Arlington, VA

A man allegedly led police on a foot chase in the Westover area after his neighbor found a bullet hole in his apartment.

The bullet hole was reported to police Friday morning, in an apartment building on the 5700 block of Washington Blvd, according to an Arlington County Police Department crime report.

Investigating officers determined that an argument was overheard in the apartment next to that of the victim one week prior. While trying to get in touch with the residents of the adjacent apartment a man exited the building and tried to flee, according to ACPD, but he was detained and a gun recovered.

More from the crime report:

MISSILE INTO OCCUPIED DWELLING (late), 2021-02260074, 5700 block of Washington Boulevard. At approximately 11:15 a.m. on February 26, police were dispatched to the report of suspicious circumstances. Upon arrival, it was determined that on February 20, the victim located a bullet hole inside his residence and later found a bullet fragment. Further investigation revealed an argument was overheard in the adjoining apartment the evening prior to the bullet hole being discovered. As officers were attempting to make telephone contact with those residents, the male subject emerged from the building and fled the scene. Following a foot pursuit, he was detained by officers. A firearm was later recovered. The investigation is ongoing.

Separately, police are looking for a man who lit blankets atop a sleeping victim on fire, according to Monday’s crime report.

The victim was sleeping under an overpass in Arlington when the alleged incident occurred, on Friday, Feb. 19. It was only reported to police this past Thursday morning, when medics were called to treat the victim’s burns. He was taken to a local burn center by ambulance, according to scanner traffic.

The crime report suggests that the victim knows the suspect.

“At approximately 11:45 a.m. on February 25, police were dispatched to an EMS assist” on the 2900 block of S. Glebe Road, the crime report says. “Upon arrival, it was determined that on February 19, the victim was asleep underneath the overpass when he was approached by a known suspect who wrapped his legs in blankets and set them on fire.”

“The victim and a witness were able to extinguish the fire and the suspect left the scene,” the crime report continues. “Upon receiving the request for service on February 25, the victim was transported to an area hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.”

No arrests have been reported so far, and police say the investigation into the incident “is ongoing.”

File photo

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On Jan. 6, a group of ten or so men — at least one of whom was wearing a tactical earpiece — watched the storming of the U.S. Capitol from across the Potomac in Arlington.

Previously unpublished photos taken by ARLnow that day show the men loitering near the Marine Corps War Memorial, with the overrun Capitol in the background. Parked nearby are numerous vehicles, mostly pickup trucks and SUVs with out-of-state license plates.

One pickup truck, with large toolbox in the back, was left running.

The man with the earpiece appears to have been focused on some sort of communications device with an antenna. He was among a group standing outside, in the cold, wearing hooded sweatshirts and other inconspicuous cold weather gear. None were wearing the tactical vests and helmets that militia members who charged into the Capitol that day wore.

Still, the group was deemed suspicious enough that Arlington County police received at least one call from a passerby, concerned about what they were doing there. An officer drove by after the 4 p.m. call but didn’t see anything, according to police department spokesman Ashley Savage.

“At approximately 4:09 p.m. on January 6, the Emergency Communications Center received a report of 9-10 males acting suspiciously and looking around on the Iwo Jima War Memorial property,” Savage said in response to an inquiry from ARLnow. “The United States Park Police was notified to check the park area. ACPD patrol units checked Meade Street and Arlington property, nothing was located and the call was cleared.”

“I have no additional details to provide,” Savage added.

The photos above were taken by ARLnow staff photographer Jay Westcott around 3:30 p.m., just before Gov. Ralph Northam announced that he was sending the Virginia National Guard into D.C.

In recalling the moment, Westcott — a Navy veteran — said the gathering “had the feeling of a rally point.” He shot the scene from a distance with a 600mm lens, reluctant to get any closer due to potential safety concerns.

By nightfall, the men had dispersed, as ARLnow originally reported in an article about the curfew that night.

It’s unclear what the as-yet unidentified men were doing at the memorial that afternoon. Was their presence purely coincidental, or somehow connected to the pro-Trump rally and subsequent violence at the Capitol?

What is known is that somewhere outside of the District that day, according to federal prosecutors, a “quick reaction force” with a stockpile of weapons was allegedly ready to join the fight if ordered to do so by President Trump.

At a Friday court hearing for Jessica Watkins, a member of the Oath Keepers militia from Ohio who is accused of helping to plot the attack on the Capitol, prosecutors told a federal judge that “[it is] our understanding” that the quick reaction force did exist and was stationed somewhere near D.C.

A court document filed on Feb. 11, as cited by The Daily Beast, details the purpose of the quick reaction force, at least according to federal prosecutors.

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Morning Notes

Early Morning Fracas in Va. Square — “At approximately 1:09 a.m. on February 24, police were dispatched to the report of a fight in progress. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect entered a business and allegedly began selecting merchandise. The victim refused the suspect service citing restrictions on the sales of alcohol during the overnight hours. The suspect and victim became engaged in a verbal dispute that escalated to a physical altercation, during which the victim was able to recover the merchandise. The suspect re-entered the business… at which point a witness intervened.” [ACPD]

Developers Selected for GMU Expansion — “George Mason University has picked a team of developers to manage the construction of the Amazon-induced expansion of its Arlington campus… The university hopes to finalize a development agreement with Edgemoor and Harrison Street by December and start construction by spring 2022. It plans to open the building by summer 2025. The Arlington campus, is located on Fairfax Drive just west of Clarendon.” [Washington Business Journal]

YHS Swimmer Breaks Two Nat’l Records — “US National Teamer Torri Huske made her mark on the final day of the 2021 VHSL Class 6 State meet, breaking two National High School records. Huske, a senior at Yorktown High School, began her meet by swimming a time of 1:53.73 in the 200 IM, chopping a tenth of a second off of Dagny Knutson’s National Public High School record of 1:53.82 that had stood since 2009.” [Swim Swam]

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An Arlington man was sentenced yesterday (Feb. 24) to 12 years and 7 months in prison for his participation in a conspiracy to distribute fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid.

Cornelius Frazier, 32, would press pills containing fentanyl so that they would resemble prescription pills (like Oxycodone) so that he could distribute for financial gain, according to a U.S. Justice Department press release and court documents.

“As this case demonstrates, fentanyl is not only extremely dangerous because of its potency, but also because it may be hidden in counterfeit prescription pills,” said Raj Parekh, Acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who took over the role on an interim basis last month. “We are grateful to the numerous law enforcement agencies that worked with our Office on this investigation and prevented kilograms of fentanyl from poisoning our communities and harming our loved ones. Their tireless efforts are saving lives.”

A number of local law enforcement agencies were involved, including the Arlington County Police Department, Falls Church Police Department, and Alexandria Police Department, per the release.

On June 1, 2020, a search of Frazier’s vehicle found more than 5,000 pills which tested positive for fentanyl as well as two brick-like packages weighing more than 1.6 kilograms which also tested positive for the presence of fentanyl.

A search of Frazier’s home ended in the seizure of a blender with about a kilogram of a mixture containing fentanyl. Law enforcement seized paraphernalia often associated with prescription drug trafficking including dust collectors with residue, a hydraulic jack, cutting agents, and pill presses containing markings consistent with Oxycodone, according to federal prosecutors.

Also found: nearly $35,000 in cash, a loaded AK-47 with thirty bullets loaded in the magazine, and other guns.

Opioid overdoses remain a huge risk in Arlington County. 2020 saw a resurgence in opioid-related overdoses locally; there were more opioid related deaths in 2020 than in 2018 and 2019 combined.

Some officials believe that the pandemic holds much of the blame for the resurgence.

Full press release is below.

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(Updated 12 p.m. 2/26/21) For the first time in nearly a year, school starts next week for Pre-K through 2nd grade students in Arlington Public Schools.

To help ensure safety for students getting to school — even if only for two days per week — the Arlington County Police Department is getting involved in the process.

APS is making final health and safety preparations ahead of elementary schoolers returning on Tuesday, March 2 — nearly one calendar year after APS closed due to the pandemic. Meanwhile, ACPD is ramping up efforts to remind residents of how to drive, cycle and walk safely in school zones.

“Since this is the first time in nearly a year that motorists will see an increased number of students walking, bicycling, and riding the bus to class, ACPD is encouraging the public to re-familiarize themselves with the location of school zones, applicable traffic laws (including those pertaining to school buses), and tips to keep students safe,” a press release said.

APS expanded its walk zones around schools to limit the number of students on the buses and enforce social-distancing. ACPD said this may result in more children being driven to school.

“The public can expect to see increased vehicular traffic in and around schools,” the release said.

Message boards along roadways throughout the county will remind motorists to slow down, avoid distractions and watch for students.

The county is also installing the following signs indicating temporary parking restrictions near schools.

In terms of health and safety inside schools, more than 98% of classrooms meet or exceed air quality requirements, APS said.

Additionally, the school system has three ways to ensure lunch can be consumed safely, Superintendent Francisco Durán told School Board members on Thursday. And starting March 1, families can fill out the daily COVID-19 symptom screener sent to their devices, and the school has made changes to transportation.

Amid falling rates of COVID-19 cases, reported cases among in-person students and teachers appear to remain low, when compared to close contacts with sick individuals. This means mitigation strategies are working, Durán said.

“I just want to acknowledge the Herculean effort that has gone on over the past year even to get to this point… and all the people who contributed to creating this plan,” Arlington School Board member Cristina Diaz-Torres said. “I am very confident in what we have thus far.”

Still, the superintendent acknowledged more work ahead. Many teachers report lacking clarity on how to teach online and in-person students at the same time using new technologies such as special microphones and cameras.

For most students, in-person learning will occur only twice a week, and a group of 75 parents, teachers, staff and students have determined ways distance learning could be improved. The group found that teachers and schools could use technology more consistently and students should be encouraged to turn on their cameras.

“When they have their cameras turned off consistently, it’s hard to find their level of engagement and for staff to build a meaningful relationship,” Durán said.

More back-to-school safety tips from the police press release, below.

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(Updated at 11 a.m.) A car chase sped through a number of South Arlington neighborhoods Tuesday evening.

The chase happened around dusk, and went through Shirlington, Green Valley, and neighborhoods along Columbia Pike. It ended with an arrest at the intersection of 8th Street S. and S. Harrison Street, in the Arlington Mill neighborhood, according to local public safety watcher Dave Statter.

Virginia State Police troopers chased the suspect and were assisted in their subsequent investigation by Arlington County police, according to ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage.

A VSP spokeswoman confirmed last night that “no law enforcement were injured and the suspect is in custody.” This morning, state police issued the following press release about the incident.

At approximately 6:13 p.m. Tuesday (Feb. 23), a Virginia State Police trooper attempted to initiate a traffic stop on a Buick sedan traveling south on I-395 near Exit 8A in Arlington County. The trooper had observed the Buick making multiple unsafe lane changes in/around southbound traffic and had its rear license plate improperly displayed. When the trooper activated his vehicle’s emergency lights and siren, the Buick refused to stop. A pursuit was initiated when the Buick sped away at a high rate of speed.

The Buick exited I-395 at Exit 7/Glebe Road. State police troopers were able to maneuver their vehicles around the Buick to contain it. That’s when the Buick rammed one of the trooper’s vehicles. As the vehicles continued onto 8th Street in Arlington, the Buick rammed additional state police vehicles. Both times, the driver of the Buick lost control and the Buick ran off the road. The Buick ended up striking a fence and three parked vehicles during those instances before finally coming to a stop.

The driver of the Buick, Aaron B. Connelley, 41, of Washington, D.C., refused to exit the vehicle, despite repeated verbal commands from the troopers to do so. The driver was finally taken into custody.

Connelley was charged with one felony count of eluding police, possession of a Schedule I/II narcotic and various other traffic offenses related to the pursuit. The incident remains under investigation.

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A teen is facing a number of charges after some early morning vehicular mayhem in Arlington on Saturday.

Arlington County police say the teen was prowling the Hall’s Hill neighborhood in a stolen Chevrolet Camaro, looking for unlocked cars. He was accompanied by at least three other suspects and two other vehicles.

“At approximately 5:07 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a vehicle tampering in the 2000 block of N. Cameron Street,” police said in a press release Monday. “The reporting party advised they had observed four suspects associated with a Chevrolet Camaro trying door handles of parked vehicles in the area. A responding officer located the suspect vehicle, with two other vehicles following closely behind and attempted a traffic stop.”

The three vehicles fled at high speed, but were located nearby.

“Additional officers attempted to stop the vehicles on N. Culpeper Street where the driver of a sedan with Maryland temporary tags accelerated towards them, attempted to strike an officer who was on foot, and crashed into a police cruiser,” police say. “No officers were injured.”

The suspects then fled onto Lee Highway, where officers again spotted them and initiated a chase. The Camaro later crashed into a median near the Washington Blvd and Route 50 interchange, and the teen was taken into custody after “a brief foot pursuit.”

He is now facing charges of Conspiracy to Commit a Felony, Burglary, Eluding, and Motor Vehicle Theft.

Another of the suspect vehicles — a black Mercedes — was found abandoned on the 100 block of N. Edgewood Street, a few blocks from where the Camaro crashed. Officers, assisted by the U.S. Park Police helicopter, searched the area but did not find the driver.

The Camaro was stolen from Arlington’s Dominion Hills neighborhood, police said, while the Mercedes was stolen from Hall’s Hill after a home break-in.

“The suspects had entered a separate unlocked vehicle, located a garage door opener and made entry into their residence from the garage,” said ACPD. “Once inside, the suspects stole a purse containing keys to the Mercedes and fled the scene in the vehicle before being located by officers.”

The thefts and chases are the latest in a year-and-a-half long spate of vehicle break-ins and thefts, many involving suspects who search for unlocked cars and other crimes of opportunity.

The police press release noted that another recent crime — a car stolen from a home with an open garage door on Friday — may be related.

This incident is being investigated as related to a similar residential burglary reported on February 19. At approximately 9:59 a.m., police were dispatched to the 2300 block of N. Quebec Street for the report of a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 5:00 a.m., the suspects gained entry to the residence from an open garage door. Once inside, the suspects stole wallets, cash and vehicle keys. The suspects then used the vehicle keys to flee the scene in the victim’s 2021 white Mercedes.

ARLnow hears that the home from which the white Mercedes was stolen is owned by former Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat. Real estate listings suggest that the property in the Cherrydale neighborhood is being rented.

The Arlington County Police Department, meanwhile, is asking for the public’s help in identifying the car theft suspects.

The investigation into these incidents and the identities of the involved parties is ongoing. Anyone with information or video surveillance that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact Detective D. Johnson at 703-228-4193 or [email protected] or Detective S. Whalin at 703-228-4159 or [email protected] Information may also be reported anonymously through the Arlington County Crime Solvers hotline at 1-866-411-TIPS (8477).

The department also offered the following burglary prevention and safety tips.

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King of Koshary, La Union, Meridian Pint. These are just three of the local businesses burglarized among the 21 commercial burglaries investigated by Arlington County police so far this year.

ACPD confirmed today what was anecdotally evident: such burglaries have been on the rise.

From a police press release:

The Arlington County Police Department’s Property Crimes Unit is investigating an increase in overnight commercial burglaries targeting cash-based businesses. Since the start of the year, detectives have investigated 21 reports of commercial burglaries in the County with similar methods of theft. Investigators believe that some of these cases are linked but not all are committed by the same suspects. Similar cases have been reported in neighboring jurisdictions and detectives are working collaboratively with our regional law enforcement partners to identify and apprehend those responsible.

During overnight hours, suspects force entry to businesses by smashing glass doors and windows. Once inside, the suspects are in search of cash and will remove registers and safes if they are not bolted down. The entire incident takes only minutes and the suspects flee in an awaiting vehicle.

There have been 21 reported incidents with 15 of those being completed burglaries and 6 attempted burglaries.

Many of the burglaries have been along Wilson Blvd or the Columbia Pike corridor and involve already-struggling restaurants.

Among recent reported burglaries, ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that the following — each involving a group of five suspects — are being investigated “as a series.”

BURGLARY, 2021-02170037, 1000 block of S. Walter Reed Drive. At approximately 8:45 a.m. on February 17, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary just discovered. Upon arrival, it was determined that between 3:33 a.m. and 3:37 a.m. on February 17, five suspects attempted to forced entry to a business, causing damage. The suspects fled in a red vehicle. Nothing was reported missing from the business. […] The investigation is ongoing.

BURGLARY (series), 2021-02190017/02190021, 5000 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 3:55 a.m. on February 19, police were dispatched to the report of a burglary. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 2:22 a.m. on February 19, five suspects forced entry to two businesses, causing damage. The suspects stole three cash registers containing an undisclosed amount of cash from Business One, and attempted to steal cash registers from Business Two unsuccessfully, then fled in a vehicle. […] The suspect vehicle is described as a burgundy Lincoln MKZ sedan with Texas license plates. The investigation is ongoing.

Today’s police press release urged Arlington residents to report suspicious activity.

“The department’s efforts to prevent and solve crime are enhanced by the active involvement of residents,” police said. “Residents observing suspicious behavior in commercial areas, such as groups congregating outside closed businesses during overnight hours, should contact the Emergency Communications Center at 703-558-2222. If you see a suspect entering a business, do not approach them and dial 9-1-1 immediately.”

ACPD also offered the following tips for safeguarding businesses.

  • Don’t store money overnight in your business. If you must keep cash or other valuables overnight, store them in a safe anchored to the floor
  • Leave cash drawers open, indicating there’s nothing to steal
  • Post signs in your store window that cash and valuables are removed from the premises overnight
  • Ensure your property has adequate lighting, especially at points of entry
  • Consider installing security cameras with alarms to capture suspects on video and notify police immediately if unauthorized individuals gain entry to your business

File photo courtesy Bozzelli’s

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A man collapsed at the Safeway store in Bluemont this morning and later died.

The man was in his 60s and collapsed near the pharmacy counter, according to initial reports. Medics reportedly performed CPR and rushed the man to nearby Virginia Hospital Center.

Arlington County police were on scene at the Safeway (5101 Wilson Blvd) around lunchtime today, investigating the man’s death. The death investigation is routine procedure after an incident like this and, according to a police spokeswoman, foul play is not currently suspected.

“At approximately 11:02 a.m. police were dispatched to the report of a cardiac arrest inside a business in the 5100 block of Wilson Boulevard,” said ACPD’s Ashley Savage. “Upon arrival, an adult male was located suffering from an apparent medical emergency. He was transported to an area hospital where he was pronounced deceased.”

“The Arlington County Police Department is conducting a death investigation,” Savage continued. “Based on the preliminary investigation, the death does not appear suspicious.”

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A man arrested for what was initially described as the “discharge of a firearm” in Rosslyn early New Year’s morning was heavily armed and determined to confront Black Lives Matters supporters, according to new reporting.

A search warrant affidavit obtained by The Auburn Citizen, a newspaper near suspect Moses Geri’s home in central New York state, suggests that he became enraged after fellow guests in his hotel shouted “Black lives matter” at him.

The initial report of the shooting only said that Geri was drunk and firing gunshots in the air, in what one might have interpreted as misplaced New Year’s revelry.

From an Arlington County police press release on Jan. 1:

At approximately 1:48 a.m., police were dispatched to the report of a person with a gun in the 1500 block of Clarendon Boulevard. While en route to the location, a lookout for the suspect was broadcast and officers observed the suspect on the sidewalk holding a firearm as they arrived on scene. The suspect was compliant and taken into custody without incident.

The investigation determined that the victim was in their hotel room when they heard gunshots outside. Upon looking outside, they observed the suspect outside pointing a firearm upwards towards their window. The suspect then entered their vehicle, retrieved a second firearm, and was observed by the victim pointing it upwards again. Nobody was injured and no damage to property was reported.

Moses Geri, 38, of Weedsport, New York, was arrested and charged with Discharge of a Firearm in a Public Place (x2), Discharge of a Firearm In/Across a Road (x2), Brandishing a Firearm (x2), Reckless Handling of a Firearm, and Drunk in Public. He is being held without bond.

The Citizen reports that Geri, seen smiling in his mugshot, may have had more sinister motives: to confront those who support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Geri told police he fired the shots, according the report, after arguing with several people on a hotel balcony.

According to the affidavit, Geri had drunk a quarter of a bottle of moonshine when, around 2 a.m. Jan. 1, he was seen walking around the Rosslyn hotel with a chrome-plated .44 magnum pistol holstered at his hip. When asked why he was carrying the gun — by individuals the affidavit identifies as “minorities” — Geri gestured at them and said it was to protect himself from them.

Geri then left the hotel, retrieved a rifle from his pickup truck and got into an argument with the same individuals, the affidavit continues. The individuals, who were on their balcony, claimed Geri pointed the gun at them. He then fired at least two rounds into the air, which he later admitted to Arlington County police. When they responded to the scene, they found him in possession of five spent shell casings matching the caliber of the rifle. He was also found in possession of three firearms and several edged weapons, and the search of his truck three days later would reveal more than 800 rounds of ammunition, including 5.56 mm armor piercing, soft point and white phosphorus tracer rounds. Geri possessed a shovel, canteen and tactical clothing as well.

Additional reporting suggests that Geri was in the D.C. area to take part in the pro-Trump protests that would turn into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. According to The Citizen, Geri told police that he had a snow plow attached to the front of his truck because “You don’t know what you are gonna come across down here… These Black Lives Matter activists are shooting other people and I don’t want to take it anymore.”

According to court records, Geri is pleading guilty to a felony charge of firing a gun within 1,000 feet of a school and is scheduled to be sentenced in Arlington County Circuit Court on April 23.

A police department spokeswoman referred questions about the affidavit to Arlington General District Court, though courts are closed today due to the weather. ARLnow is awaiting further comment from the Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney.

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