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Fairfax County police car (file photo)

Fairfax County police are investigating a fatal shooting after someone allegedly fired multiple gunshots into a car parked in the Mount Vernon area yesterday morning (Sunday), killing one of the occupants.

Officers were called to the Old Mill Gardens apartment complex at Jeff Todd Way and St. Gregory’s Lane shortly before 7 a.m. after receiving a report of gunshots in the area, Fairfax County Police Department Lt. Dan Spital said at a media briefing.

According to police, the shooting followed “an altercation” between three occupants of a car in the apartment parking lot and an individual who approached the vehicle on foot.

“At some point, the individual outside of the car fired multiple rounds inside that vehicle,” Spital said. “At least one person was struck, and that is our victim.”

Still in the same car, an acquaintance drove the victim, a man, to Inova Mount Vernon Hospital, where he was admitted with gunshot wounds to the upper body, police say. According to Spital, doctors determined that the man needed to be transferred to Inova’s Fairfax hospital, where he ultimately died.

Police believe the suspect and victim knew each other but are “still trying to determine the extent of that relationship,” Spital said. The suspect is likely a man, possibly the driver of a silver Nissan Maxima with Maryland tags seen “fleeing” the area, the FCPD says.

Police didn’t have any identifying information about the suspect beyond the description of the car seen leaving the area. However, the shooting is being investigated as a murder, according to Spital, who noted that “several rounds” were fired.

“It’s disturbing for this community, [on] a Sunday morning. I mean, it’s a time for families,” Spital said. “…The investigation has just gotten started, so our detectives, although they may not be on the scene here, are going to be working around the clock until they find the assailant.”

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National Park Service staff, elected officials, and community volunteers celebrate the reopening of Mount Vernon Trail’s Bridge 12 (via National Park Service)

The National Park Service has completed the first of four planned projects to reconstruct bridges along Mount Vernon Trail.

Park service staff, elected officials and community members celebrated the reopening of Bridge 12 near Fort Hunt Park with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Saturday (Sept. 24). The occasion coincided with National Public Lands Day, which encourages volunteers to help restore and improve national parks and other public lands.

“The Mount Vernon Trail is a very popular recreational resource and these bridge improvements will greatly increase safety for thousands of trail users,” said Charles Cuvelier, superintendent of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which runs parallel to the 18-mile trail.

Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck and state Sen. Scott Surovell were among the officials who attended the ribbon-cutting.

The reconstruction began on Feb. 14 and involved relocating Bridge 12, expanding it to 14 feet in width, installing upgraded railings, and resurfacing the trail to the bridge from Waynewood Blvd to Fort Hunt Road, according to the NPS.

The straighter alignment and reduced slope of the trail leading to and from the bridge enabled by its new location will improve safety, the park service said in its news release.

According to On the MoVe, the previous bridge was “known for frequent bike mishaps” and had been under consideration for an overhaul for decades before getting the needed funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation in 2018. The Federal Highway Administration also assisted.

First opened on April 15, 1972, the Mount Vernon Trail spans over 18 miles from George Washington’s Mount Vernon to Theodore Roosevelt Island near Arlington. Maintained with help from the volunteer nonprofit Friends of the Mount Vernon Trail, the facility reached its 50th anniversary earlier this year.

NPS’ next reconstructions for the southern end of the trail will focus on Bridges 23 and 24 between Belle Haven Road and Tulane Drive, On the MoVe reported. The park service plans to replace four bridges in all over the next five years.

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The U.S. District Court in Alexandria (via Google Maps)

A 22-year-old man from Alexandria will serve over two years in prison for a fatal, single-car crash on the George Washington Memorial Parkway that involved speeding, alcohol and drug use, the Department of Justice announced last week.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, Samuel Meyer was driving south on the GW Parkway on May 31, 2020 when he lost control of his Toyota Tacoma truck around 5:45 p.m. near Mount Vernon Circle.

“As the road curves, Meyer lost control of his truck, left the roadway, and crashed into the woods next to the travel lanes,” prosecutors said. “The truck crashed with such force that the skin of the passenger side of the vehicle was peeled off entirely, and the front passenger door of the vehicle was embedded into a tree a short distance from where the truck came to a stop.”

A front-seat passenger identified as 19-year-old Michael Cunningham later died at a hospital from “blunt trauma injuries to his head, neck, trunk, and extremities.” Meyer and a passenger in the vehicle’s back seat were also treated for minor injuries.

An electronic data recorder in the vehicle indicated Meyer was driving over 85 mph in a 35-mph zone when he crashed. Alcohol and other drugs were also found in his system, according to the news release:

About three and a half hours after the crash, blood samples were taken from Meyer. An analysis showed that Meyer’s blood alcohol content was .09 g/100 mL, still above the legal limit hours after the crash. Also present in Meyer’s blood were benzoylecgonine, the main metabolite of cocaine; THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana; and cocaethylene, which is formed by the liver when cocaine and alcohol coexist in the blood.

Prosecutors say an investigation determined that Meyer made no attempt to brake and instead had his foot on the accelerator in the five seconds prior to impact, despite suggestions to slow down from the truck’s passengers.

Meyer pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced by a federal judge on Friday (Sept. 16) to 30 months in prison, according to court records.

Photo via Google Maps

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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.

Fairfax County police car (file photo)

Fairfax County police are still on the lookout for a suspect after a woman reported being sexually assaulted at gunpoint last week near the Sacramento Center in Mount Vernon.

The woman was walking east towards Richmond Highway when she “was approached from behind” around 9:29 p.m. on Wednesday (Aug. 17) in the 8700 block of Sacramento Drive, the Fairfax County Police Department said on Friday (Aug. 19).

“The victim was pulled into the nearby bushes where she was sexually assaulted at gunpoint,” police said. “The victim was able to break free from the suspect, and he ran away in an unknown direction.”

According to police, the woman was transported to a nearby hospital for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries.

A search for the unidentified suspect remains ongoing:

Patrol units, along with our canine and helicopter, saturated the area to locate the man responsible for this incident, but he was not found.

Yesterday, detectives canvassed the area to identify any witnesses and surveillance footage that may have captured the suspect before or after the attack. The suspect was described as an unknown race male, 5’8″ to 6′, and with an average build. At the time of the attack, he was wearing all black clothing with gloves and a black mask covering his head. He was armed with a handgun. Detectives are asking community members who reside in the area to review home surveillance in the evening hours of Aug. 17 for any suspicious people.

The FCPD says anyone who might have information about the incident can contact its detectives at 703-246-7800, option 2. Tips can also be submitted anonymously through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

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Morning Notes

Sun shines through tree leaves in Vienna (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Man Dies After Fairfax City Crash — “A 32-year-old Maryland man died from injuries he received when the motorcycle he was riding Monday afternoon collided with an SUV on Chain Bridge Road in Fairfax City, according to a police release.” [Patch]

Suspect in Fatal Springfield Stabbing Extradited — “This evening, Jose Heber Hernandez Mejia was extradited back to Fairfax County from South Carolina. He’s charged with 2nd degree murder for the July 17 domestic-related stabbing in the 5200 block of Rolling Rd. Hernandez Mejia was held on no bond.” [FCPD/Twitter]

Arrests Made in Child Solicitation Sting — “Six men ranging in ages from 26 to 43 were arrested by Fairfax County Police as part of an online sting to identify and apprehend predators seeking to exploit children using the internet, according to a police brief.” [Patch]

Food Stolen From Mount Vernon Daycare — “Officers were called to the KinderCare at 4287 Buckman Road early Monday morning for a burglary that occurred over the weekend. When officers learned thousands of dollars worth of food was stolen from the center, they quickly jumped into action to ensure the kids wouldn’t go hungry by purchasing breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks.” [FCPD/Facebook]

Virginia Sees Bump in Pro-Choice License Plates — “Pro-life and pro-choice license plates aren’t new to Virginia: The commonwealth has issued ‘Choose Life’ plates since 2009 and ‘Trust Women. Respect Choice.’ since 2010…Since the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, though, more people are buying pro-choice plates.” [Washingtonian]

Fire Department Enlists Starbucks for Backpack Drive — “#FCFRD is partnering with select local @Starbucks stores to collect backpacks for underprivileged children. Backpacks will be given to local schools in #FairfaxCounty for distribution. Backpacks will be collected until August 12. Please donate a new backpack today!” [FCFRD/Twitter]

Metro Seeks to Add More Trains — Metro is seeking permission to operate more of the 7000-series trains that were sidelined late last year after a derailment in Arlington, according to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission. The transit agency is currently permitted to run 64 cars, or eight trains, per day, as long as their wheels are inspected daily. [The Washington Post]

State Legislators Consider Changes to Recall Process — “Activists in Virginia are increasingly turning to the state’s court-driven recall process to try to take out their frustrations on local officials they feel have done something wrong…The fact that the recalls almost never work doesn’t seem to be stopping the trend, but it’s causing some lawmakers to rethink a system that empowers judges, not voters, to decide when politicians deserve to be kicked out of office early.” [Virginia Mercury/Inside NoVA]

“American Idol” Winner to Take Wolf Trap Stage — “Her victory on Season 3 of ‘American Idol’ made her a household name. Now, Fantasia Barrino is bringing her signature sound to Wolf Trap in Virginia on Aug. 19.” [WTOP]

It’s Wednesday — Rain starting in the afternoon. High of 88 and low of 77. Sunrise at 6:19 am and sunset at 8:11 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Amelia Carr’s first year working for Fairfax County Public Schools was miles apart from what she had imagined when she declared that she wanted to become a teacher in her sixth-grade yearbook.

The Bucknell Elementary School kindergarten teacher began her career as an educator in the unpredictable world of September 2020, when classes were confined to the computer due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While the virtual setting wasn’t ideal, especially for restless kindergarteners, Carr made an effort to encourage the same level of engagement and socializing that her students would’ve gotten in person, whether that meant creating a YouTube channel or sending materials in the mail.

“I did Lunch Buddies where we would eat lunch together. In kindergarten, playtime is really important, so we would still do ‘playdates’ on the computer,” Carr said. “…Because they had nothing to compare it to, they were just excited to meet new friends because they had been so lonely during the pandemic.”

Carr didn’t navigate the turbulence of school in a pandemic alone. Her best friend, roommate, and fellow “Outstanding Elementary New Teacher” award winner Shelby Press became a second-grade teacher at Riverside Elementary School in fall 2020.

Press credits the University of Mary Washington education program that they both attended and the shift online in the middle of their final semester with giving them the classroom experience, tools, and flexibility needed to handle that first year.

“We had a good sense of technology, a really strong background of how to apply lessons, make them virtually, how to make them engaging, and also, most importantly to us, making things culturally responsive to our students,” she told FFXnow. “Working at Title I schools, our students come from various different places, speaking many different languages, and it was important for us to really reach those students through the camera.”

Summer classes underway at FCPS

Now approaching their third year with FCPS, Press and Carr are among the many teachers supporting the school system’s ongoing summer learning programs, which have been significantly expanded over the past two years in response to the pandemic.

As of mid-July, FCPS had 33,500 students enrolled in its summer programs, according to spokesperson Jennifer Sellers. Options include enrichment activities as well as credit recovery and Extended School Year (ESY) services for students who need academic help. Read More

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A historic landmark in Fairfax County is getting presidential treatment, though it will require visitors and tourists to walk under scaffolding for a while.

The first U.S. president’s Mount Vernon plantation is undergoing a restoration on the eastern side of the mansion.

Exterior work to preserve the home began in late March and could finish this fall. Crews are closely replicating the look that George Washington wanted, where the exterior resembles sand blocks but is actually wood covered in sand and paint.

“It’s essentially the same process that Washington had because he wanted a house that looked like stone, but it’s all wood,” Mount Vernon President and CEO Doug Bradburn said. “The boards would be cut to look like stone blocks.”

Work on the west side, where the main entrance is located, occurred in 2019, and the other sides underwent restoration in 2021.

“This east side is the most complicated,” Bradburn said. “We’ll do the interior later in the year.”

Matt Briney, Mount Vernon’s vice president of media and communications, said the work is funded through ticket sales, retail sales, donations and memberships.

The destination typically draws over 1 million visitors per year, but the COVID-19 pandemic led the site to close for 99 days in early 2020.

Mount Vernon saw 384,000 visits that year, around 450,000 in 2021, and could reach 500,000 or 600,000 this year, Briney said.

The site always sees a three-year recovery from dips over a century’s worth of data, he said.

To help boost the tourism sector, public and private sector partnerships have launched a digital marketing pass for discounts to Mount Vernon and other destinations in southern Fairfax County.

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Morning Notes

Tysons Tales pop-up park outside The Boro (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Board Chair “Saddened” by Buffalo Mass Shooting — “I am both saddened and angered over the senseless loss of life that took place in Buffalo, NY. The racial hate that reportedly motivated this horrific attack is inexcusable. I am keeping the victims and their families in my prayers.” [Jeff McKay/Twitter]

Nearly Half of Metrorail Operators Lapse Recertification — “Metro management is taking immediate corrective action to remove from service 72 train operators who became out of compliance prior to May 2021. This will result in a temporary reduction in Green and Yellow line service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes due to an operator shortage…Service impacts are expected to continue until the end of May.” [WMATA]

Police Investigate Deaths Near Robinson Secondary School — “Detectives are on the scene in the 10400 blk of Stallworth Ct. in Fairfax after officers discovered two deceased persons following a welfare check. Preliminarily, this appears to be a domestic-related incident. There is no known threat to the public at this time.” [FCPD/Twitter]

FCPS Considers Co-Ed Sex Education Classes — “An advisory committee recently approved a plan to mix boys and girls in grades 4-8 during Family Life Education instruction; a practice that is done in some area school systems but not in others…Board members are expected to discuss mixing-genders in Family Life Education classes as early as June.” [ABC7]

Area Eagles Suffer from Lead Poisoning — “Toxins in the environment, and especially lead, [Jeff Cooper] suspected, were hurting bald eagles in Virginia more than ecologists realized…The findings went beyond Cooper’s fears: Nearly half of bald and golden eagles in the United States, and in the D.C. region, have chronic lead poisoning.” [The Washington Post]

Person Shot in Mount Vernon Near Richmond Highway — Fairfax County police officers responded to Buckman Road and Janna Lee Avenue on Thursday (May 12) after a person was shot in the upper body by someone “seen pointing a silver handgun from an older model black Toyota Highlander.” The victim’s injuries were not considered life threatening, and police don’t believe it was a random act. [FCPD]

Couple Recalls Meet at Clyde’s in Reston — As Clyde’s prepares to close on Saturday (May 21) after 31 years at Reston Town Center, resident Kristin Simons reflects on having her first date with her now-husband at the restaurant. Since then, Clyde’s has become a go-to destination for the family for everything from brunches to work-related celebrations, she says. [Fairfax County Times]

Princess Diana Exhibit Comes to Tysons — “The new experience, called Princess Diana: Accredited Access Exhibition, is said to be the world’s first-ever walk-through documentary by its creators…Tickets to the experience are now on sale…and the event’s first day open to the public will be on May 25 at Tysons Corner Center.” [WUSA9]

Tysons Pedestrian Bridge Falling into Place — “The perfect cure for a gloomy day? Check out the most recent progress pics of our new ped bridge over the Beltway in Tysons, opening this year!” [VDOT/Twitter]

It’s Monday — Rain in the afternoon and evening. High of 74 and low of 62. Sunrise at 5:57 am and sunset at 8:17 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Tennis player Lea Blinder practiced with a Slinger ball feeder machine yesterday (Wednesday) at Chalet Woods Park in Centreville, happy to hear that the courts there are slated for repairs.

The Arlington resident, who plays tennis at Chalet Woods a few times a week, was working on her swing before her lesson that afternoon. The three courts are surrounded by towering trees in a cul-de-sac by homes.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, noting that families also enjoy the park.

Expected to undergo repairs and get new color coating for its tennis courts and a basketball court, Chalet Woods is one of five parks across Fairfax County in line for court maintenance and renovations projects this year.

George Washington Park court demolition begins

One of the biggest scheduled overhauls will be at George Washington Park in Mount Vernon (8426 Old Mt. Vernon Road), where the Fairfax County Park Authority has proposed converting the four existing tennis courts into six dedicated pickleball courts and two shared-use courts with lines for both sports.

The county announced on Wednesday (April 27) that a vendor will begin preparing the GW Park courts this week for demolition. The courts are expected to be closed for four months for resurfacing process, depending on the weather.

“Once new asphalt is laid, the courts will sit undisturbed for a period of two to four weeks to allow the color coating to adhere properly,” the park authority said in its news release. “New fencing and nets will be installed once the color coatings have set and the courts are ready to open again.”

People can comment on the proposal through May 27 to 65533@PublicInput.com. The plan is expected to be finalized in early June.

Maintenance needs pave way for pickleball additions

As illustrated by the GW project and a similar renovation planned at Lewinsville Park in McLean, the park authority is using the schedule for repairing and resurfacing many tennis courts as an occasion to make upgrades and add new facilities, especially for pickleball.

“We’ll be nearly doubling the amount of pickleball courts that we have in the next two years,” FCPA Project Manager Adam Wynn said at a March 23 board meeting.

Building on a pickleball study from December, the county plans to create 37 to 42 additional pickleball courts, most of which could take place in coming months, the park authority reported at that meeting.

According to spokesperson Judy Pederson, the FCPA will undertake court maintenance and renovation projects this year and next at Chalet Woods, George Washington, Lewinsville, McLean Central Park, and Dowden Terrace Park near Bailey’s Crossroads.

“As always, [work is] weather dependent and contractor availability will determine how far we get,” she said in an email.

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