County Board Approves Several Projects — “The Arlington County Board took action at its April meeting on a number of projects designed to invest in community development and improve infrastructure throughout the County. ‘The Board’s actions today invest in Arlington’s future through a flexible space for the arts, additional flexibility to allow for additional affordable housing, four neighborhood conservation projects, and infrastructure that improves our core utilities and provides essential services for our residents,’ County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said.” [Arlington County]
Local Group’s Statement on Chauvin Verdict — Black Parents of Arlington issued a statement last night about the verdict in George Floyd’s murder: “This ‘justice’ system, while today handed down a verdict that provides accountability, cannot, and will not, ever restore justice. Justice is when a Black photographer can visit a client without being harassed by both neighbors and law enforcement. Justice is when a pregnant Black woman can deliver her baby with dignity, and not in the captivity of an Arlington County jail.” [Press Release]
More Students Taken Off In-Person Waitlists — “In response to the CDC’s 3-foot distancing update, schools have continued to accommodate more students in person, and nearly half of all APS schools have cleared their waitlists. So far in April, nearly 1,000 students have been added for in-person instruction, and we are working through the remaining students as capacity allows. Additionally, more classes at the elementary level have now transitioned into one classroom, versus the previous split classes.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Candidates Want More APS Transparency — “The two candidates for the Democratic endorsement for School Board say there’s one tangible thing the county school system can do immediately in an effort to address seemingly intractable achievement disparities. Let the sunshine in. The way to address achievement gaps ‘is to know that they’re there – bring them out into the light.'” [Sun Gazette]
Fundraising Advantage for Incumbents — “Two Arlington legislators facing intra-party challenges from their left are maintaining healthy cash-on-hand totals headed toward June 8 primary showdowns. Del. Patrick Hope (D-Arlington) ended the first quarter with $120,853 in his campaign account, while challenger Matt Rogers had $13,180, according to filings with the Virginia Department of Elections… In the 49th District, Del. Alfonso Lopez ended the quarter with $131,117 on hand compared to $30,990 for educator Karishma Mehta.” [Sun Gazette]
County Board Recognizes ‘Notable’ Trees — “Arlington has more than 750,400 trees of at least 122 species that provide $1 million in environmental benefits to the County annually in the form of pollution removal, carbon storage, energy savings, and avoided stormwater runoff, and are valued at $1.41 billion total. On Tuesday, April 20, 32 of these trees will be designated as Notable Trees by the Arlington County Board.” [Arlington County]
Local Park Volunteers Honored — “The Arlington County Board will recognize two winners of the Bill Thomas Park Volunteer Award at its Board meeting on Tuesday, April 20. Elaine Mills and Glenn Tobin will be recognized for their dedication and support of Arlington County natural resources and public open spaces. Mills is the winner for 2019 and Tobin is the winner for 2020.” [Arlington County]
The Arlington County Board, along with other local officials, applauded a historic guilty verdict handed down by a Minnesota jury today.
Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty on all counts in the murder of George Floyd, a crime that was caught on camera and which led to a summer of protests and a racial reckoning — in Arlington, across the U.S. and around the world. The verdict was announced this afternoon.
The Board said in a statement that it “hopes that today’s verdict is a step forward in dismantling the systemic racism that pervades life throughout our nation.”
The Arlington County Board commends the Minneapolis jurors for returning a guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder trial and joins others around the nation in relief. The shocking video of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Chauvin while other officers stood by and failed to intervene, showed the disregard for and devaluing of Black lives that is too common. The Board hopes that today’s verdict is a step forward in dismantling the systemic racism that pervades life throughout our nation.
We know that Arlington is not exempt from this racism and its impacts, and we renew our commitment to addressing those inequities and creating a culture of caring and respect. We are proud to live in a vibrant, diverse and inclusive community that champions human and civil rights, and while we know there is more work to be done, we are inspired by the efforts of Arlington community members and leaders who strengthen us as a whole.
Arlington’s congressman, Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), said the verdict “confirms what we saw.”
The jury confirms what we saw: Derek Chauvin is guilty of murdering George Floyd.
I'm thinking about George Floyd, his family and friends, who have been through such much.
— Rep. Don Beyer (@RepDonBeyer) April 20, 2021
Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Francisco Durán said in letter to families that counseling will be available “to help students deal with their feelings” in the wake of the verdict.
“While this verdict provides some closure, there are still many feelings that need to be processed and changes that need to be made to combat systemic racism in our justice system,” Durán said.
Dear APS Students, Families and Staff,
The verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin, who was charged for the murder of George Floyd, was announced this afternoon, and he was found guilty. We understand how difficult the last few months have been for many of our students and staff, and while this verdict provides some closure, there are still many feelings that need to be processed and changes that need to be made to combat systemic racism in our justice system. We acknowledge the impact this verdict will have on social justice but know there is work that still needs to be done to achieve a society where we are all treated fairly and equitably.
The racism and violence that have been highlighted in these recent tragic events may be widely discussed this week at school. Teachers will give students the opportunity to process their feelings and how this feels to them personally, as appropriate, and as they are comfortable. […]
I want to take this opportunity to affirm our commitment to anti-racism and social justice, and to our continued work in schools and in our community.
Arlington police made some preparations in the event of a verdict that prompted civil unrest, including sending parking meter enforcement aides home early and moving some parked police vehicles, ARLnow hears.
Covid Testing Unit Coming to Marymount — “The mobile testing unit, operated by Quest Diagnostics, will operate at the university in the parking lot by Reinsch Library, from April 19 – May 7, open Monday-Friday from 9 AM – 4 PM. It will offer no-cost, no-appointment COVID-19 testing to the general public, as well as Marymount students, staff and faculty.” [Arlington County]
School Board Candidate’s Emails FOIAed — “Arlington School Board candidate Mary Kadera said a political opposition-research effort is unlikely to turn up any dirt on her. In a note to supporters, Kadera (one of two candidates in the upcoming Democratic caucus) noted that a local resident had submitted a request under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act in order to gain access to all the e-mails she has sent to School Board members over the past two years.” [Sun Gazette]
Wakefield Alums Push for Accountability — “Members of the Wakefield High School community are pushing for more accountability and action in the wake of a March 5 football game where players on George C. Marshall High School’s football team allegedly used racial slurs against Wakefield players. In a letter sent Wednesday, alumni, parents and staff members at Wakefield — one of four public high schools in Arlington County — said they were ‘horrified’ by the events that occurred at the March 5 game.” [Patch]
Rosslyn Developer Dies — “Stanley Westreich, a commercial real estate developer whose projects helped define and shape Rosslyn’s skyline, died April 11 at his residence in San Diego. His cause of death was not disclosed. He was 83. Westreich and Westfield Realty… helped establish the Arlington neighborhood with 10 projects, most notably the Gannett and USA Today towers, now known as the Towers at 1000 and 1100 Wilson Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]
No Founding Farmers at DCA Yet — “It turns out that Founding Farmers won’t open a restaurant inside Reagan National Airport’s new 14-gate concourse, though it is still weighing one elsewhere within the complex. The Kensington-based company has scrapped plans… [it] was expected to join other restaurant and retail tenants there including Elevation Burger, Mezeh Mediterranean Grill and Timber Pizza Co.” [Washington Business Journal]
Nearby: Murder Outside Skyline Target — “A man was found dead this morning inside a parking garage in Bailey’s Crossroads. Officers responded around 3:30 a.m. to the 5100 block of Leesburg Pike after 58-year-old Hernan Leiva, of Falls Church, was found suffering from apparent stab wounds and blunt force trauma to his upper body… [a 22-year-old Alexandria man later] returned to a parking lot near the scene and turned himself into police.” [Fairfax County Police, Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by C Buoscio
This is set to be a pivotal year for how Arlington County represents itself in its logo and its infrastructure.
At the close of 2020, Arlington County kickstarted the process of updating its logo — a process that will soon be inviting public input — and this fall, County Board members expect to review a new framework for considering the possibility of new names for things like parks, streets and building.
Board member Christian Dorsey and NAACP President Julius “JD” Spain, Sr. previewed these upcoming changes during a recent discussion on renaming hosted by the Arlington Committee of 100, a group that talks about local issues.
Meanwhile, Marymount University assistant professor Cassandra Good shed light on the history of Arlington’s street naming and made recommendations for a new approach.
Spurred by a national discussion of systemic racism and police violence in 2019 and 2020, Arlington County is re-examining its logo, which depicts Arlington House: The Robert E. Lee Memorial, the former plantation home of the Confederate general and descendants of George Washington. The county is also reconsidering the names of various roads, parks and local landmarks named for Confederate generals and soldiers, slaveholders, plantations, and historic figures known for their racism.
That work is ongoing. A county logo review panel has received more than 250 submissions to consider and narrow down to five for the community to rank in May, Spain said. The County Board will select a new logo in June.
Meanwhile, county staff members are hammering out a formal process for naming and renaming places in Arlington going forward, to bring a systematic approach to what has so far been a case-by-case process.
“We expect that during the fall of this year, we will have a proposal from our county manager for how we ought to think about the renaming issue,” Dorsey said. “There’s going to be a lot more that comes with that, I expect.”
Some Committee of 100 members wondered whether the panelists think the county ought to change its name, too, given that the county is named after the plantation house that’s being removed from the logo.
Panelists said such a conversation could take place but changing the name Arlington would not only pose an extreme logistical challenge but may also not reflect a nuanced view of renaming.
“When we’re talking about changing the name of Arlington, it may come a time when we need to have that conversation,” Spain said. “But Arlington — I believe changing the name of a county is a pretty heavy lift.”
Dorsey said he is not in favor of throwing out everything that was the product of a certain time in history as “the poisonous fruit of a poisonous tree.”
A recurring question for officials tasked with renaming has been whether to swap one historical figure with another. The community could choose a person whose character could come into question later on, they said.
Good, the Marymount professor, said while her preference is not to use names of historical figures, there ought to be a few new historical figures featured.
“There need to be some names for people,” she said, otherwise, “the names that remain will mostly white people.”
Dorsey added that while the county can think beyond individuals, there will be some figures who community members will want to honor.
“I would hate to lose that entirely,” he said.
Good said Arlington first formalized a naming process for streets in 1932, when a commission of, as far as she can tell, all-white Arlington residents finalized the names for the county’s streets. Several — including Lafayette, Hamilton and Pocahontas Streets — were renamed at that time, she said.
Going forward, she recommended that all renaming decisions include those who have been excluded and involve a professional historian. Renaming should be considered if the current name was originally chosen to honor somebody for reasons that are at odds with the community’s values, she said.
Arlington’s top prosecutor is partnering with a national criminal justice organization to reduce racial disparities in prosecution.
Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner are the first two prosecutors to participate in a new partnership program from the Vera Institute for Justice, an organization working to reform the justice system, per its website.
“The Vera Institute for Justice has done an incredible amount of work on public safety, incarceration rates, and also whether incarceration is an effective tool for public safety,” Dehghani-Tafti tells ARLnow. “They were an organization that I was always hopeful to work with.”
As part of the new partnership, Dehghani-Tafti and Gardner will be working to reduce race-based differentials in prosecution rates by 20% in their jurisdictions. The work is part of Vera’s Motion for Justice initiative, in which prosecutors are given support and opportunities to bridge the gap between law enforcement agencies and the communities they serve, according to a press release.
We’re proud to announce our partnerships with the offices of @parisa4justice and @StLouisCityCA. Together, we will work to reduce racial disparities in their criminal legal systems by at least 20% as part of our Motion for Justice initiative. Read more: https://t.co/UQwUDXrCut pic.twitter.com/I8kKaXwsjv
— Vera Institute of Justice (@verainstitute) April 6, 2021
Dehghani-Tafti and Gardner’s offices will receive policy recommendations and staff training, as well as resources to analyze data on the ways marginalized people are disproportionately impacted by prosecution practices, the release said.
This partnership, which will last 18 months, singles out Arlington as a leader in this work, Dehghani-Tafti said. The Arlington and St. Louis prosecutors’ offices are the first of up to 10 prosecutors’ offices in jurisdictions across the country that Vera plans to invite on as partners. (Dehghani-Tafti’s office also prosecutes cases for the City of Falls Church.)
“This is the conversation that I started when I started running,” she said. “We need to look at the results of our system and figure out how and why we’re there.”
This partnership is one way Dehghani-Tafti said she is keeping her promise to use data and evidence to drive lasting criminal justice reform.
“We’re going to need some help with our data, making our case management system be able to analyze data and run reports that are actually meaningful,” the prosecutor said.
The system Dehghani-Tafti said she inherited was designed to store information, not answer larger questions such as who is disproportionately represented in certain case outcomes.
“You can go case by case but you’re still operating in a system that we know cements racial and economic divides, continues cycles of traumas, affects families and communities and treats people who are incarcerated and their families — who haven’t done anything wrong — as expendable,” she said.
Here in Northern Virginia, Vera will also provide financial assistance to the Courthouse-based nonprofit Offender Aid and Restoration.
“OAR is an ideal partner for this,” Dehghani-Tafti said. “They’ve been looking at policies and practices, such as community service, through an anti-racism lens: Your economic means, your race, your zip code, your ability to speak English — that all can make it harder or easier to do community service.”
Dehghani-Tafti said she plans to get started with the Vera partnership “forthwith,” as soon as she can schedule 10 training sessions.
After the murder of eight people, including six of Asian descent, last week near Atlanta, Northern Virginia-native Chef Tim Ma immediately thought of his parents.
The chef, on the verge of opening a Pentagon City location of his popular D.C. restaurant Lucky Danger, grew up in Centreville and is the son of Chinese immigrant parents.
“My parents don’t leave the house because of the pandemic,” he tells ARLnow. “And now they don’t leave the house because of fear of retaliation for looking a certain way. It’s really heartbreaking.”
As hate crimes against Asian-Americans have increased in our country and region over the last year, Ma knew he had a “responsibility” to help. He is the co-founder of Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate, a collective of D.C.-area chefs committed to creating awareness of anti-Asian and Pacific Islander racism and working on ways to stop it.
“We are using our skills to do what we can. And our skills are cooking,” says Ma. “We are using our platform as chefs to bring awareness and raise money to affect change.”
“A lot of what people know about Chinese culture is actually due to our food,” he says.
Ma admits that, while he’s still targeting an April opening for Lucky Danger at Westpost (formerly known at Pentagon Row), his activist efforts have taken time and bandwidth. He acknowledges it has led to a potential delay for the restaurant’s opening.
“Part of our delay is part of those efforts as well. We’ve accelerated a lot of things [at Chefs Stopping AAPI Hate]… because of the frequency and the severity of what happened in Atlanta,” he says.
But the events of the past few weeks were not the only time Ma says he felt threatened.
On January 6, he made the decision along with executive chef Andrew Chiou to shut down Lucky Danger’s location in D.C. despite a large number of pending orders.
“We’re five blocks from the Capitol and hearing sirens constantly for three, four hours,” Ma says. “As a Chinese-American take-out… we feared being targeted. So, we shut down. We were sold out, but we refunded everyone. All the guests were very understanding. We drove [our employees] home and left the city.”
Lucky Danger’s pop-up location in D.C. is massively popular, so much so that food often sells out. Ma believes this is because they’re bringing a modern take to a beloved cuisine.
“Chinese-American food is unilaterally loved in America,” he says. “But Chinese take-out tends to be ignored, while everything else has been updated. This has really been this exploration of staying true to what the food is in America and updating it.”
Menu items include well-known fare like cashew chicken, shrimp fried rice, and orange beef.
“It’s not Kung Pao ‘insert trendy meat here,'” he says. “It’s chicken. It’s sweet and sour pork.”
He thinks that the appeal will absolutely play across the river. The Westpost location makes it more adaptable for delivery and carry-out, providing enough parking spots for drivers and the ability for customers to walk-up and order.
“I think for the guests it will be more accessible. So, there’s not like this mad dash to make your order at 10 a.m. every morning,” Ma says. “That’s not great for anybody.”
A group of Wakefield High School football players and their parents are contesting game suspensions and calling for accountability among athletic officials in response to reports of racism on the field.
The athletes say they endured being called “boy” and the N-word, and one student was spat on, during a football game on March 5 at Marshall High School.
On Thursday, Arlington Public Schools issued statements confirming the reports of racial slurs being used. Fairfax County Public Schools said it conducted an investigation and is working on a plan for restorative justice, but these reports are being contested by members of the Marshall community.
Senior Lukai Hatcher, one of the students who posted a widely-shared account of what happened on social media, tells ARLnow the taunting — which built on similar name-calling during basketball season — started early in the game.
“We complained to the ref, who did nothing, and the coaches, who couldn’t do anything,” he said. “Of course, if you leave something untreated, it’s going to grow.”
At the end of the game, Hatcher said a Marshall player spit at him, and he lunged for the player. This launched a brawl between the two teams and resulted in three Wakefield students and one Marshall student receiving three-game suspensions.
“We only got a reaction out of the refs when we did something to protect ourselves,” he said.
His mother, Lydia Hatcher, said that following the game she was in contact with the football coach, the school athletic director and the principal. She told them and Virginia High School League that she disagreed with the suspension on the grounds that her son was defending himself.
“My kids are used to being bumped a little harder, but they’re not used to being called the N-word,” Hatcher said. “If I had been close enough, I would’ve taken my son off the field.”
I go to Wakefield high . We went to Marshall I school . Yes we were mad because we were losing but we wanted the game to end and go home. A white player from Marshall spits on a black male from my team results in a fight that could have been prevented. Share this video. pic.twitter.com/Pt3lHibygP
— Javell Edge (@JavellEdge) March 18, 2021
Both schools worked together to reduce the suspensions for students, said Mike McCall, the director of communications for VHSL.
“As soon as VHSL staff was made aware of incidents surrounding this game, the video of the game was reviewed,” he said. “Additionally, all those within the authority level of the VHSL were involved in conversations surrounding the concerns associated with the game. The schools worked collaboratively together with the VHSL during the entire process.”
Arlington Public Schools confirmed it has been in contact with multiple officials since the game.
“From the beginning, APS and Wakefield officials have been in contact with Marshall High School, VHSL leadership, staff at the Northern Virginia Football Officials Association, and Fairfax County Public Schools about what transpired and the lack of action by the officials after repeated attempts by players and coaches to alert them to the behavior,” the school system said in a statement. “Staff was working behind the scenes to get the Wakefield suspension overturned.”
For Lydia Hatcher, however, the decision was inequitable.
“Had Lukai, as a black young male, spit on someone who was not a person of color, there would have been charges pressed,” she said. “A little slap on the wrist for one game is not acceptable punishment.”
The parents have launched a petition that currently has nearly 5,000 signatures, demanding an apology from Marshall and from VHSL, asking for the suspension on the Wakefield players to be reversed, and mandatory diversity and inclusion training for local athletes, coaches and officials.
Late Friday afternoon, the Arlington branch of the NAACP issued a statement in support of the “#PlayFairNow” petition, decrying “a culture of hate towards black students at Arlington Public Schools with no accountability for bad actors.”
“We’re trying to fight the pandemic, work careers, help kids with schooling, and we have to fight racism,” said Monique Brown-Bryant, whose son Kevin Robinson was on the field that night. “It’s a separate pandemic.”
(Updated at 2:40 p.m.) Players on the Wakefield High School varsity football team were called racial slurs during a recent game against Marshall High School, an Arlington Public Schools spokesman confirms.
“Me and my teammates were called racial slurs, taunted, and even spit on by Marshall players,” they said in a widely-shared joint statement posted on Facebook, Instagram and elsewhere. “We also experienced unfair treatment by each of the refs and were harassed from the sidelines by coaches and Marshall parents.”
Arlington Public Schools spokesman Frank Bellavia confirmed a portion of the allegations.
“An incident did occur between Marshall and Wakefield high schools where Marshall players used racial slurs at the Wakefield football team,” Bellavia tells ARLnow.
“The Wakefield administration as well as other APS officials have been in contact with Marshall High School, VHSL officials and the referee association about this incident,” Bellavia said. “APS administrators have been meeting regularly with the Wakefield team and parents to provide support since the incident occurred.”
Game footage shows a fight breaking out between the teams. APS confirmed that three Wakefield students were given three-game suspensions as a result of the fights, but the sanctions have since been knocked down to one-game suspensions per Virginia High School League guidelines.
Wakefield ended up losing the game to Marshall, 19-18.
I go to Wakefield high . We went to Marshall I school . Yes we were mad because we were losing but we wanted the game to end and go home. A white player from Marshall spits on a black male from my team results in a fight that could have been prevented. Share this video. pic.twitter.com/Pt3lHibygP
— Javell Edge (@JavellEdge) March 18, 2021
Hatcher and Lang alleged in their statement that what happened on March 5 has happened before.
“Marshall High School’s athletic teams have been known to demonstrate a culture of racism and unsportsmanlike behavior,” including foul play on the basketball court, they said. “We are shining the light on the continuing culture of tolerance for unjust and discriminatory practices in sports for minority athletes and seeking accountability in support of change.”
“We as a team complained to the refs all game about the way that we were being treated yet the flags were consistently thrown on us and even our coaches,” Hatcher and Lang added. “We should not be punished for defending ourselves and each other especially because during the entire game the refs, [whose] job it is to ensure each game is fair and who were supposed to protect and defend us, did not.”
Principal Chris Willmore said in a letter to families Thursday afternoon that “the adults who were responsible failed” the Wakefield players.
“The administrative team and I are outraged by the blatant acts of racism our players were subjected to during the game and that the officials did nothing to intervene despite our urging and even after our coaches signaled them to the behavior multiple times during the contest, allowing the situation to escalate,” he wrote. “This is unacceptable.”
“All coaches have been instructed to leave the field/court immediately if our student-athletes are subject to racist, bigoted behaviors. Our student-athletes will not be put into a position like this again,” Willmore continued, adding that there have been “other incidents that we’ve have experienced in the past.”
APS Superintendent Francisco Durán also issued a statement Thursday afternoon.
“Our leadership and School Board are calling on VHSL and all parties involved in extracurricular activities to reform and change their practices to ensure our schools and athletic events are free of racism, bigotry, hate speech and unsportsmanlike conduct,” he said, in part. “APS encourages all students and staff to continue to stand up and call out acts of racism, hate speech and other forms of discrimination when they see them.”
In a statement, Fairfax County Public Schools said it “does not accept acts of intolerance” and has “expectations of behavior in our students and staff.”
“At FCPS, our primary responsibility is the safety and well-being of our students and staff. Every student must understand the value of appreciating each other’s differences, extending common courtesy, and treating each other with respect,” the statement said. “We must all be committed to do better.”
The administration conducted a thorough investigation involving VHSL, officials, staff, players and families from both teams, according to the statement. The school system said it is working with the school, FCPS leadership and coaches from both teams to develop a plan for restorative justice.
In speaking out publicly, Hatcher and Lang said they were pressing for change.
“This isn’t new and enough is enough!” they wrote.
The full statement from Wakefield High School’s principal is below.
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.
Leading up to the formation of the Police Practices Work Group, locals were protesting police violence against unarmed civilians and the county had received a number of complaints about police conduct, as well as calls for police reform.
On Monday, 15 Arlington County residents presented the highlights of their report — which included more than 100 recommendations — to County Manager Mark Schwartz. They suggested a model for a civilian review board, changes to how police enforce traffic violations and provide mental health services, and lastly, alternatives to the police for resolving disputes.
“It’s an excellent piece of work,” Schwartz said.
All the recommendations can be found in the final report.
Assuming the county establishes a police review board, members said it should be one made of civilians with an independent auditor presiding. The review board would have up to 15 Arlington County residents and would be closed to current and former ACPD officials. The board would have the authority to conduct independent investigations and compel the release of information.
These authorities would not be used lightly, said Rodney Turner, a committee member.
“We will try to do things without getting a subpoena first and we will look to ACPD reports to see if any investigation by the oversight body is necessary,” he said.
Another group looked for ways to improve road safety without hurting underprivileged communities. It recommended, among other things, more automated traffic enforcement cameras and a sliding payment scale for fines.
But “technology is not the panacea,” member Kathleen McSweeney said. Privacy remains a concern and the county should be sensitive to camera placement so certain communities do not feel targeted, she said.
Implementation of the sliding scale would likely require action by the state legislature, said Allison Carpenter, who chaired the traffic enforcement group.
Additionally, the county should delegate the response to most mental health crises to clinicians and volunteers, said Naomi Verdugo, the chair of the mental health subcommittee. Police would only respond as a last resort or if the risk of violence is high.
Verdugo also said the county’s Crisis Intervention Center should be staffed with more clinicians and advertised as a place where police, emergency services and family members can drop off people experiencing crises. The report recommends upping non-police security staffing at the center.
Finally, a group focused on ways to change Arlington’s “culture of calling 9-1-1,” and finding other ways of resolving disputes between neighbors.
Devanshi Patel, who chaired the alternative dispute resolution subcommittee, noted that many 9-1-1 calls are related to “suspicious activity,” which can take many forms. She recommended a private-public campaign focused on the importance of properly using 9-1-1 and choosing another hotline or resource in other circumstances.
Patel said the legal system needs to be reformed “from entry to exit,” especially to divert people from being detained unnecessarily.
“The focus should be placed on opportunities for ways to avoid criminal records because of collateral consequences not only to the person but also the community,” she said.
In the next few weeks, the county will receive an independent study from law enforcement expert Marcia Thompson, who examined ACPD policies and data on the use of force, training and supervision, body-worn cameras, recruitment and retention and internal affairs.
Image via Arlington County
The county is calling on the community to submit their ideas for a new county logo and seal.
The logo will phase out the depiction of Arlington House, also known as the Robert E. Lee Memorial, on all county communications and materials starting this summer. Over time, the new logo will appear on signage for county amenities such as parks, community centers and buildings, the submissions webpage said.
“We are writing a brighter chapter in Arlington’s story, one that aligns with the County’s important focus on racial equity,” the website said. Submissions are due by Sunday, March 14.
According to submission guidelines, artists only can submit one idea and it must be new and original. The art should “look good” in black and white and in color, and when it is printed on something as small as a pen and as large as a billboard. Designs in any media — from digital to crayon — are accepted.
Proposed design ideas have included dogwood trees, the Potomac River, the Rosslyn skyline, and the Pentagon, as well as abstract concepts like peace and diversity.
“As you create your design, think about the images, symbols and feelings unique to Arlington and shared by people across neighborhoods,” the county website said.
A submission form is available on the county website. It asks people to submit a .jpg, .png or .pdf version of their design, to share whether they are a current or former resident or have some “other” affiliation with Arlington, and to briefly describe the art and what it depicts or represents.
The move to update the emblem began with a push from the Arlington branch of the NAACP last summer, which decried the current logo as a “racist plantation symbol” that honors a slave-owning Confederate general. County Board members expressed their support in September and approved a process for replacing it in December.
County Manager Mark Schwartz previously told the board that the earliest instance of the logo’s use by the county was in 1974.
When the March deadline passes, a panel of community members picked by Schwartz will choose three to five top contenders. A professional graphic designer will further develop the concepts through April. The community will then rank their picks in May and the County Board is expected to choose one in June.