Arlington, VA

A man in a car exposed himself to girls who were walking down the street in the Lyon Park neighborhood, south of Clarendon.

The incident happened last Wednesday around 7 a.m.

More from an Arlington County Police Department crime report:

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2019-06050059, 2800 block of 4th Street N. At approximately 7:01 a.m. on June 5, the juvenile female victims were walking in the area when an unknown male suspect pulled alongside them in a vehicle and exposed his genitals. The victims ran from the area and sought assistance. The suspect is described as a white male driving a black vehicle. The investigation is ongoing.

Other crime reports of note from the past week are below, after the jump.

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A man has been accused of stealing from a Lyon Park church.

Police were called to the Clarendon United Methodist Church just before midnight Saturday for a “report of a burglary in progress.” A man who had broken into the church before had burglarized the church and was leaving the building with several items when officers arrived, according to Arlington County Police.

More from this week’s ACPD crime report:

BURGLARY, 2019-04200282, 600 block of N. Irving Street. At approximately 11:48 p.m. on April 20, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the property manager was alerted to the presence of a known male suspect who had gained entry to a church. Arriving officers located the suspect exiting the building in possession of items allegedly stolen from inside. During the course of the investigation, it was determined that the suspect had entered the building unlawfully on multiple prior occasions. William Barker, 56, of No Fixed Address, was arrested and charged with Burglary (x2) and Trespassing (x2).

More highlights from this week’s crime report, including some we’ve already reported, are below.

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) It’s not clear how they got there, but thousands of blank Virginia Lottery tickets are currently littering 10th Street N. near Clarendon.

The lottery tickets — unplayed Pick 4 and Cash 5 tickets — are spread across a five-block span of 10th Street, from N. Barton Street to Washington Blvd. They’re in the street, on the sidewalks and piled atop the medians.

Thus far, as of 2 p.m., no one seems eager to pick up the tickets — traffic is driving by and people are walking past the ticket-strewn roadway as usual. An Arlington County Police spokeswoman said police are aware of the situation and county crews will be cleaning up the mess soon.

“At approximately 12:18 p.m. police were called to a traffic complaint for trash in the roadway at the intersection of 10th Street N. and N. Daniel Street,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “Upon arrival, the trash was determined to be blank… lottery tickets. The Emergency Communications Center contacted the Virginia Lottery who advised the tickets were not sensitive. The Department of Environmental Services was contacted and will handle trash pickup.”

John Hagerty, a Virginia Lottery spokesman, stressed that the tickets are merely “play slips,” which have no value.

As best as lottery officials can tell, a nearby business deposited a box of the slips in a dumpster, he said. But once a truck came to empty the dumpster’s contents, the play slips flew everywhere.

The business has now notified the waste management company of the slip up, Hagerty added.

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Nawal Rajeh was doing some housework and listening to an audiobook in the moments before her life turned upside down.

Rajeh’s home, a small duplex on N. Garfield Street in Lyon Park, caught fire back on Jan. 3, forcing her to jump from her second-story apartment to evade the blaze.

She was left in tattered clothes, sitting on the street in the harsh cold. But Rajeh was soon moved by the kindness of her neighbors, who rushed to her aid to give her clothes and comfort while first responders arrived, even though they’d never met.

Now, about a month later, she’s hoping to thank them for their generosity, in part by sharing her story from that harrowing day.

“It was just shocking the way people jumped in and helped in an emergency like that,” Rajeh told ARLnow. “I’m really glad I lived in that neighborhood.”

Rajeh moved into the apartment just last September, as she pursues a doctorate in conflict resolution at George Mason University’s Virginia Square campus.

She had just returned home from visiting family in Ohio for the holidays the night before the fire broke out, and only just started her day with some house cleaning when she says heard “a loud crashing sound coming from the basement.”

At first, Rajeh didn’t think much of the noise. But she grew increasingly concerned when she heard her downstairs neighbor’s dog, named Bling, begin barking.

“He’s such a quiet dog normally, it seemed odd,” Rajeh said.

The building’s fire alarm then began sounding, prompting Rajeh to throw open the front door of her apartment.

“The entire stairwell was this thick, black tornado of smoke barreling in, I couldn’t see anything,” Rajeh said. “So I shut the door, I knew there was no way I could go down those stairs.”

Accordingly, she ran back to her bedroom, kicked out the screen to her window and decided to hang on the ledge until someone could help her down. Rajeh began screaming for help, but no one noticed her — the window was located on the side of the building, away from the street.

“I knew I could hang there for a while, I go to climbing gyms a lot,” Rajeh said. “But I couldn’t keep inhaling the smoke much longer.”

So she made the difficult decision to let go, plummeting into a bush below her window.

Luckily, Rajeh didn’t break any bones during the fall, though she did suffer some injuries from landing on the bush. She says firefighters later told her she managed a “very athletic jump,” given the circumstances.

Rajeh hobbled her way to the street, where a crowd of onlookers had gathered. Some were daycare workers who had been walking past the duplex and noticed the fire; others simply lived nearby and had called 911.

“I was wearing leggings when I jumped, and those were completely ruined,” Rajeh said. “I didn’t have any shoes on or anything… but people went up into their houses, brought me socks and shoes and a jacket.”

She says first responders arrived soon afterward, and she urged them to get inside the building and rescue Bling, the only other occupant of the duplex when the fire broke out. He inhaled a bit of smoke, but Rajeh says he’s since recovered well and is “back home, with an appetite again.”

Rajeh still isn’t sure what caused the fire — county fire department spokesman Ben O’Bryant says fire marshals determined “that the fire started in a mechanical room in the basement, but weren’t able to tell if it started in the HVAC unit or hot water heater.”

She’s since moved into another vacant property owned by her landlord elsewhere in Arlington, but lost most of her belongings in the fire. She says just about everything in the apartment was either burned to a crisp or “reeked of smoke” and was beyond saving.

But she says the local chapter of the American Red Cross has helped out with some essentials, and her wounds have mostly healed.

Some of her neighbors are now planning to bring Bling by the local fire station so he can properly thank his rescuers, and Rajeh hopes to deliver her own expressions of gratitude to her neighbors who helped her when she was in need.

She doesn’t know all of their names, but she hopes to swing by her old neighborhood to offer her thanks all the same.

“It’s just the kind of thing you don’t expect from city living, but there were a lot of caring people I’d never met before,” Rajeh said.

Photos 1, 2 and 3 via @ArlingtonVAFD, headshot courtesy of Nawal Rajeh

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Despite a dining space that’s limited to less than a dozen foot stools in a cramped row, few neighborhood eateries have had a more indelible effect on the community than El Charrito Caminante since its founding in 2000.

Unbeknownst to most of its customers, the hybrid Salvadoran-Mexican restaurant, located at 2710 Washington Boulevard, has a long history in Arlington’s food scene.

“What makes up for the space is they have a really friendly atmosphere,”said Jennifer Hernandez, who, like the owners of El Charrito Caminante, is Salvadoran. “The owners are really nice and acknowledge every single person who comes in.”

“I lived across the street for several years, from 2003 to 2006, and basically survived on it,” recalled former Arlington resident Evan Vischi.

Owner Jose Zalaya Sr. hails from San Miguel, El Salvador, and he faced quite the journey before founding the Lyon Park eatery. Even before the country faced a massive civil war in the 1980s, which led to a mass exodus of Salvadorans that continues to this day, the Zalaya clan was targeted by rebel insurgents.

“Anyone who owned land was in danger; we didn’t know anything about them or their names,” said Jose Jr., who plays a major role in managing the restaurant.

According to local resident Frick Curry, who worked as a foreign policy analyst for the Center for International Foreign Policy at the time, the military was closely aligned with a ruling class that consisted of an oligarchy of less than fifteen families.

“Being part of the opposition was really your only alternative because the elections were rigged and the economy of the country was run by the 14 families or their minions,” Curry said. “They did try to seize land from land owners and this is an issue still in Central America today because of the growing populations and the pressures on land.”

The Zalayas estimate half of the family was killed, in all. While Jose Sr. and his parents were spared, they no longer had a base of wealth.

Accordingly, Jose Sr. chose to head to America in 1976 at just 19 years old, leaving his pregnant wife behind. Unlike many immigrants from Central America, who rely on family to sponsor their journey to the U.S., Zalaya didn’t know anyone when he began his trip.

Instead, Jose Sr. got by thanks to the people he met along the way during his months-long journey, including a fellow traveler who linked him to his first construction job when he got to Northern Virginia.

Seven years after arriving here, Jose Sr. was able to send for his son, who was raised in Alexandria and went to Edison High School alongside his two younger sisters — one is in the military and the other is out of the restaurant business.

In the 1990s, Jose Sr. and his wife, Anna, opened up a food truck based on family recipes. They sold at the intersection of N. Pershing Drive and Arlington Boulevard with a customer base that was boosted by military personnel stationed at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall (then known just as Fort Myer). Jose Sr. estimates it was one of four or five food trucks in the county at the time.

But when the Zalayas decided to expand and open a brick-and-mortar restaurant in 2000, they never considered changing the menu.

“Around here, this was a close place where everyone in the neighborhood knew us, we didn’t want to change,” Jose Jr. said.

The menu is well-known for its authenticity. Dishes are referred to as “cabrito” for goat, or “gallina” for hen, rather than more palatable terms, like chicken or lamb.

The make of the sandwiches is very unconventional as well. Order the gallina sandwich and you will get red cabbage with slices of egg.

Jose Jr., who has been working since the age of 16, is often seen at the front taking orders. His father still works daily and can be seen in the back.

“Every time my dad came in, the owner [Jose Sr.] would have a conversation with him, so we’ve become personally loyal,” said Hernandez.

Vischi also remembers befriending Jose Jr., who never forgot him even once he moved away from Arlington.

“When I visited El Charrito [Caminante] in 2012, Jose had thought that I’d been absent for other reasons, but where I told him where I’d been [living in the Czech Republic], he refused payment for our meal, even refusing payment for a symbolic tip,” Vischi said.

The 2015 Census American Community Survey counted 288,000 Salvadoran residents in the D.C. metro area, accounting for one third of the region’s Hispanic community. It is also the highest population of Salvadorans in the nation.

As such, the local culinary scene is marked by plenty of other, long-standing Salvadoran restaurants, such as Pupuseria Dona Azucena (71 N Glebe Road), Restaurante El Salvador (4805 Columbia Pike), Sofia’s Pupuseria (3610 Columbia Pike), La Union (5517 Wilson Boulevard) and Atlacatl (4701 Columbia Pike).

“We have a lot of customers who aren’t Salvadoran because we’re in a primarily white neighborhood,”said Mexican-Salvadoran restaurant La Union manager Henry Gutierrez. “Salvadoran is a whole different cuisine than Mexican, which people are more familiar with, but people really like the steaks and shrimps and meats.”

When asked about expansion, Jose Jr. says the family has no plans — they have the perfect location in the neighborhood.

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(Updated at 12:10 p.m.) Arlington firefighters are working to extinguish a fire in the basement of a Lyon Park home.

First responders were called to the 900 block of N. Garfield Street around 11:15 a.m. today (Thursday).

The blaze was largely concentrated in the lower level of a small duplex on the street, according to scanner traffic.

It’s unclear if any person was inside the house when the fire broke out, though a dog was removed from the house and brought to a local veterinary hospital, according to the Arlington County Fire Department. A firefighter also suffered minor injuries.

Photo via @USAUKItaly

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County officials are planning some improvements along Fairfax Drive and 10th Street N. as the roads run from Ballston to Clarendon, with a special focus on ways to make the corridor safer for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

Arlington transportation planners are circulating a survey seeking feedback on how the roads should change, as the county weighs a series of modest improvements over the next few months. In all, the study area stretches from Fairfax Drive’s intersection with N. Glebe Road in Ballston to 10th Street N.’s intersection with N. Barton Street in Lyon Park.

The county is envisioning changes along the 1.5-mile-long stretch of road as “short-term, quick-build projects to enhance safety and mobility on the corridor.” Officials hope to eventually commission more expansive changes, after it took over management of the roads from the state this summer, but the county’s budget crunch means that options are limited, for now.

But, in the near term, the county plans to examine “multimodal traffic volume data, curbspace use, crash data, and transit service data” in addition to the community’s feedback to chart out small-scale changes, according to a project webpage.

The advocates with the group Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County certainly have some suggestions for the corridor. The group sent an email to its members urging them to advocate for the transformation of Fairfax Drive into a “low-stress biking corridor, even if it requires re-purposing space from motor vehicles,” in addition to other cycling improvements.

“The existing Fairfax Drive bike lanes are narrow, frequently blocked, and fail to be low-stress due to fast-moving traffic,” the advocates wrote. “The existing, short two-way protected bike lane should be extended all the way from Glebe Road to Clarendon Circle.”

The group also argues that 10th Street N. and Fairfax Drive both lack safe road crossings, particularly as the corridor runs from N. Barton Street in Lyon Park to N. Monroe Street in Virginia Square.

“This makes the corridor a barrier,” they wrote. “Additional safe crossings should be provided and these crossings must be simple and easy to use for cyclists as well as pedestrians.”

The county survey on road improvements will be open for submissions through Dec. 16. Officials hope to have short-term recommendations ready by sometime early next year, then install those by the spring or summer of 2019.

Photo via Arlington County

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Arlington County is working on some modest improvements to the Arlington Boulevard Trail in Lyon Park, renewing hopes among cycling advocates that the trail will someday provide a fully contiguous alternative to Route 50.

The county is currently planning a series of changes on the trail as it runs near Arlington Boulevard’s intersection with N. Pershing Drive, near the Day’s Inn hotel in the area. Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services says it hopes to complete the following alterations sometime this fall:

  • Construction of a new, ADA-accessible curb ramp at the corner of N. Pershing Drive and Wainwright Road (the frontage street between Arlington Blvd and the Days Inn hotel)
  • Addition of on-street markings along the eastern portion of Wainwright Road to separate trail users from motorized traffic.
  • Removal of parking on the eastern portion of Wainwright Road.
  • Connection of the Wainwright Road on-street trail to the existing Arlington Boulevard Trail as it approaches 2nd St N.

The county envisions the new curb ramp connecting the trail to the new on-street trail along Wainwright Road, which will then connect to the rest of Arlington Boulevard trail running past the Washington and Lee Apartments.

“Arlington County expects that the markings/bollards used to delineate the trail along Wainwright Road will be short-term,” the county wrote in a NextDoor post. “Given the availability of funding, Arlington County plans to build out a curb separated trail adjacent to Wainwright Road to further increase the safety of this portion of the trail.”

The cycling advocacy blog WashCycle noted that these changes come a few months after Washington Gas replaced a pipeline in the area, leading to the repaving of the trail and the removal of some bollards nearby.

The blog hailed these latest proposed changes, noting that the trail is currently “discontinuous and below standard” and referred back to the Washington Area Bicyclist Association’s proposal to someday add three miles worth of trail along Arlington Boulevard as evidence of the trail’s potential for growth.

“The boulevard trails, like the ABT, MacArthur Boulevard Trail and the planned or under-construction South Capital and Washington Boulevard Trails, don’t get quite the coverage that the rail or stream trails get; but they’re [arguably] more important for transportation as they go right through the areas where people live and work,” WashCycle wrote. “The ABT has a long history and, as WABA points out, plenty of potential. It can, or already does, connect to eight trails including Rock Creek, Mt Vernon, W&OD and Cross County. As proposed by WABA, it could be a real backbone for Arlington County biking. It would be great to see this once again become a must-see trail.”

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Arlington police are searching for two men who allegedly attempted to rob a man and stabbed him in Lyon Park Monday night (Aug. 13).

County police say the man exited a car and was walking along the 2200 block of N. Pershing Drive, near the Shops at Pershing and the Sheffield Court Apartments, when two men grabbed him from behind “and attempted to steal his belongings.”

The man was able to wriggle free and run away, but suffered a “non-life threatening laceration” during the struggle. He was treated at Virginia Hospital Center, where he informed police about the incident several hours later.

Police don’t currently have more detailed descriptions of the suspects.

Full details from a county crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING (late), 2018-08130027, 2200 block of N. Pershing Drive. At approximately 3:22 a.m., police responded to Virginia Hospital Center for the late report of a stabbing. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 11:00 p.m., the victim exited a vehicle and was walking in the area when he was approached by two male suspects who grabbed him from behind and attempted to steal his belongings. The victim was able to free himself and run away, however he suffered a non-life threatening laceration during the incident. None of the victim’s belongings were stolen. There is no suspect(s) descriptions. The investigation is ongoing.

Here are the full highlights from the past week’s crime reports, including some we’ve already reported on:

BURGLARY (late), 2018-08140252, 1200 block of N. Rolfe Street. At approximately 9:41 p.m. on August 14, police were dispatched to the late report of breaking and entering. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 3:40 p.m. and 7:00 p.m., an unknown suspect(s) forced entry to a residence, causing damage. Nothing was reported stolen from the residence. There is no suspect description. The investigation is ongoing.

INDECENT EXPOSURE, 2018-0811069, 2600 block of S. Walter Reed Drive. At approximately 8:05 a.m. on August 11, police were dispatched to the report of a suspicious vehicle. Upon arrival, it was determined that the female victim was walking in the area when a vehicle pulled up next to her and the driver asked her for directions. The female victim was providing directions when she observed the suspect touching himself inappropriately and exposing his genitals. The victim yelled and the suspect drove away. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male with black hair. The investigation is ongoing.

ROBBERY (late), 2018-08100128, 3900 block of Fairfax Drive. At approximately 12:36  p.m. on August 10, police responded to the late report of a larceny. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 9:00 p.m. on August 9, the victim was walking in the area when an unknown male suspect approached her from behind, shoved her against a wall and stole her personal property. The suspect then assaulted her, however, the victim resisted and a brief struggle ensued before the suspect fled on foot with her property. The victim suffered minor injuries. The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 40-45 years old, 5’8″-6’0″ tall, weighing 190-210 lbs., with brown hair. The investigation is ongoing.

BURGLARY, 2018-08090151, 6200 block of Lee Highway. At approximately 2:58 p.m. on August 9, police were dispatched to a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival, it was determined that an unknown suspect(s) entered a residence and stole numerous items of value. There is no suspect(s) description. The investigation is ongoing.

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Today, if you want the El Fuego food truck’s unique fusion of Peruvian cuisine with international flavors, you’ll have to track it down first. But this fall, El Fuego will find a permanent brick-and-mortar home in Lyon Park.

El Fuego mixes traditional Peruvian food with influences from other cultures, with a particular favoritism towards Chinese and Japanese dishes. Freedom to pursue his own types of cuisine was what drew Manuel Alfaro to leave the restaurant industry and start his food truck eight years ago. Now, that same freedom is what’s bringing him back to starting his own restaurant.

“We’re going to have our own restaurant, so we’ll be able to do things that have been constantly requested,” said Alfaro. “On a food truck, you’re dealing with a kitchen that’s four feet by eight feet. You have to have a menu selected and limited.”

Alfaro says many of their dishes are broken up into summer and winter menus. Some foods, like a Peruvian pulled chicken and yellow pepper dish with the fusion twist of added cheese and wrapped in an eggroll, just don’t keep in a food truck during summer months.

“This is an item that needs to be cooked from frozen,” said Alfaro. “During the summer we tried to have that on the food truck, but it doesn’t hold up to the temperatures in the kitchen. Even though we have a freezer on truck, they still start sticking together. Having a [restaurant] location will enable us to have all of these dishes.”

For the past year, Alfaro says he’s been looking for a location to put his restaurant. But Alfaro said his options were slim. He was trying to find a location that had partially been built out as a restaurant or had previously been a restaurant to cut down on the immense initial costs of installing a hood in the kitchen.

But when Alfaro found the location on the 2300 block of N. Pershing Drive, it was perfect. The space was built as a restaurant, complete with a hood in the kitchen, back when it was originally envisioned as vegetarian restaurant Alt’s — the space only opened briefly due to family troubles among its owners, culminating in founder Bryan Morrell’s death last month.

When he first came to the area, Alfaro said he sat outside the restaurant around lunchtime and watched the traffic. There are several other restaurants in the nearby area, all of which were active around lunch. The street is a major cut-through when I-66 is backed up, and Alfaro said the nearby apartments and Fort Myer were promising for a steady dinner crowd.

Alfaro said the goal is for an opening in the middle of September, but experience in the restaurant industry tells him a grand opening sometime in early October is more likely. Alfaro said his vision for the opening day is to have the restaurant operational with the food truck serving more customers outside.

“We are serving something we are proud of,” said Alfaro. “This is our food. It’s not someone else’s menu dictating we serve this or that. This is food we are proud of… It gives us a drive to succeed and provide something any American can come in, try, and say ‘wow, this is awesome.'”

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The Little Gym, an international franchise focused on stimulating physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development in children through gymnastics, is coming to Arlington.

The new location is projected to open on Sept. 4 in Lyon Park at 2209 N Pershing Dr.

“The mission is serious but the method is fun,” said Jessalyn Crossman, gym director at the Arlington location.

The gym is non-competitive and focuses around utilizing gymnastics as a learning tool. There’s six other locations throughout Northern Virginia, including gyms in Falls Church and Alexandria, but Crossman said they found that many of the families going to those locations were coming from Arlington.

“When we looked at Northern Virginia, we noticed a really big gap,” said Crossman. “There’s a lot of young parents in Arlington starting out. There’s a lot of people who are implants from other parts of the country, who have come and started here. I like that we can build a gym community of people who are new to the area.”

Crossman has worked with the Little Gym since 2009 and said the biggest impact she’s seen on children is helping them build confidence.

“A lot of kids coming to the gym aren’t looking to be olympic gymnasts, they’re looking to grow as an individual,” said Crossman. “I love seeing kids make the transition to being able to come in by themselves. This translates into pre-school, where they have to confidence to do more things on their own.”

The Little Gym is aimed at children ranging from four months to twelve years old. While most of the classes focus on gymnastics, the Arlington gym will also offer an introduction to sports class that will help children understand the rules, strategies and fun of team sports.

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