,” says a member of Act4LyonPark. “A gun dealership close to schools, parks and residential homes does not add any value to our community. Our issue is not with the 2nd Amendment. If people choose to own guns, that’s their business. When people start carrying guns around our homes and children, that’s our business.”
Washington Blvd Trail Design Approved — The Penrose Neighborhood Association voted to endorse a new design for Phase II of the county’s Washington Blvd Trail project. The trail was originally supposed to be built a few years ago, but residents objected to the loss of trees the trail’s path would have necessitated. [Greater Greater Washington]
Anti-Gun Store Car Towed — Opponents of the planned Lyon Park gun store say the store’s landlord ordered a car towed from the parking lot because it was covered in anti-gun store literature. Despite being covered in the articles, which were held in place by colorful magnets, the car actually belonged to one of the building’s tenants and wasn’t parked illegally, says the group Act4LyonPark. [Facebook]
Female Firefighters in Arlington — In 1974, Judith Livers became the first paid, full-time municipal firefighter in the United States when she took a job with the Arlington County Fire Department. On Friday, a graduation ceremony was held for the county’s latest firefighting recruit class. Continuing Livers’ legacy, four of the 14-member class are female. Nationally, only about 4 percent of firefighters are women, while 9 percent of Arlington’s firefighters are female. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick