December 21, 2015 was the day that led Brooke Chaco to becoming an Arlington County police officer.
It was that day six years ago when her stepfather, New York Police Department detective Joseph Lemm, and five others were killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.
“It changed my whole life,” Chaco tells ARLnow. “It made me appreciate what law enforcement does even more.”
Chaco grew up in a family full of police and military veterans, but the profession didn’t much appeal to her until Lemm came into her life as a stepfather when she was about ten years old.
“I was a brat, for a lack of a better word, and didn’t want to give him the time of day,” she admits.
Lemm was a long-time New York police officer, serving for nearly 15 years, mostly in the Bronx. He was also staff sergeant in the Air National Guard and had been deployed multiple times. His stature may have been intimidating, but his demeanor was anything but.
In fact, his nickname among friends was “Superman,” due in part to sorta looking like the superhero’s alter ego Clark Kent and that Lemm could be all things to everyone he loved.
“He was just this big, gentle giant,” Chaco says. “He had a way with his words that gained people’s trust and got them to talk to him.”
In early 2015, Lemm was deployed again to Afghanistan and was looking forward to speaking with his family on Christmas with the hope he’d be home soon.
Four days before Christmas, however, a suicide bomber on a motorbike carried out an attack on his convoy during a patrol. Lemm was only 45 years old when he was killed and left behind his wife, then-16-year-old Chaco, and her four-year-old brother Ryan.
“I had to help raise [Ryan] after my stepfather passed,” she says. “He’s a very big part of my life and a big reason as to why I’m doing what I’m doing.”
The loss made headlines nationally and especially in the New York City area, where the New York Post wrote about how Brooke, a singer, paid a musical tribute to her fallen-hero dad at a memorial benefit for the family. (Earlier this year, the Post also wrote about a bridge in Westchester County being dedicated to Lemm.)
The tragedy helped Chaco find her calling.
She was hired into the ACPD — a force in much need of additional officers — this past April, even prior to graduating from James Madison University. Despite having a family full of officers, she’s the first woman in her family to join the police force. She loves New York and her family, but is looking to forge her own identity in Arlington.
“I didn’t want my peers to look at me any differently or my supervisors to look at me differently because of the sacrifice that my stepfather made,” Chaco says. “I wanted to make my own path.”
Chaco remains an officer in training. She graduated from the academy earlier this year and is now in the midst of field training, where she’s being paired with a more experienced officer. All in all, training to become a full time solo officer can take a little over a year. When that’s completed, and after a few years of patrol work, Chaco hopes to end up in the special victims unit.
Health Directors Urge Mask Wearing — “Today, all five Northern Virginia Health Directors issued a joint letter of interim recommendations for mask wearing in Northern Virginia. The letter was issued by Health Directors from the City of Alexandria, as well as Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties to Northern Virginia Mayors, Chairs and Chief Administrative Officers with the recommendation that individuals wear masks while indoors in government and other public settings, regardless of vaccination status.” [City of Alexandria, PDF]
Flags at Half-Staff to Honor Fallen Officer — From NBC 4’s Jackie Bensen: “Secretary of Defense orders Pentagon flags flown at half-mast to honor Pentagon Force Protection Agency officer killed in the line of duty this morning.” [Twitter]
Metro Changes for Pentagon Investigation — From WMATA: “Pentagon update for tomorrow (Aug 4): Pentagon Station expected to remain closed all day. Yellow & Blue line trains will bypass the station. All Metrobus service to/from Pentagon Transit Center will operate from Pentagon City (S Hayes near 12th St).” [Twitter, Twitter]
Delayed Request for Assistance at Pentagon — From local public safety watchdog Dave Statter: “Heard shots at approx 10:37 am. This video was at 10:38 am. I’d love to know why Pentagon Protection Force Agency waited until 10:50 to request @ArlingtonVaPD & @ArlingtonVaFD for an active shooter?” [Twitter, Twitter]
Training Exercise Today at Fort Myer — “Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall will hold a routine training event for its first responders Wednesday, Aug. 4, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Myer side of the base. Wright Gate, located at N. Meade Street and Marshall Drive in Arlington, will be closed from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m… Arlington County first responders will also participate in the training, so expect to see an increase in emergency response vehicles near the base. Neighboring communities may hear the base’s external ‘giant voice’ loudspeaker during the training.” [Press Release]
Former Red Top Cab Exec Dies — From the Washington Regional Alcohol Program: “Today, WRAP mourns the passing of former, longtime WRAP Director George Pakidis. The former VP of Red Top Cab in Arlington, George was a beloved member of WRAP’s Board for 14 years 12 of which he ably served as the nonprofit’s #SoberRide Committee Chair.” [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Guilty Plea in Good Samaritan Killing — “An Arlington man will spend up to 45 years in prison for killing a good Samaritan who intervened in a violent domestic dispute in October 2018. Michael Nash, 29, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder Monday — the morning he was set to go to trial… Nash had intended to argue that he was not in his right mind when he killed Julio Patricio Salazar, 54, a Bolivian immigrant described by family and witnesses as a hero who tried to help a woman in distress.” [Washington Post, NBC 4]
New Workforce Training Initiative — “The local workforce development board and the Arlington Employment Center (AEC) are rolling out new initiatives to increase access to online training and assist 1,000 adults and graduating students to prepare for post-pandemic jobs, especially those requiring digital skills. The Virginia Career Works-Alexandria/Arlington Region Workforce Council and AEC have partnered with LinkedIn Learning to provide short-term training in pre-designed career pathways that lead to skills local businesses need.” [Arlington County]
Local Catering Options — “Virginia’s Covid restrictions have lifted and gatherings have been deemed safe for the vaccinated. Ready to party? If you’d rather focus on hugging family and friends and leave the cooking to someone else, many area restaurants offer catering services, and some only need 24 hours’ notice (or less) to whip up a feast for your hungry crowd.” [Arlington Magazine]
Covid Brings Polyamorous Trio Together — A not-safe-for-work story about an unusual local living arrangement during Covid times: “My partner and his wife are in their fifties. I was coming apart. He was like, ‘Well, you could test, quarantine, and move in here for a couple weeks.’ We talked about the logistics for about a month. How will we do laundry, together or separate? How will we sleep?” [Washingtonian]
(Updated 4/5/21) The Arlington Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) will be teaching people how to respond to life-threatening situations until help arrives.
Over the course of a free, 2.5-hour class, anyone who lives, works or volunteers in Arlington can learn skills such as how to stop severe bleeding and provide psychological first aid. The class, “Until Help Arrives,” is part of a national campaign to teach the public how to help during emergencies from car accidents to active shooter situations.
The next hands-on training course is Saturday, April 10 from 10 a.m.-noon at 1429 N. Quincy Street, a site the county had used for drive-thru and mobile COVID-19 testing. The next virtual training will be on Apr. 29 from 6:30-9 p.m.
There has been an uptick in interest during the pandemic, said Lucía Cortés, Engagement Liaison for the Arlington County Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management. That’s not to mention the recent spate of mass shootings in the United States.
“We’ve actually seen a significant increase in class interest over the past seven months, with enrollment increasing by 100% while increasing our class frequency to at least once per month,” Cortés said. “Over 160 people have attended our virtual trainings.”
Attendees will learn how to recognize violent activities, respond safely, provide immediate rescue tactics to the injured, and report them to 9-1-1, according to the county.
According to Until Help Arrives, the program emphasizes five steps for civilians to take during an emergency while waiting for medical assistance:
- Call 9-1-1
- Protect the injured from harm
- Stop any bleeding
- Position the victim so they can breathe
- Provide comfort
“The County’s CERT program was created in the wake of 9/11 by concerned residents wanting to assist their communities during emergencies,” Cortés said. “Since 2004, nearly 1,000 community members have completed ArlCERT training.”
Photo via Arlington County
Vaccine Registration Transfer Still in Progress — “We are aware that many Arlington residents who preregistered through the County system are unable to find themselves in the ‘Check the List’ feature. Data migration is continuing throughout the week and it may take several more days for your name to appear in the centralized system.” [Arlington County]
No Rolling Stops for Va. Cyclists Yet — “The Virginia Senate on Wednesday sidelined a proposal that would have allowed bicyclists to yield instead of halt at stop signs. Instead, lawmakers voted to commission a police study of the rule as enacted in other states. They also voted to require drivers to change lanes when passing bicyclists if three feet of distance isn’t possible and to allow two cyclists to ride side by side in a lane.” [Washington Post]
County Offering Emergency Training in Spanish — “To ensure a more equitable, culturally competent response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other emergencies, the Department of Public Safety Communications and Emergency Management and Arlington CERT are launching their first-ever Spanish-language Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) volunteer training.” [Arlington County]
First Non-Airline Lounge Coming to DCA — “A lot is changing at Reagan National Airport, and one of the new additions will be an American Express Centurion passenger lounge, the first non-airline passenger lounge at the airport. Reagan National will be the 16th U.S. airport to have a Centurion Lounge. The 11,500-square-foot lounge will open by the end of 2022.” [WTOP]
Gate 35X Replacement Opening Soon — “Airport officials have long planned to replace the 35X bussing system with a proper 14-gate concourse. So here’s some good news: looks like it will happen sooner rather than later. Airline Weekly reports that the American Airlines concourse will open three months earlier than anticipated. Turns out that the decline in air traffic during the pandemic helped accelerated construction work. It’s now slated to open as soon as April 20.” [Washingtonian]
GoTab Continues on Growth Path — “Industry-leading restaurant commerce platform GoTab has appointed sales and hospitality technology veteran John Martin as the company’s new Chief Revenue Officer. With over 30+ years of experience working with both brick-and-mortar restaurants and food technology systems, Martin has been a force in helping hyper growth startups with go-to-market strategy as well as helping CEOs develop approaches to accelerate sales and launch new products.” [Press Release]
Poems on ART Buses — “This year’s Moving Words Adult Competition 2021 Six winning poems were selected from 211 poems by this year’s judge, Arlington’s 2nd Poet Laureate Holly Karapetkova, who also has a poem on display. View the poems below and on Arlington’s ART buses from February through September 2021.” [Arlington Arts]
Beyer Gets Out-of-This-World Chairmanship — “Late last week, Democrats on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology elected Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) to serve as Chair of the Subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics for the 117th Congress.” [Press Release]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Amazon Makes Local Donations — Amazon has made a some substantial recent donations to local charitable organizations. Arlington-based Doorways for Women and Families received $100,000 from Amazon “in COVID-19 relief to keep survivors safe in housing and hotels,” while newly-created Project Headphones received $75,000, which “allows us to get headphones with mics for all grade levels in @APSVirginia.” [Twitter, Twitter]
Clement Blasts ‘Missing Middle’ Housing — “‘Missing middle’ may be two words totaling 13 letters, but depending on which side of the Arlington political divide you are on, it may qualify as a single four-letter word. The proposed housing policy, which in theory aims to find ways to stop Arlington from becoming an enclave of the very wealthy with some low-cost housing thrown in as fig leaf, came under withering attack from a veteran campaigner during the recent Arlington Committee of 100 County Board debate.” [InsideNova]
Food Hall Coming to Rosslyn Development — “The first level of the new concept will include a bodega that carries everyday essentials and prepared food for dine-in or to-go. The second level will offer seven food stalls, including an oyster bar, coffee bar and diner concept. There will also be access to a main bar, full-service dining area and a communal work lounge.” [Washington Business Journal]
County Offering Free Online Job Training — “City of Alexandria and Arlington County residents can get free job skills training online as part of ‘Skill-Up City of Alexandria and Arlington County,’ an initiative of the Alexandria/Arlington Regional Workforce Council, Alexandria Workforce Development Center, and Arlington Employment Center. The online classes are funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.” [Arlington County]
Recollection of Racism in Arlington — “There was a time, Araya recalled, when Blacks couldn’t walk along the north side of Columbia Pike without getting frisked by police. So for an African American to walk from Green Valley to see friends in Halls Hill, ‘You had to know the route through white neighborhoods. It was like the Green Book for Arlington.'” [Falls Church News-Press]
Cemetery Likely to Get Historic Status — “The cemetery at Mount Salvation Baptist Church in Arlington is now virtually assured of becoming a local historic district. The county’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) has approved the nomination, setting the stage for public hearings before the Planning Commission and County Board.” [InsideNova]
Local Man Convicted of Embezzlement — “A well-connected Virginia financial advisor was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison for embezzling approximately $8 million from money that the U.S. government and a hospital had entrusted to him to set up annuities for 13 people who were the beneficiaries of medical malpractice settlements. Joseph Edward Gargan, owner of The Pension Co. in Arlington, Va… is a relative of the late President John F. Kennedy.” [Claims Journal]
‘BLM’ on Fairlington Bridge Restored — Residents of the Fairlington area used ties to restore a Black Lives Matters message on the bridge over I-395 over the weekend. The letters “BLM” had previously been placed on the bridge’s fence but later removed by an unknown party. Also this weekend, below the BLM letters someone scrawled “Trump 2020,” but that was later covered and “Black Lives Matter” written over it in chalk. [Twitter]
ACPD Details De-Escalation Training — “In response to community questions, ACPD has created this fact sheet highlighting how we train officers to de-escalate incidents and safely resolve situations.” [Twitter]
Update to Jim Pebley Obit — Per an email from former county treasurer Frank O’Leary: “You will be pleased to hear that, due to the actions of former commanders of our County’s namesake ship, it appears that Commander Pebley’s ashes will be spread at sea by the USS ARLINGTON. This is a singular honor and reflects the high respect the Navy feels for Jim. Nothing less than he deserves. There is an old adage, ‘The Navy takes care of its own.’ Perhaps, the same can be said of Arlington.”
Candidates on the Arts — “Arlington County voters will go to the polls on July 7 to determine who will fill the County Board seat of the late Erik Gutshall. In order to help voters understand each candidate’s stand on the importance of arts and culture in the County, Embracing Arlington Arts sent out a questionnaire for the three candidates to complete covering several issues pertaining to the arts in Arlington.” [Press Release, Embracing Arlington Arts]
TTT Now Serving Unlimited Weekend Brunch — “There’s a new all-you-can eat brunch in town. TTT in Clarendon, which stands for Tacos, Tortas and Tequila, has joined its Street Guys Hospitality brethren, including beloved Ambar, in offering unlimited eats on weekend mornings.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Reminder: Metro Stations Back Open — “Metro plans to reopen the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations in Arlington, starting Sunday.” [ARLnow]
Nearby: Fairfax Teachers Revolt — “A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.” [Washington Post]
A trio of representatives from a Saudi Arabian fire department will spend six weeks with Arlington County firefighters, learning how ACFD fights fires, manages personnel and investigates incidents.
The “cultural exchange” is being arranged by the International Association of Fire Chiefs, according to department spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli. ACFD is one of a number of U.S. fire departments hosting firefighters from Saudi Aramco, the largely government-owned national oil company of Saudi Arabia.
The goal of the exchange is to help Saudi Aramco’s firefighters — the company has its own fire department, staffed by both Saudi nationals and expats from the U.S. and elsewhere — improve their training and readiness, while also making professional connections with their American counterparts.
“They’re coming over to see how we do things,” said Tirelli, noting that the exchange is conducted as a professional courtesy and ACFD will not be compensated for the training.
“We consider it a good opportunity for our folks to broaden their perspective and improve their learning,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re representing the best values of American culture, and I don’t think you can do that without learning about other people’s culture and perspectives.”
Two senior officers from the Saudi fire department will be embedded with ACFD battalion chiefs, Tirelli said, while one senior inspector from the department will work with Arlington fire and building inspectors. The trio is expected to arrive in Arlington in late February.
The exchange is happening despite recent tensions between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, stemming from the assassination of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the killing of three U.S. Navy sailors by a Saudi serviceman in Florida, among other incidents. ACFD, meanwhile, responds to calls at sensitive sites, including the Pentagon and other government facilities in the county.
Tirelli pointed out that Saudi Aramco is not a military organization and that “their mission is to protect facilities that impact the world.”
“The people who work at those facilities include a lot of Americans,” he said, adding that there have been no incidents from previous exchanges between Saudi Aramco and other U.S. fire departments, “only positive interactions.”
The Arlington County Fire Department conducts similar exchanges with firefighters from Arlington’s sister city of Aachen, Germany. Due to staffing shortages there are no plans for any ACFD members to go to Saudi Arabia, Tirelli said.
Update on Park Shirlington Plans — Owners of the Park Shirlington apartments are “advancing plans to build 612 new apartments and townhomes on the property and renovate 105 existing homes. That adds up to a total of 717 units on the 16-acre site, located just south of the Village at Shirlington and adjacent to Interstate 395. The developers plan to build 189 new apartments in a first phase of the project, then subsequently build about 267 more apartments and 156 townhomes, according initial plans presented to Arlington County officials.” [Washington Business Journal, UrbanTurf]
First Responders Train Caps for ‘Violent Incidents’ — “We take great pride in providing high quality training programs to citizens so that they can help us save lives. Last week, @ArlingtonVA police and firefighters trained members of the @Capitals administration staff in how to respond to violent incidents.” [Twitter]
ACPD Stepping Up Patrols for ‘Joker’ — “Arlington County police said they are conducting extra checks around movie theaters in the county, but they also said that there are no known threats.” [WUSA 9]
Arlington Urban Ag Month — “October is ‘Urban Agriculture Month’ in Arlington! This year, Arlington County, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE), Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture (FOUA), Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC), and Marymount University are combining efforts to offer events throughout October.” [Mailchimp]
Arlington GOP Outreach Effort — “With control of the General Assembly at stake on Nov. 5, the Arlington County Republican Committee is taking a page from the outreach efforts of its counterparts on the Democratic side. The Arlington GOP is asking volunteers to write personal messages on postcards that are being mailed to Republican-leaning voters in key legislative districts across the commonwealth.” [InsideNova]
DESIGNArlington Nominations Open — “Arlington County’s biennial design awards program, DESIGNArlington, is accepting submissions for great design in architectural, historic preservation, landscape and public art projects through Tuesday, Nov. 19.” [Arlington County]
Nearby: New Development Opening Near Fairlington — “A new apartment complex is scheduled to open in the West End later this year, with a Harris Teeter and a Silver Diner location coming down the road. Array at West Alex is a mixed-use development at 3445 Berkeley Street — the very northwest tip of the city at the intersection of N. Beauregard Street and King Street, near the Fairlington neighborhood.” [ALXnow]
Arlington is training hundreds of people to use the opioid overdose-reversing drug naloxone in hopes of saving lives amid the opioid crisis.
The free trainings last a little over an hour and teach participants how to recognize an opioid overdose and to administer naloxone, also known by the brand name Narcan. As of Tuesday night, officials said Arlington has trained 644 people and given away 518 boxes of the drug.
Studying to Save Lives
Emily Siqveland is the county’s coordinator for the state-funded Revive program, which provides the training materials for the classes.
“I often remind people that addiction is similar to diabetes,” said Siqveland, in front of the half a dozen people who showed up to the Arlington Mill Community Center Tuesday night to take one of the classes.
“You can make lifestyle adjustments to manage your diabetes,” she said. “Addiction is the same. You can make lifestyle changes to manage the addiction, and you still need treatment. It’s still a chronic and relapsing disease.”
In addition to talking about how addiction works, Siqveland showed attendees how to administer the little white nasal spray as part of the county’s “multi-disciplinary approach” to tackling the opioid crisis.
Arlington began marshaling representatives from county agencies, local non-profits, and APS in 2017 to form an Arlington Addiction Recovery Initiative (AARI) to find solutions and hold several town halls.
One of the group’s more recent tasks was choosing how to spend $258,000 in state grants for treatment and prevention services.
One way AARI allocated the funds is a new ad on the side of local Metrobuses, featuring the county’s opioid resources page, plus “remembrance trees” currently on display in the Shirlington, Columbia Pike, and Central libraries until September 3. People can add a leaf to the trees in memory of someone they know who died from opioid addiction.
Addiction by the Numbers
In Arlington, police reported 53 overdoses in 2018, 11 of which were fatal.
The data indicated that seven fewer people died overdosing on opioids in 2018 compared to 2017 (19). However, the overall number of opioid-involved incidents (153) in 2018 remained steady after jumping to 157 incidents in 2017. In all, 50 opioid overdose deaths have been reported in Arlington since 2014.
FBI Renews Search for Hotel Rapist — A cold case is getting hotter as the FBI steps up the search for a man who raped hotel employees in the D.C. area, including in Arlington, between 1998 and 2006. Authorities still don’t know who the suspect is, but in a first for the region, the man’s DNA profile has been indicted for the crime. [FBI, NBC Washington, WTOP]
‘Unaccompanied Minors’ Housed at Local Facility? — “The feds may use a local juvenile detention center to house some of the nearly 2,000 children they’ve separated from their parents at the Mexican border. Alexandria Mayor Allison Silberberg said she’s expressed ‘strong concerns’ with the board that runs the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Center, which has a contract to hold as many as 30 unaccompanied minors. The detention center is jointly run by Alexandria and Arlington.” [WUSA 9]
ACPD Helps Kid’s Dream Come True — “After over 900 days in foster care, Cameron’s wish came true when he found his forever family. During last week’s @Capitals visit, we were able to help him with his 2nd wish-touching the #StanleyCup! Today he stopped by to thank Officer Rihl for helping make his dream a reality!” [Twitter]
Local Tech Firm Signs Rosslyn Lease — As expected after being selected for a $60,000 Gazelle grant from Arlington County earlier this year, local tech firm Higher logic has signed a lease and is moving employees into a new 31,000 square foot headquarters space at Waterview Tower (1919 N. Lynn Street) in Rosslyn. The company, which makes community engagement software, acquired four companies last year. The new office offers “floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Potomac River, an open, collaborative environment, and much needed room to expand.” [Washington Business Journal]
Firefighters Help Cool Kids Down — Earlier this week, with sweltering temperatures putting a damper on outdoor activities, an Arlington County fire engine helped Patrick Henry Elementary students cool down during their field day. [Twitter]
ACFD Trains for Water Rescues — The Arlington County Fire Department has a water rescue team, and before yesterday’s rains the team was training in the rapids at Great Falls. [Twitter]