Press Club
Arlington police car at night (file photo courtesy Kevin Wolf)

(Updated at 4:10 p.m.) A wild scene played out Friday night along a quiet, dead end street in North Arlington.

Police say it started when a female resident brandished a gun at a person she knew, then “fired several shots into the front door of the home.” After police surrounded the home, the woman stepped outside and approached officers while still armed and ignoring verbal commands, according to ACPD.

She was reportedly tased and taken into custody without additional shots being fired.

The incident happened around 9 p.m. along the 3900 block of 26th Street N., near Potomac Overlook Regional Park.

More from today’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

At approximately 8:59 p.m. on May 13, police were dispatched to the report of a female subject who had brandished a firearm at a known individual inside a residence and subsequently fired several shots into the front door of the home. As arriving officers were establishing a perimeter, the female subject exited the home while brandishing the firearm. Officers gave the subject verbal commands to drop the weapon, however, the subject disregarded the officers’ commands and continued to approach them while holding the firearm. Officers continued to provide verbal commands to drop the weapon before deploying a taser and taking her into custody and recovering the firearm. She was transported to an area hospital for medical evaluation. No injuries were reported related to the shots fired inside the residence. The investigation is ongoing.

While the crime report is vague on the exact circumstances, a tipster tells ARLnow that this was likely a case of mistaken identity.

“An elderly woman (over 80) on 26th Street N. thought her new caregiver was an intruder and chased him with a gun,” the tipster wrote. “Arlington police were called to the scene and had to [tase] her (she is now in the hospital).”

Arlington police spokeswoman Ashley Savage confirmed that the person with the gun was an “older adult” but declined to say whether the person who was fired upon was a caregiver.

“ACPD does not provide personal identifying information, such as occupation, of victims,” she told ARLnow.

Asked about whether the woman is likely to be charged, Savage said that “no charges have been sought at this time.”

“The investigation is ongoing,” she said.

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If you didn’t know better, you’d think that an unusual walk signal in Virginia Square was trying to signal that the South would rise again.

An audio walk signal at the corner of Fairfax Drive and N. Nelson Street, one block from the Metro station, keeps chanting the name of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. It attracted the attention of County Board candidate Adam Theo, who posted about it on social media yesterday afternoon.

“I’m sorry… but WTF??!?” he tweeted. “I thought we were getting rid of streets named after Confederates.”

ARLnow checked it out shortly after Theo’s tweet, and the rebel walk signal was indeed hauntingly repeating “Jefferson Davis” over and over again.

Asked about it, Peter Golkin, spokesman for Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services, suggested that the signal was likely transplanted from along Route 1, formerly known as Jefferson Davis Highway before being renamed Richmond Highway in 2019.

“Likely repurposed technology that unfortunately was not reprogrammed,” Golkin said. “As Mr. Lincoln would say, ‘With malice toward none.'”

It appears that much like the Confederacy, the walk signal’s old programming will not be long for this world. This morning DES tweeted that a repair order had been placed.

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A Ballston business with a logo that raised eyebrows for more than a decade due to its resemblance to a certain male appendage has closed.

Market Place & Cafe at 901 N. Glebe Road is now shuttered, its refrigerator cases and hot buffet both empty.

While some may miss the lunch buffet or the convenient drink options, the business is perhaps best known for its unusually phallic logo. Located near the corner of N. Glebe Road and N. Vermont Street since at least 2009, Market Place was inexorably linked to the logo, which features an especially tall chef’s hat with a rounded and slightly bifurcated top, and a similarly tall face that’s bulbous at the bottom, between a stylized, curled moustache.

The odd choice of logo did not escape the attention of Yelp reviewers over the years.

“Welcome to Dong Deli. Despite the ridic logo, the food isn’t that bad,” reads one 2011 review.

Eight years ago, when ARLnow went to inquire about how and why the business went with this logo, the reporter was thrown out of the store even before getting the question out.

Earlier this week, ARLnow visited the corner cafe again, but signs on the door noted that the business was closed. The listed phone number was also out of service.

“We are… closed,” the signs said. “Thank you!!!”

It may forever remain a mystery why this particular logo design was chosen and kept despite the obvious comparisons to the male anatomy, but customers will still have fond memories of the glory days.

“For all I care, the logo could be a vagina with tentacles and false teeth, I’d still eat here for breakfast,” said a 2014 review.

Hat tip to Peter G.

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The chicken that tried to sneak into the Pentagon (photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Arlington)

A very bold and very lost chicken was “caught sneaking around the security area at the Pentagon” early Monday morning.

The adventurous bird was nabbed by Arlington animal control officers, who were called in to help the headquarters of the world’s most powerful military with its poultry problem.

More on what happened from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington:

Apparently, the answer to “why did the chicken cross the road” is…. to get to the Pentagon?! Very early this morning, this chicken was caught sneaking around the security area at the Pentagon (we’re not kidding) and our officers were called to come pick her up. Sgt Ballena brought her safely to the shelter where she’ll stay until we find a new home for her! Now we need a name for her — suggestions welcomed!

Naturally, plenty of people had thoughts on social media about the military’s most wanted chicken and what it should be named.

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Morning Notes

Crew boats in the Potomac River at twilight near Rosslyn (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Homes Coming to Large N. Arlington Property — “The Febrey-Lothrop estate in the county’s Dominion Hills neighborhood, located at 6407 Wilson Blvd. not far from the Fairfax County line, will soon see work begin on nine two-story homes, according to county permit records. The permit applications were filed last month by the property’s new owner: KLTOLL AIV LLC, a company controlled by New York-based Kennedy Lewis Investment Management…. Elise Cleva, a spokeswoman for the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development, noted in an email the plans aren’t set in stone and ‘could change at any point if the owners decide not to construct all nine or if any issues prevent them from constructing the intended number of houses.'” [Washington Business Journal]

Demolition of 19th Century Home — “The circa-1889 Fellows-McGrath House in East Falls Church was being demolished [Monday], making way for a new home or homes. Photo courtesy of Charlie Clark.” [Twitter]

Bomb Squad Response in Courthouse — From yesterday afternoon: “There’s a suspicious package response on the 1300 blk of N. Courthouse Road, a block from the county government and police headquarters. Police requested the bomb squad respond to the location around 10:15 a.m., per ACPD. Sounds like the closed roads will reopen soon.” [Twitter]

Police: Drunk, Armed Man Arrested in Rosslyn — “N. Lynn Street at Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 4:08 a.m. on December 5, police were dispatched to the report of a male asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle. Upon arrival, officers located the running vehicle, made contact with the sole occupant who was in the driver’s seat and observed a firearm in plain view on the passenger’s seat… During a search of the vehicle prior to towing, ammunition was recovered. [The suspect], 45, of Accokeek, MD, was arrested and charged with Driving Under the Influence, Refusal of Breath/Blood Test and Violent Felon in Possession of a Firearm.” [ACPD]

Tucker Carlson Interrupts Dems at Meeting — “The Dec. 1 Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting was held in person, but also broadcast online via YouTube for those unable to attend. Technological gremlins… were in evidence. The meeting began about 15 minutes past its scheduled 7 p.m. start time when the YouTube connection proved unstable. Far worse, indeed horrific, from a Democratic point of view: Midway through the meeting, the screen that was used for PowerPoint presentations at the meeting suddenly started serving up the sounds of… Tucker Carlson on FOX News.” [Sun Gazette]

Wakefield Football Coach Steps Down — “Wayne Hogwood’s successful nine-year tenure the winningest head coach in the history of the Wakefield High School football program has come to an end. Hogwood stepped down in recent days because of family matters. He has three young children who are heavily involved in multiple youth sports, and Hogwood wants to spend time for the next couple of years, or so, being involved with watching them play during the fall and helping his wife transporting the three to games and practices.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Tuesday — Cold weather is back and snow is on the horizon. Today will be mostly sunny, with a high near 41. Sunrise at 7:14 a.m. and sunset at 4:45 p.m. Tomorrow there is a slight chance of rain, snow, and sleet before 7am, then rain and snow likely between 7am and 4pm, then snow likely after 4pm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 38. [Weather.gov]

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The lonely utility pole at Columbia Pike and S. Frederick Street (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

A lonely utility pole protruding into the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Frederick Street is expected to come down by the end of the year, a county official tells ARLnow.

Last fall, a permanent traffic signal was installed at the intersection of S. Frederick Street and Columbia Pike near Arlington Mill. The work was part of the Columbia Pike Multimodal Street Improvements project to make the thoroughfare more friendly to all users.

It was also in response to a long-time request from residents and advocates to improve the safety of the intersection, which had become notorious for crashes and accidents, some involving pedestrians.

Along with the new traffic signals, the driveway to Arbor Heights — an affordable housing complex with an entrance right off Columbia Pike — was rebuilt to align with S. Frederick Street, Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet said. The previous horseshoe driveway had a cement island with a strip of sidewalk and the utility pole. The island was removed, leaving the errant utility pole, which now sits several feet from the sidewalk in the road.

The pole is surrounded by bollards and Balliet said the county has not received any complaints about it being dangerous or blocking traffic. ARLnow did receive a tip about it from a concerned motorist, however.

That pole is coming down soon as utilities move underground, he says. A new underground duct bank was built as part of the street improvement project and the utility companies will use it to bury their lines.

Most of the lines could be taken underground by the end of the month, according to the project’s most recent update on the website.

Comcast, Dominion Energy and Verizon all have overhead wires on the utility pole at S. Frederick Street and Columbia Pike, a county official confirms.

Comcast has started this process and began removing wires last week, while Dominion also began the switchover last week and is removing its overhead wires this week. Verizon is currently applying for permits, according to the county, and work will begin once those permits are issued.

Once all the companies take down their wires, the pole will be removed.

The entire switchover from overhead to underground wiring and the removal of all utility poles along the Pike from S. Jefferson Street to the Four Mile Run Bridge is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

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Chair in tree in Rosslyn’s Hillside Park (photo courtesy John Thomas)

Four years ago, we asked why a stick of deodorant was on top of a Clarendon bus stop.

Today, a new mystery: why is there a cheap plastic chair resting in a treetop in a Rosslyn park? A reader sent us the photos above, showing the chair lodged in some tree branches well above a pedestrian pathway.

“There is a plastic garden chair stuck in a tree about 40 feet off the ground at Hillside Park in Rosslyn,” writes John Thomas. “It might make an interesting story to speculate how it got there. Tornado? Cicadas?”

Trebuchet testing and aircraft door mishap are perhaps some other options that could explain it.

With the caveat that we have yet to contact Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation or the National Weather Service for official comment about what happened, the tornado hypothesis might actually make some sense.

On July 1, an honest-to-goodness EF-1 tornado touched down in Arlington, doing most of its damage in the Waverly Hills, Cherrydale and Lyon Village neighborhoods, before crossing the Potomac and snapping trees on the west end of the National Mall. The damage path finally ended near the South Lawn of the White House.

Between Lyon Village and the Mall, however, the path of the tornado did take it over Rosslyn and… Hillside Park, which is located at 1601 N. Pierce Street.

To better illustrate, here’s a line drawn between Woodstock Park in Arlington, where the tornado damage started, and where it ended. The pin in the center shows Hillside Park.

So unlike the deodorant mystery, which to this day remains unsolved (though a local bar employee’s comment that “people get drunk on the weekends, that would be my best guess,” seems as plausible as anything) it appears that the twister take is a definite maybe for Arlington’s latest head scratcher.

Have any alternative theories? Anything to disprove the tornado hypothesis? Let us know in the comments.

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Morning Notes

Arlington’s Biggest House Numbers? — “In the early days of the pandemic, I went on a quixotic quest to walk every one of the 1,114 blocks in my Arlington, Virginia, ZIP code, cataloging the styles of the address numbers on every house along the way… I have kept an eye on the house numbers in Arlington ever since, and imagine my joy this spring when suddenly, on a street I biked down every week, a new set of enormous house numbers appeared.” [Slate, Twitter]

Stepped Up DUI Patrols Begin Today — “This Labor Day, the Arlington County Police Department (ACPD) is participating in the national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over impaired driving awareness campaign, which runs from August 18th through September 6th, 2021. This campaign aims to drastically reduce drunk driving on our nation’s roadways through a two-pronged approach of education and enforcement.” [ACPD]

Fallen Pentagon Police Officer Laid to Rest — “A Brooklyn-born Pentagon cop who was stabbed to death while on duty in DC was hailed as a “warrior” and a hero at his funeral Monday… ‘He fought ’til the end,’ his NYPD sibling, Rodney Rubert, said during funeral services at St. Barbara Roman Catholic Church in Bushwick.” [New York Post]

Beyer Proposes Healthcare Provider Vax Mandate — “Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) today announced the introduction of the Protecting Vulnerable Patients Act, which would require healthcare providers who see Medicare or Medicaid patients to be vaccinated following final FDA approval of a COVID vaccine.” [Press Release]

Arlington Hotels Still Hurting — “Hotel-occupancy rates improved in June but, overall, the first half of the year remained a bust for the Arlington hospitality industry. The occupancy rate of 44.7 percent in June was better than the cumulative 34.4-percent rate recorded over the first six months of the year, according to new data from Smith Travel research and Arlington Economic Development. But that 34.4-percent rate was anemic even compared to the weak first six months of 2020, when it stood at 37.3 percent.” [Sun Gazette]

Arlington Office Vacancy Rate Rising — “The Arlington office-vacancy rate continues to go in the wrong direction, according to new second-quarter data. The overall office-vacancy rate countywide was 19.4 percent for the quarter, according to figures reported by CoStar and Arlington Economic Development. That’s up from 18.5 percent in the first quarter and 16.6 percent a year ago.” [Sun Gazette]

Local Nonprofit Eyes Tysons Development — “The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing is adding another project to its new Fairfax County pipeline, pitching a development in Tysons that could become the neighborhood’s first apartment building made up entirely of committed affordable units. The nonprofit hopes to build up to 175 new apartments on about 2 acres on Spring Hill Road near the Silver Line station of the same name, converting car dealership parking lots that are part of the massive Dominion Square development site.” [Washington Business Journal]

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Four years ago today, one of the strangest stories in Arlington history played out.

It was a slow Thursday in August when an ARLnow editor was on the phone while walking around Clarendon, where our offices were located at the time. Along Wilson Blvd, next to the Metro station, an odd sight caught his attention: a van with rhythmic blinking lights at the top of the windshield.

As it drove by, there was something missing — a driver.

Quickly the editor apologized to the person on the other end of the phone call, hung up, and took a series of cell phone videos. Published that night, the video would end up making regional and even national news.

“A mysterious, seemingly driverless van was spotted cruising the streets of Arlington’s Courthouse and Clarendon neighborhoods Thursday evening,” we reported that night. “The unmarked gray van with Virginia license plates drove up and down Wilson and Clarendon Blvds more than a half dozen times — with no one in the driver’s seat or passenger seat. The rear windows of the Ford Transit Connect van were darkly tinted.”

“The van appeared to drive cautiously but keep up with traffic. Cameras and a light bar could be seen behind the windshield,” the article continued. “The lack of a driver went mostly unnoticed as Clarendon residents went around their after-work routines near the Metro station, though occasionally people could be seen pointing at the car or asking someone nearby if they saw a driver.”

Arlington County, Arlington County police, VDOT and the Federal Highway Administration told us they had no knowledge of any autonomous vehicle testing in the area. It remained a mystery for several days, with many wondering whether autonomous vehicle technology had advanced to the point where a van could safely drive itself in circles around a densely populated area.

Then, an unexpected revelation and some made-for-TV theatrics helped the story attain even greater fame. NBC 4’s Adam Tuss, after leaving an interview at ARLnow’s offices the following Monday, spotted the van, peered inside and found… arms and legs.

“Brother, who are you? What are you doing? I’m with the news, dude,” Tuss said. “Dude, can you pull over and we can talk for a second?”

As it turns out, the “driverless” car was actually an experiment run by Virginia Tech and Ford to see how people reacted when they saw a car with no one in the driver’s seat.

In reality, the driver was disguised as a car seat. The university admitted its role after Tuss’ tweet went viral.

Ford said the light bar in the van was intended as a way to communicate the car’s intentions to pedestrians.

“Anyone who has crossed a busy street likely knows the informal language between pedestrians and drivers,” [Ford researcher John] Shutko wrote. “A driver might wave her hand to indicate to the pedestrian it’s okay to cross, or a pedestrian could throw up his hand like a stop sign to signal he plans to cross first. But what happens in the future, when self-driving vehicles operate without drivers - and in some cases, without anyone even in the vehicle itself?”

After being first reported by ARLnow.com, and famously further investigated by NBC4 reporter Adam Tuss — who was startled to discover a person in a seat costume inside — VT admitted it was behind the driverless car.

Ford said people are put in the cars — and dressed as car seats — for safety reasons, as self-driving technology is still in the early stages of testing and development.

And if not for some meddling reporters, the experiment might have been able to continue to roam Arlington streets and startle pedestrians for a bit longer. Without the mystery and the “news dude” moment, however, the story would not have been nearly as memorable.

A man dressed as a seat for research purposes (via Ford video)
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Mysterious bug bites (courtesy photo)

Arlington residents say they are being plagued by mysterious bug bites featuring unusual red splotches that are itchier than those left by typical summer suckers.

A Facebook group, “Arlington Neighbors Helping Each Other Through COVID-19,” has helped community members with similar bites find each other, share information and try to get to the bottom of the mystery. There’s been similar chatter on local email listservs.

“I was so grateful to see that I wasn’t the only one experiencing this issue — and apparently many, many others feel the same way,” resident Becca Collins tells ARLnow.

The Facebook thread started on Sunday, when the original poster asked the group, “Anyone else finding that they’re getting bit by something while outdoors that is leaving a lingering mark?” She added that “this has happened to us multiple times in the last 10 days. The bite seems a lot different from your typical mosquito bite, leaving a red patch around the bite that’s been lasting for over a week (as well as the intense itchiness despite Benadryl, etc).”

The post has since received at least 160 responses and been shared eight times. A respondent said she went to an urgent care  clinic “after a sleepless night due to the itching/burning bug bite on my neck, that swelled up into a small patch… It also had red itchy streaks reaching up to my lymph node that became swollen and painful.”

Another reported a similar story.

“Had my daughter at urgent care yesterday,” the poster wrote. “Her two bites look EXACTLY like everyone’s photos here. The doctor at urgent care said they’re seeing a lot of these bug bites.”

Receptionists at three local urgent care centers confirmed they’ve seen an influx in patients with bug bites.

“It is up this summer, more than usual,” said one receptionist for All Care Family Medicine & Urgent Care.

Another for Urgent Care Center of Arlington said “we don’t really know what type of bites they are. Patients come in for a bug bite, but they’re not sure if it’s a tick, mosquito or spider bite.”

Collins said hers was different from a tick bite, which is ringed by a clearly defined red circle. Hers and “many of these welts have ‘trailing red tails’ coming from them,” she said.

The Facebook group members have hatched a theory that these bites are tied to oak itch mites, or pyemotes, which are thought to feed on cicadas eggs. Similar outbreaks of itchy bug bites have coincided with periodic cicada cycles in Chicago and Northern Ohio.

“They are the gift that keeps on giving,” one resident tells ARLnow of the Brood X cicadas that swarmed the D.C. area. The cicadas may also be linked to a wave of dead birds this spring and summer.

These mites feed on insect larvae that inhabit oak trees, according to previous news reports and academic papers. And this year, with thousands upon thousands of eggs laid by cicadas, there was a veritable feast for the mites.

“Until I saw the post, I thought I was getting eaten by spiders in my sleep and was going to take some serious mitigation steps, but if the mite theory is correct, that saves me A LOT of work and worry,” one tipster told ARLnow.

Kurt Larrick, the assistant director of the county’s Department of Human Services, confirmed that residents are reporting these strange bites to the county. But county staff cannot say anything definitive yet about the phenomenon.

“We are tracking reports and consulting with internal and external subject matter experts,” he said. “However, there is no clear cut answer at this point.”

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Birds are dying in large numbers across Arlington and much of the D.C. area, prompting an investigation.

Dead birds have become an eerily common sight along local roads and sidewalks, and a common discussion thread in local Nextdoor groups. The wave of bird deaths this month — which seemingly corresponded with the emergence of Brood X cicadas — has also caught the attention of local and state authorities.

“Beginning on Tuesday, May 18… Animal Control began receiving an increase in the number of calls regarding sick/injured juvenile birds, specifically Grackles and Blue Jays,” wrote Animal Welfare League of Arlington Animal Control Chief Jennifer Toussaint. “Eye issues were reported in what otherwise looked like healthy juvenile birds, causing blindness and the birds to land and stay on the ground. Animal Control is now seeing additional species of birds affected. Other agencies and localities across the region and state are reporting similar issues at this time.”

Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas tells ARLnow that the issue “is widespread” across the region and is a hot topic of conversation among local naturalists.

“We have received numerous [reports]… from numerous places outside the county as well,” he said, adding that he is in contact with the state biologist about the matter.

“He is investigating and will examine the birds,” said Abugattas.

In addition to Arlington, an increase in dead birds has been reported in Fairfax County, Bethesda, and parts of D.C., according to Nextdoor posts viewed by ARLnow. One post, from a wildlife veterinarian, suggests that a bacterial disease may be behind the phenomenon — but the information is very preliminary.

“The resolution of [a bird’s symptoms] after administration of an antibiotic suggests that this is a bacterial infection, not a virus,” the veterinarian wrote. “Hopefully we will have more definitive answers from the lab in a couple of weeks.”

AWLA says it is in contact with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which is performing tests on a selection of deceased birds.

“We await any results that may shed more light on the current situation,” the organization said. “At this time we are asking members of the public to dispose of these birds promptly when found on their property.”

The league provided the following safety tips for residents who dispose of dead birds.

  • “Wear hand covering (such as gloves) and avoid any direct contact with the birds”
  • “Consider picking up the birds using the same method you would for pet waste. Invert a bag over your hand, pick up the bird, and then pull the bag over the bird, tying with a knot at the top before disposal.”
  • “Dispose of in waste receptacle outside of the home… use diligent hand washing following”

Another tip: don’t use insecticide on cicadas, which can poison whatever creature later eats them.

ALWA is also encouraging residents to report dead birds via an online form, and to report dead and injured birds on public property via phone.

“If a resident finds an injured bird or deceased birds on public playgrounds, parks, and fields please promptly call Arlington County Animal Control promptly at 703-931-9241,” the organization said. “We appreciate your patience and understanding as we work with State Agencies to better understand and address this issue.”

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