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The scene at Springfield Town Center after Fairfax County police officers shot Reston resident Christian Parker (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fairfax County police officers who fatally shot a Reston man at Springfield Town Center in June won’t face any charges, the county’s top prosecutor announced today (Wednesday).

An investigation determined that officers Daniel Houtz and Ryan Sheehan reasonably believed that 37-year-old Christian Parker posed a serious, immediate threat to them and a third officer at the scene, according to a news release from Fairfax County County Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve Descano.

“This investigation leads me to conclude that both Ofc. Houtz and Ofc. Sheehan were reasonable in fearing that Parker intended to either kill an officer on scene or cause serious bodily injury,” Descano wrote. “…It was therefore legally permissible for both [officers] to use the level of force they employed.”

Descano confirmed that the Fairfax County Police Department had been searching for Parker at the time of the shooting after he fired a gun inside his brother’s apartment in Reston during “an altercation” on June 26.

According to the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, fugitive detectives obtained a search warrant for Parker’s cell phone, allowing them to track his location. A “ping” alerted Houtz, Sheehan and an officer Monahan that he was at Springfield Town Center around 4 p.m. on June 30.

The officers found Parker’s vehicle in the parking lot outside the mall’s Target and boxed it in while he was in the driver’s seat. As shown in body camera footage released by the FCPD, the officers called for Parker to show his hands multiple times.

According to Descano, the officers reported that they saw Parker reach for a handgun. The officers said in statements that Parker started yelling and waving the gun, eventually moving his finger to the trigger.

“Due to the handgun being swung side to side, Mr. Parker’s finger being on the trigger, and Mr. Paker’s [sic] continued refusal to comply with commands, Ofc. Houltz felt he and Ofc. Monahan were in imminent danger of death and Ofc. Houltz discharged his weapon,” the commonwealth’s attorney said.

Sheehan fired his weapon as well, apparently believing that Parker had shot at Houltz, according to Descano. Both officers fired four shots each, hitting Parker with six of them.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department transported Parker to a hospital, where he died that afternoon.

According to Descano’s statement, Parker’s fiancée told his office in an interview that she talked to Parker after the incident at his brother’s apartment, and he said “he would rather die than go back to jail.”

It’s unclear whether Parker served time in Fairfax County or elsewhere, but the county’s circuit court told FFXnow that it couldn’t find any past criminal cases under his name. The commonwealth’s attorney’s office said it had nothing to add beyond the released statement.

Descano said the statement from Parker’s fiancée “lends credence” to the police officers’ account of his behavior. While Sheehan was incorrect in thinking that Parker had fired his weapon, the perception “was reasonable based on the facts and circumstances presented to him,” Descano said.

The shooting at Springfield Town Center came during a period of high-profile gun incidents in Fairfax County. Just 10 days earlier, Tysons Corner Center was evacuated after three gunshots were fired, and on July 7, a police officer shot and killed a man in McLean who was experiencing a mental health crisis.

Noah Settles, a 22-year-old from D.C., was indicted last month for the shots-fired incident in Tysons, while the McLean police shooting remains under investigation.

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Firefighters assess the scene of a house fire in the 6900 block of Birch Street on the McLean border (via FCFRD)

(Updated at 10:10 a.m. on 9/30/2022) Four people lost their home and a pet dog early Wednesday morning (Sept. 28) after a fire at their house in McLean.

Fairfax County and Arlington firefighters were dispatched at 1:45 a.m. to the 6900 block of Birch Street, near the West Falls Church Metro station area, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department tweeted at 7:06 a.m. that day.

While responders got the fire under control within 10 minutes, the blaze caused $156,000 in property damages, according to the department. A photo shows extensive damage to what appears to be a backyard deck with patio chairs.

FCFRD investigators later determined that the fire was caused by an unattended barbecue or meat smoker, according to a Sept. 30 news release.

According to the fire department, the residents were alerted to the fire by smoke alarms and their dog’s barking.

“Upon investigation, fire was seen in the kitchen,” FCFRD said. “One occupant called 9-1-1 while another tried to rescue the dog. All occupants self-evacuated prior to fire department arrival.”

The department said four occupants of the single-family house have been displaced. No injuries to the residents or firefighters were reported.

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A Fairfax County police SUV with lights on (file photo)

A 19-year-old man from Annandale died Saturday (Sept. 17) after being shot during what police describe as a “confrontation” outside the Woodlawn Garden Apartments.

Darlin Ariel Diaz Flores was reported shot at 9:34 p.m. by a community member who heard a gunshot and found him laying on a sidewalk in the 8400 block of Graves Street, the Fairfax County Police Department said yesterday (Sunday).

When officers arrived at the scene, they found Diaz Flores suffering from gunshot wounds to the upper body, according to police.

“Officers provided life-saving measures and Daiz Flores was transported to Fairfax Hospital with injuries that were considered life threatening,” the FCPD said in its blog post. “Flores was pronounced deceased at 10:22 p.m.”

A preliminary investigation indicates Diaz Flores was with a group of friends outside a nearby apartment when an argument began with a passerby, escalating into gunfire. Police say the suspect was described as a Hispanic man, and he was wearing a black hoodie and black pants at the time of the shooting.

The FCPD is also investigating a separate shooting that occurred in Annandale on Sunday.

According to a tweet from 5:43 p.m., police found a man with a gunshot wound to his lower body in the 3300 block of Woodburn Road, near Inova Fairfax Hospital. The man was hospitalized with injuries initially considered life-threatening.

The victim’s condition was later upgraded, but he remains in the hospital, as of yesterday evening.

If anyone has information about the incidents, the FCPD advises calling its Major Crimes Bureau detectives at 703-246-7800, option 2. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS), text (type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411), and online.

“Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 dollars if their information leads to an arrest,” the FCPD says.

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Fairfax County Fire and Rescue engine (file photo)

Updated at 8:35 a.m. on 9/7/2022 — The second occupant in yesterday’s house fire — identified as Patricia Stodrl, 67, of Falls Church — died last night, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department announced.

Earlier: A kid died at the hospital this morning (Tuesday) after a house fire in the West Falls Church area, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported.

According to the department, units were dispatched to a fire at a single-family house in the 6600 block of Barrett Road just west of Sleepy Hollow Road at 1:44 a.m.

Seeing “heavy fire” coming from the back of the house, responders found two occupants and a dog and got them out. One of the occupants, identified as a juvenile, died at a hospital, and the dog also didn’t survive.

The other human occupant remains hospitalized in critical condition, FCFRD spokesperson Ashley Hildebrandt told FFXnow.

Hildebrandt confirmed that both people were female, and the juvenile who died was “an older kid.”

“Fire investigators are conducting their investigation to determine cause,” Hildebrandt said.

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Fairfax County police car (file photo)

A 59-year-old woman died Sunday (Sept. 4) after she and her husband were found shot at a townhouse in the Mount Vernon area that morning.

The Fairfax County Police Department believes Daphne Saunders-Johnson was shot by her husband, James Johnson, who then shot himself in a “domestic-related incident.”

Johnson has been charged with second degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony, the FCPD announced yesterday (Monday).

According to the police department, officers responded to the 7900 block of Central Park Circle at approximately 3:19 a.m. after getting a report of a shooting.

“Shortly after arriving, officers heard a gunshot and entered the residence to find Daphne Saunders-Johnson, 59, and James Johnson, 62, suffering from gunshot wounds,” the FCPD said. “The married couple lived in the home and were both taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries.”

Saunders-Johnson died at the hospital, while Johnson remains there in “critical but stable condition,” police say.

The cause of death will be confirmed with an autopsy by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.

The FCPD says the charges were determined in consultation with the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, noting that a firearm was found at the home.

The shooting remains under investigation. Police say Johnson will be transferred to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center once he is released from the hospital.

There have now been 15 homicides in Fairfax County this year, compared to 17 at this point and 21 overall in 2021.

Fairfax County’s Department of Family Services offers support for people experiencing or affected by domestic violence through its Domestic and Sexual Violence Services division:

The Domestic and Sexual Violence Services Division of the Department of Family Services would like to remind the community that there are many resources available for people experiencing domestic violence. The 24-hour Domestic Violence Hotline, 703-360-7273; TTY 711, is a way to access community resources in Virginia and surrounding jurisdictions. DSVS offers compassionate and comprehensive state-accredited programs for women, men, teens and children who have been affected by domestic and sexual violence, stalking and human trafficking.

Kevin Iglesias didn’t have much time to make an impact at Glasgow Middle School, but he managed to leave a deeply felt impression nonetheless.

Known for his friendliness and dedication to students, the special education instructional assistant died unexpectedly from a head injury on Aug. 21, leaving his family, friends and the Bailey’s Crossroads-area middle school reeling. He was 28 years old.

“The sudden loss has hit our whole community like a punch to the gut because of who Kevin was, the community he was striving to foster around him, and the very young age he was taken from us,” said Abby Ponce, who had been a close friend of Iglesias since they grew up in West Falls Church together.

Ponce says she and Iglesias had especially fond memories of their experience attending Westlawn Elementary School, and he sought to recreate that environment of “care, love and acceptance” for Glasgow students as a staff member.

Iglesias’s commitment to supporting students and attention to their wellbeing was instantly evident to parent Jenna White when she first met him in 2018.

At the time, Iglesias was working on Glasgow’s security team, and White’s younger son, David, a special education student, was new to the school as an incoming sixth grader.

On that particular day, White stopped by the school to take care of some work she had as an officer in the Glasgow Parent Teacher Association. When Iglesias introduced himself and started talking to David, she asked if he could help show her son around the school so he could get more comfortable with the new setting.

“My son spent the next two hours just kind of hanging out with [Iglesias] and helping him, and that turned out to be a really great experience, getting to know Kevin and learning his way around the building,” White recalled.

Once school started, White says Iglesias continued to check up on David to make sure he was settling in, and she would catch up with him whenever they ran into each other.

Iglesias’s ability to connect with students inspired White to nominate him for the “Outstanding Support Staff” award that the Fairfax County Public Schools Special Education PTA (SEPTA) gave out at the end of that school year.

“It was clear that he was really, really a special person who had great interest in making sure all the students felt safe and felt welcome and were doing well in school,” she told FFXnow. “…I was happy to nominate him for that award to recognize all the effort and skill that he put in as an educator.” Read More

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Albert Sweat, who has eight children, was killed in a crash last week (courtesy Jean Sweat)

The family of a Maryland man who died after a car struck him in a Seven Corners parking lot is seeking justice. 

Albert Sweat, 62, of Silver Spring, was killed on Thursday (Aug. 18) after two cars that were merging into the same lane collided in Wilson Blvd, Fairfax County police reported.

The driver of a 2012 Honda Civic attempted to change from the left lane to the right at the same time that the driver of a 2017 Volkswagen Jetta went from the right to the left lane. Both cars collided, causing the Volkswagen to veer off the roadway into the parking lot.

The Volkswagen hit Sweat, a construction foreman who was walking through the parking lot in the 6200 block of Arlington Blvd. The car also hit a median and an occupied 2010 GMC Yukon.

The police department is continuing to investigate the details of the crash to determine if charges will be pursued.

Family members say they want justice for Sweat, who will be remembered for his love of music — including teaching the art to his children — and his kind and loving personality. 

Jean Sweat, his eldest sister, says the incident is best described as “vehicular manslaughter.”

“Because of two irresponsible drivers…his kids will grow up without a father around. As a husband, brother, father and uncle, he will truly be missed. His demise should not be in vain,” Jean Sweat said.

He leaves behind his wife and eight children, two of which are from a previous marriage. 

His niece, Tierra Sweat, said Albert was in the area working to secure a contract for a gazebo he planned to build. He was killed in front of a guitar store — a bitter irony given his love for music. 

According to Tierra, crash witnesses indicated that the intersection where the crash occurred is prone to accidents. 

“There is a clear problem in that intersection that needs to be addressed,” she said. 

So far, police do not believe that alcohol or speed were a factor in the crash.

Still, Tierra hopes that some change can come out of her uncle’s untimely death — whether it is fines or new traffic laws or an assessment of crashes in that area. 

“This was just negligence and heinous,” she said.

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Morning Notes

People walk by Caffi Field, a football field in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Driver in Fatal Franconia Crash Charged With Manslaughter — Sara Flores, 20, of Lorton was charged with involuntary vehicular manslaughter yesterday morning (Thursday) for a May 12 crash in Franconia where she allegedly drove into a telephone pole, killing a passenger. Police had already obtained a warrant charging Flores with driving under the influence. [FCPD]

Developer Pleads Guilty in Teen’s Death — “The owner of a Virginia construction company that specializes in luxury homes pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 16-year-old boy who was killed while working for his company in 2019. Thomas Digges, of Digges Development Corporation, operated the Fairfax County job site where a trench gave way and buried Spencer Lunde, of McLean, on July 23, 2019.” [NBC4]

Two Displaced by Fair Oaks Townhouse Fire — A fire at a three-story townhouse in the 12000 block of Dorforth Drive on Wednesday (Aug. 10) was caused by improperly discarded smoking materials, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. The fire displaced two residents and resulted in approximately $175,000 in damages. [FCFRD]

One Rescued From Annandale House Fire — “8/11/22 at 1:08 a.m., in 3800 block of Gallows Road. One occupant trapped on 2nd floor was rescued by #FCFRD crews via ladder. Fire contained to basement. No injuries. NO smoke alarms found in home! Cause: improperly discarded smoking material. Damages $16K.” [FCFRD/Twitter]

County Names New Planning and Development Director — Fairfax County has appointed Tracy Strunk as director of its Department of Planning and Development, where she succeeds Barbara Byron, who retired earlier this year. Strunk’s career for the county goes back to 1998 and includes work as a planner and a member of the team that helped develop the Tysons Comprehensive Plan. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax County Public Schools Creates Program to Help Hire Teachers — “[Catherine] Coulter is entering her first year teaching in Virginia’s largest school system as a teaching resident, a newly-created position aimed at placing qualified teachers in classrooms while they take the final steps toward receiving a specific certification.” [WTOP]

Expansions and Renovations in Progress at FCPS — “Most students and teachers have taken the summer off, but Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) has been busy with its usual tall order of school renovations and additions. Improvements now are in progress at these schools in the Sun Gazette’s readership area” [Sun Gazette]

Falls Church Development Nears Movie Theater Lease — “Developers of the new Founder’s Row mixed use development…announced through a new filing with the City that it is ‘in the final stages of securing a lease with Paragon Theaters,’ noting that ‘Paragon will operate a seven-screen movie theater, including an IMAX-similar screen with a total capacity of approximately 600 seats.'” [Falls Church News-Press]

Fairfax Shopping Center Gets New Mural — “If you’ve been by the Giant at Scout on the Circle recently you might have noticed some color appearing on the walls! The Abstract Expressionist painting on the corner of the building is by Steven Johnson. Johnson is a Indiana biased artist, who recently made his art available in the public domain.” [City of Fairfax/Facebook]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 81 and low of 68. Sunrise at 6:21 am and sunset at 8:09 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Body camera video shows Fairfax County police officers encountering Jasper Aaron Lynch in McLean (via Fairfax County Police Department/YouTube)

(Updated at 4:15 p.m.) The clinician who participated in an initial mental health call at a McLean house in early July wasn’t present for a subsequent call that concluded in a fatal shooting because he was doing paperwork, Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis said today (Thursday).

The Fairfax County Police Department currently has just one mental health clinician available to accompany officers on calls for mental and behavioral health crises as part of the county’s still-new co-responder program, according to Davis.

During the July 7 encounter, as shown by newly released audio and video footage, two officers deployed electronic control weapons, and a third — identified in the updated news release as Police Officer First Class Edward George, a 10-year veteran — fired his gun, shooting and killing 26-year-old Jasper Aaron Lynch.

All three officers had received crisis intervention training, but the co-responder clinician who joined them on the first call to the scene in the 6900 block of Arbor Lane was absent when the team was called back.

“That clinician had moved on to another location at the conclusion of his tour of duty to complete some administrative paperwork,” Davis said. “That’s the only reason why the clinician was not in a place where he was able to respond with us to the second call for service.”

With the current budget that took effect on July 1, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved funding to permanently expand the co-responder program, which was introduced as a pilot in spring 2021.

According to Davis, the program will advance to the second of four phases with the addition of another clinician on Monday (Aug. 8). The FCPD will ultimately have 16 clinicians riding along with officers, with about eight on duty at any given time.

Even at full force, co-responder teams will only be able to address a fraction of the thousands of mental health-related calls that come through 911. In 2022 so far, the FCPD has responded to 6,700 calls for service — or about 33 calls per day — for persons in mental or behavioral health crisis, Davis said.

Davis noted that the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has been simplified to 988, offering an alternative to calling the police for situations where someone is in crisis.

“[The co-responder model] is not a silver bullet,” Davis said. “I think it’s our responsibility, both law enforcement and even local media, to manage expectations. It certainly will result in many more better outcomes for people in crisis.”

For the most part, the 911 call and body-worn camera video released today align with the FCPD’s preliminary account of the events leading up to Lynch’s death. Read More

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Morning Notes

A speed limit sign for Route 123 by the Tysons Corner Metro station (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Look Out for Spotted Lanternfly — “While there are still no sightings of the spotted lanternfly in Fairfax County, it is getting closer, and experts are on the lookout for it. This summer the invasive pest was found in nearby Loudoun County…The insect feasts on more than 70 plant species, though its preferred host is the tree-of-heaven.” [DPWES]

FCPD Detective Destroyed Evidence of Rape — Fairfax County police are reviewing dozens of unsolved sexual assault cases after the victim of a rape in 1995 learned that a detective had destroyed all physical evidence in her case, including the rape kit. Police now say they believe the woman’s account and that her case was handled inappropriately, but she says the department needs “to somehow be held accountable.” [The Washington Post]

Longtime Fairfax Symphony Leader Dies — “William Hudson, a pianist and conductor who led the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra for 36 years, establishing it as a leading regional orchestra in the capital area, died July 12 at his home in Vienna, Va. He was 89. The cause was atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, said his former wife, Denise Battistone.” [The Washington Post]

Tysons Corner Center Owner Reports Retail Resurgence — “Macerich…noted that distress in the retail industry has slowed dramatically after a pandemic-spurred wave of closures in 2020…Macerich said its leasing activity in the second quarter reflected retailer demand at levels not seen since 2015.” [CNBC]

Vienna Police Share Results of Increased Traffic Enforcement — “After a noticeable increase in stop sign violations, the Town of Vienna Police Department had a directed enforcement initiative during the month of June…During the Stop Sign Enforcement Campaign, officers worked a total of 469 events utilizing stationary observation of stop signs, which generated 219 stop sign violations and 74 other violations.” [Vienna Police]

Local Meal Service Company Gets New HQ — MightyMeals, an overnight meal delivery company that grew out of a Franconia restaurant in 2015, has leased a 16,000-square-foot commercial unit at 7669 Limestone Drive in Gainesville for its new corporate headquarters. The space is seven times larger than its current 2,400-square-foot cooking prep warehouse in Burke. [Washington Business Journal]

Signs for Renamed Vienna Street in Place — “Vienna officials have replaced street signs on the former Wade Hampton Drive with new ones reading ‘Liberty Lane.’ The switch was done in early July ‘with little fanfare’ (as requested by residents), town officials said in the government’s monthly newsletter.” [Sun Gazette]

Bus Planned to Upcoming Innovation Center Metro — “OmniRide is hoping to take advantage of the forthcoming 66 Outside the Beltway toll lanes, and for the first time, its passengers could be getting one-seat trips to the Dulles area by the end of the year. The transit provider is hoping to start a commuter route that would take riders from Balls Ford Road to the Innovation Center Silver Line Metro stop in December” [Inside NoVA/WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Humid throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 71. Sunrise at 6:13 am and sunset at 8:19 pm. [Weather.gov]

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