The former Uber driver who allegedly struck Advanced Towing owner John O’Neill last year entered a plea agreement on July 23.
Gigssa Bekele Bengessa pleaded guilty to reckless driving in a parking lot and to a felony hit and run. He will face some jail time and three years of probation.
In January 2020, Bengessa attempted to drive out of the towing lot in Ballston as O’Neill was closing the gate, according to a police report from the time. Bengessa struck him, a dumpster and light pole.
Per the plea agreement, provided to ARLnow, he will be sentenced to jail for a net of 10 days — 90 days, with 80 days suspended. During the time of his suspended sentence, he will be supervised. His driver’s license will be suspended for six months.
Provided that Bengessa meets all the court’s prescriptions over the next three years, he will be able to have the felony charge knocked down to a misdemeanor, the agreement said.
Bengessa has three years to pay court costs as well as $5,516.35, plus interest, to O’Neill for restitution.
He is being required to “follow all treatment recommendations made” after a psychologist’s evaluation from March 2020, according to the plea deal, and will “undergo any further mental health evaluations deemed appropriate” by his probation officer.
Further, Bengessa will be “prohibited from driving or operating any and all rideshare vehicles, including but not limited to: Uber, Lyft, taxi service, or any vehicle for hire,” the plea deal said.
The agreement comes as the Virginia Attorney General, Mark Herring, is preparing to go to trial in a lawsuit against Advanced Towing. The suit was filed in June 2020 and a trial date is scheduled for Oct. 6 of this year.
Herring’s complaint alleges that Advanced Towing has violated state and county towing code provisions, resulting in towing conduct that is “frequently predatory, aggressive, overreaching and illegal.”
“Virginia consumers should not have to worry about towing companies acting illegally or employing predatory, unsafe business practices,” Herring said in a statement last year. “My team and I will continue to hold towing companies and bad actors accountable when they break the law and take advantage of consumers.”
This is not the first time such an accusation has been leveled against the company. Advanced, which tows cars that are considered to be trespassing on private lots and then charges the vehicle’s owner a fee, faces frequent accusations of “predatory” towing.
The company gained national notoriety in 2015 after video emerged of an ESPN reporter, whose car was towed, berating an Advanced employee.
A Virginia State Police trooper was seriously injured after a driver plowed into the back of her cruiser on I-66 in Arlington.
The crash happened around 11:30 p.m. Friday, on eastbound I-66 near East Falls Church and the Sycamore Street exit, in a work zone.
“A 2014 Volkswagen traveling east on I-66 through a mobile Work Zone changed lanes and crashed into the rear of a Virginia State Police patrol car,” VSP said in a press release. “Both the female driver and the male passenger fled the scene on foot.”
Arlington County police assisted VSP in apprehending the passenger, who’s being charged with being drunk in public and obstructing justice. The driver remains at large.
VSP said the trooper was seriously injured but after a hospital stay she is now at home recovering.
Late last year six highway workers were injured after being struck by an alleged DUI driver along I-66 in Arlington. In June a man was struck and killed while reportedly walking in an eastbound lane of I-66 after midnight.
More from a press release:
Virginia State Police is reminding motorists to make safety a priority when traveling through active Highway Work Zones after a trooper was struck in Northern Virginia Friday night (Nov. 6). Trooper M. Hart was seated inside her patrol car when it was struck. Trooper Hart was transported to Fairfax Inova Hospital for treatment of serious, but non-life threatening, injuries. She was released later Saturday morning and is recovering at home.
At approximately 11:27 p.m. Friday, a 2014 Volkswagen traveling east on I-66 through a mobile Work Zone changed lanes and crashed into the rear of a Virginia State Police patrol car. The crash occurred just prior to Exit 69 in Arlington County. Both the female driver and the male passenger fled the scene on foot.
With the assistance of Arlington County Police, state police located and apprehended the passenger, Christopher G. Rush, 37, of Woodbridge, Va. Rush refused to assist state police with identifying the driver. Rush was arrested for being drunk in public and obstruction of justice. He was transported to Arlington County Detention Center.
The female driver was not located and state police is still investigating to identify her. The crash remains under investigation.
(Updated at 12:30 p.m. on 10/30/20) A juvenile suspect is facing a number of potential charges after a reported hit-and-run crash on Columbia Pike overnight.
The crash happened just before 12:30 a.m. Thursday, at the intersection of the Pike and S. George Mason Drive.
“Upon arrival, it was determined that after the suspect vehicle struck the victim’s vehicle, approximately 5-6 juveniles exited the vehicle and fled on foot,” Arlington County police said today in a crime report. “Arriving officers located the subjects in the area and identified the driver of the vehicle at the time of the crash.”
“The two occupants of the victim vehicle sustained minor injuries,” the crime report continues. “During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the suspect vehicle had previously been stolen from Fairfax County earlier in the evening.”
ACPD says the suspect was also “found to be in possession of a controlled substance” and is now facing petitions for Hit and Run, Possession of a Stolen Vehicle with Intent to Procure or Pass Title.
Separately, on Wednesday evening, S. Carlin Springs Road was blocked near Campbell Elementary School due to an incident involving Virginia State Police. Witnesses report seeing police with guns drawn.
The Arlington County Police Department said officers assisted state police with a suspect search, but referred additional questions to VSP. On Friday, state police provided additional information about the incident — which turns out to be the conclusion of a vehicle pursuit that started on I-395 — to ARLnow:
At 4:57 p.m. on Oct. 28, 2020, a Virginia State Police trooper observed a 2007 Honda Civic traveling on I-395 abruptly slow to 35 mph (55 mph posted speed limit). The trooper pulled in behind to see if the vehicle was experiencing a problem or the driver needed assistance. The vehicle took the Shirlington Exit and kept going well under the speed. The trooper also observed that the temporary license plate tag was unsecured and initiated a traffic stop. The vehicle pulled off the right shoulder on North Quaker Street. But, as the trooper walked up to the vehicle to talk to the driver, the Honda pulled away at a high rate of speed and a pursuit was initiated. The Honda finally stopped in the 600 block of Carlin Springs Road and one of the passengers fled the vehicle on foot.
The driver, Prince Jakim I. Maldonado, 21, of Woodbridge, Va., was taken into custody without incident at the scene. The passenger, Joshean D. Stokes, 20, of Dumfries, Va., was taken into custody without incident at the scene. Both Maldonado and Stokes were charged for felony possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, felony possession of Schedule I/II controlled substance with intent to distribute, and possession of a firearm while in possession of a Schedule I/II controlled substance, along with several misdemeanor charges. Maldonado was also wanted out on outstanding warrants in Prince William County. Both were transported to Arlington County Jail.
During the course of the short pursuit, the trooper witnessed objects being thrown from the window of the Honda. The trooper returned to that location and recovered a handgun and ammunition.
The search continues to locate the second passenger who fled on foot and left his wallet and ID behind in the vehicle.
(Updated at 7:15 p.m.) A teenage boy was struck by a speeding driver this morning on a residential street in Ashton Heights, near Virginia Square.
The hit-and-run happened just before 11:45 a.m. on the 600 block of N. Kenmore Street and was caught on a neighbor’s home surveillance video system. Miraculously, the teen escaped with only minor injuries.
The video, provided to ARLnow by the victim’s mother in the hopes of helping to identify the driver, starts with the sound of squealing tires. A four-door Chevy sedan can then be seen speeding down the street, followed by the 17-year-old victim tumbling down the roadway after being struck.
The teen was crossing the street when he was struck, according to his mother. The driver did not stop and fled the scene.
The boy — a Washington-Liberty High School student — suffered lacerations and road rash and “is in a lot of pain,” but was not seriously injured, we’re told. He was unable to spot the license plate number.
An Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman echoed the mother’s account of what happened and said the crash is under investigation.
“The driver of the striking vehicle failed to stop at the scene of the crash and fled traveling south on Kenmore Street,” said Ashley Savage. “The pedestrian was transported to Virginia Hospital Center with non-life threatening injuries. The striking vehicle is described as a white sedan. The investigation is ongoing.”
The incident comes a day after a woman was struck and killed by a driver while crossing the street in Pentagon City.
Anyone with information about the incident can call the Arlington County non-emergency line at 703-558-2222 or can provide an anonymous tip to the police department by calling 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).
(Updated at 12:30 p.m.) A teenager was allegedly behind the wheel of a car that struck a 10-year-old girl and killed her dog in Arlington’s Donaldson Run neighborhood.
Police confirmed this morning that “the suspected driver has been located.”
Photos sent to ARLnow on Monday show police behind a black Chrysler 200 sedan, with temporary Virginia tags, matching the description of the vehicle involved in the Friday afternoon crash. The photo was taken near Yorktown High School, at the intersection of Yorktown Blvd and Little Falls Road.
“The investigation is ongoing and charges are anticipated at a later date,” Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “In accordance with Virginia law, the suspect’s identity is not releasable due to age.”
Video sent to us by the victim’s family (below) shows the car quickly driving up N. Upshur Street around the time of the incident. The victim’s mother posted publicly on Facebook about how “our world was split open” as a result of the crash.
“Some reckless and selfish person in a black sedan racing down a quiet Donaldson Run residential street hit my 10-yr old daughter and our puppy at the corner of N. Upshur St. and N. Vermont St.,” she posted on Friday. “She did what she always does. Look left and right conscientiously.”
“The car hit our little Peanut leaving him in a pool of blood while she was luckily able to leap out of the way,” the mother continued. “In that moment, he could’ve ripped apart our world even further and killed her. It’s gut-wrenching enough that the sweetest puppy we’ve ever had was simply murdered. Gone in an instant. The driver didn’t blink an eye. Didn’t stop.”
Though the girl’s injuries were considered minor at the time, she was subsequently hospitalized over the weekend after an onset of lower body pain, ARLnow has learned.
Photos courtesy anonymous
Dorsey on Death of George Floyd — Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey posted the following on Facebook Sunday afternoon: “Why is it when we are bird watching, retrieving mail, swimming in a pool, walking down the street, or living in our own homes that you view us as a threat? Why do these routine activities see us being reported to police and losing our lives? It is a question my daughters ask, as do the children of every black person in America. Yet that question needs to be seriously be pondered non-Blacks. We then need you to transform episodic outrage into all-the-time anti-racism.” [Facebook, Blue Virginia]
House Fire in Hall’s Hill — “1800 block of N. Cameron St — crews encountered fire in attic. Fire was quickly controlled, 6 occupants escaped without injury and one dog was rescued in good condition. @RedCross called in to assist occupants.” [Twitter]
County Creates Badges for Mask-Requiring Businesses — “In response to Gov. Ralph Northam’s Executive Order that face coverings must be worn inside public places, the County created the ‘We Are Covered’ program. This gives Arlington businesses, multi-family residences, and houses of worship a way to show they have pledged to protect the people who come through their doors.” [Arlington County]
Tables, Tents in CC Sports Pub Parking Lot — “With outdoor seating now permitted as part of Phase One, Finlay and his staff worked to turn the restaurant’s parking lot into a patio. Outdoor tables are all set up six feet apart. ‘We’re lucky and blessed to have a parking lot that’s big enough to accommodate that type of spacing and still have the social distancing and be able to abide by all the rules and regulations we have to go by,’ he said.” [WJLA]
ACPD Releases Photo of Car That Struck Girl, Dog — On Sunday, Arlington County Police released photos of the dark-colored sedan that struck a girl and killed her dog Friday in the Donaldson Run neighborhood. ARLnow also obtained video of the car. [ARLnow]
Bayou Bakery Donates Thousands of Meals — “Back in 2005, [Bayou Bakery owner David] Guas saw first hand how Hurricane Katrina impacted his hometown and the importance of rapid response in rebuilding the community. In March 2020, when COVID-19 closed school doors, he knew he needed to provide the same fast-acting relief to area children and families left underserved.” [Washington Life]
Discussion with AED’s Telly Tucker — “We talked with Telly Tucker, the new head of Arlington Economic Development, about Friday’s reopening, what’s going on with the local economy, the plight of small businesses during the pandemic, and the growth of tech companies in Northern Virginia.” [Facebook, Apple Podcasts]
(Updated on 5/31/20) Arlington County Police are investigating an apparent hit and run that claimed the life of a dog Friday.
Around 1:45 p.m. police were dispatched to the area of N. Upshur Street and N. Vermont Street, in the Donaldson Run neighborhood, for a report of a girl and a dog struck by a driver.
“Upon arrival, it was determined that the juvenile victim was crossing the street while walking her dog when they were struck by a vehicle,” ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage tells ARLnow. “The juvenile suffered minor injuries and did not require transport to the hospital. The dog died on scene.”
The deceased dog was covered in a white sheet, in the middle of the intersection, while police documented the scene and interviewed the girl, her father, and witnesses.
The driver kept going after the crash and is currently being sought by police, Savage said.
The father of the girl who was struck emailed ARLnow to share the description of the vehicle and ask for the public’s help in locating it and identifying the occupants.
“The car was a black sedan possibly with a green pinstripe, with a male driver and a female passenger, both in their 20s,” he wrote. “It had temporary tags and was in the neighborhood between 1:15 and 2 p.m. We are asking that if you live in Donaldson Run and know of anyone who drives a car with that description to contact the police.”
A video of the car, as seen on a Ring doorbell camera, was sent to ARLnow.
On Sunday, ACPD released several photos of the car via social media.
ACPD continues to investigate a hit and run collision in the Donaldson Run neighborhood which injured a juvenile female and killed a dog. Anyone with information regarding the below pictured vehicle or its occupants is asked to contact police. pic.twitter.com/BwlxcnwHMt
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) May 31, 2020
Arlington Woman Sues Moby Dick House of Kabob — “An Arlington woman is suing Moby Dick House of Kabob after a salmonella outbreak related to hummus made at least 17 people sick in Maryland and Virginia since September 10.” [WTOP, Bethesda Magazine]
Driver Cited for Striking Cars at McKinley Elementary — Per an Arlington County Police spokeswoman: “At approximately 4:28 p.m. on October 3, police were dispatched to the 1000 block of McKinley Road for the report of a hit and run just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the driver of the striking vehicle hit three unoccupied parked vehicles in the parking lot. The driver of the vehicle was identified, the incident was determined to be a medical emergency and the driver of the striking vehicle was issued a summons for violation of Arlington County code § 14.2-17 Vehicle to be Kept Under Control.”
Arlington: Too Crowded for Some — Arlington has “grown crowded enough to prompt even deep-rooted residents to escape ever farther out to nature. Take my friends Tim and Beth Reese… They’re now ensconced on a 77-acre grow-your-own-organic-food farm a 90-minute drive out in Capon Bridge, West Virginia (pop. 371).” [Falls Church News-Press]
Fire Prevention Week Reminders — “It’s Fire Prevention Week, and this year the Arlington County Fire Department and fire departments across the country are working to educate their communities about the small but important actions everyone can take to keep themselves and those around them safe.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: Amazon Opening Store in D.C. — “Amazon.com Inc. is preparing to grow its brick-and-mortar retail presence along one of D.C.’s growing retail corridors: 14th Street NW.” [Washington Business Journal, PoPville]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) All lanes of Columbia Pike were blocked Monday afternoon after a pedestrian was struck and injured in a reported hit and run crash.
Initial reports suggest a woman was struck by the driver of a van while crossing the street near the Sunoco station on the western end of the Pike in Arlington. The van fled the scene after the crash, according to scanner traffic.
The woman was said to have been conscious but lying in the roadway and bleeding from the head when police arrived. Her injuries were initially thought to be potentially life-threatening, but were later determined to be minor and non-life-threatening, according to police.
The victim was rushed via ambulance to a local trauma center.
Columbia Pike is completely blocked between S. Greenbrier Street and the Arlington Mill Community Center. The road expected to remain at least partially blocked for an extended period of time while detectives investigate the crash.
Police are now seeking a white work van last seen heading north on S. Greenbrier Street.
The crash happened shortly before 2:40 p.m., at a crosswalk with high-visibility crossing lights.
As of 3 p.m., bloodied clothing could be seen balled up on the asphalt as police cars blocked off the scene. Later, detectives could be seen walking the roadway.
As of 4:05 p.m., all lanes of the Pike had reopened to traffic, according to Arlington Alert.
She was transported to an area hospital with life threatening injuries. The driver of the striking vehicle did not remain on scene. The Department’s Critical Accident Team is on-scene investigating. (2/2)
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 30, 2019
UPDATE: The victims condition has been upgraded and determined to be non life threatening with minor injuries.
— ArlingtonCountyPD (@ArlingtonVaPD) September 30, 2019
Vernon Miles contributed to this report
(Updated at 11:20 a.m.) A car ran through a fence and into a house Tuesday night near the East Falls Church neighborhood and Arlington’s western border.
The crash happened around 7:30 p.m. along the 7000 block of Fairfax Drive. The road was closed for around an hour due to the emergency response.
Arlington County Police say the crash happened after the driver of the car sped away from a Virginia State Trooper who had attempted to pull the vehicle over on I-66.
Three suspects fled the crash on foot, police said. One suspect, a 22-year-old Manassas resident, was arrested and charged with hit and run and possession of a controlled substance. Neither she nor the two male suspects, who remain at large, were reported to be injured, according to police.
There was no immediate word on the severity of the damage to the home.
More from an ACPD crime report:
FELONY HIT & RUN (Significant), 2019-09170181, 7000 block of Fairfax Drive. At approximately 7:27 p.m. on September 17, police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle that had run off the roadway and into a residence. Three suspects were seen fleeing the scene of the crash on foot. The investigation determined that prior to the crash, the vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed on I-66 when a Virginia State Police trooper attempted a traffic stop. The driver of the vehicle failed to stop and sped away at an increased speed. A vehicle pursuit was not initiated. Officers responding to the crash canvased the area and located the female suspect. Tatiana Pendleton, 22, of Manassas, VA, was arrested and charged with Hit and Run – Passenger Fail to Report and Possession of a Schedule II Controlled Substance. Two suspects remain outstanding. Suspect One is described as a tall, black male wearing a white t-shirt and black pants. Suspect Two is described as a short, heavy set, black male wearing a brown t-shirt and blue jeans. No injuries were reported. The investigation is ongoing.
Photos courtesy JB
Two ART Routes End Today — ART Routes 54 and 92 will cease operations after the end of the day today. Per a press release: “The two routes were eliminated as part of Arlington County’s FY 2019 budget and to improve efficiency of ART service. Both bus routes perform below ART’s minimum service standards of 15 passengers per hour.” [Arlington Transit]
Arlington Cemetery Station to Close This Weekend — The Arlington Cemetery Metro station will be closed this weekend so workers can install cables “for cellular communication,” WMATA says. Shuttle buses will be available but the Blue Line will only run from Franconia-Springfield to National Airport. [DCist]
Windy Run Improvement Project Complete — “There will soon be an official ribbon cutting to celebrate the renovated Windy Run. And in the meantime, the trail and park have re-opened and can be enjoyed by Arlington residents.” [Arlington County]
Suspected DUI Hit and Run in Clarendon — A man was arrested after an alleged DUI hit and run in Clarendon yesterday evening. At least two vehicles were struck, though the suspect’s SUV appeared to have suffered the most damage. [Twitter]
Arlington is No. 2 on New Livability Ranking — “Arlington placed second in its size category in the updated AARP ‘Livability Index.’ Arlington ranked behind only Madison, Wisc., in the ranking for communities with populations between 100,000 and 500,000. The survey, updated for the first time since 2015, used more than 50 data sources to score communities on areas ranging from housing and transportation to social engagement.” [InsideNova]
Photo by @thelastfc