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A dog believed to be a Staffordshire terrier was found chained up and shot in Mount Vernon (via FCPD)

A dog was chained up and shot this morning in the residential neighborhood behind the Woodlawn Shopping Center in Mount Vernon, police say.

Officers responded to the area of Bedford Terrace and Beekman Place at 3:35 a.m. after getting a call that there was a dog chained to a fence, according to the Fairfax County Police Department. Upon arriving, they discovered the animal had a gunshot wound.

“The chain was immediately removed, and the dog was taken to a nearby veterinarian’s office. The dog remains with the veterinarian receiving further care,” the FCPD said in a news release published this afternoon.

Police later determined that a community member had called earlier in the evening “after hearing a dog barking and a single gunshot,” the department said, adding that officers had searched the area but “did not find anything suspicious.”

The FCPD is now on the lookout for the owner of the dog, which is believed to be an adult, male Staffordshire terrier.

Police are asking residents in the neighborhood to review any surveillance footage they might have from last night. The department’s Animal Protection Police can be contacted at fcpdanimalprotection@fairfaxcounty.gov.

The FCPD also accepts anonymous tips through Crime Solvers by phone (1-866-411-TIPS) and online.

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Rendering shows an expansion and a renovation for the Mount Vernon RECenter (via Fairfax County)

The Mount Vernon RECenter is closing at the end of the month for a two-year, $74 million renovation project.

The nearly four-decade-old recreation center right off Belle View Blvd is set to close at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31 to allow for a massive expansion and renovation.

The plan is to add about 75,000 square feet to the rec center, which is set to include a two-story fitness center, building upgrades, an indoor track, a remodeled pool, and a second “NHL-sized” ice rink. The project is expected to take two years, with a reopening scheduled for the early part of 2025.

The Fairfax County Park Authority’s board officially approved the upgrades to its “oldest and most popular” facility back in March.

The recreation center, which opened in 1974, has had a myriad of problems in recent years, requiring workarounds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in short-term fixes. That includes renting ice chillers and dehumidification systems as well as fixing a failing roof.

While closing the entire facility for two years was a “tough” decision, it was the best option of several the county considered, FCPA director Jai Cole said in a press release:

The decision to close the entire facility for two years was a tough one; but it is the best option when it comes to delivering the most desirable outcome and limiting the impact of the closure on our customers. We have worked very hard to create a schedule that has enabled the facility to remain open for as long as possible prior to construction and to condense the closure period as much. While we understand that the temporary closing is challenging, we very much look forward to delivering a top-notch, state-of-the-art facility that will serve this community well into the future.

The total project is set to cost just over $74.4 million, an 83% increase over the proposed 2021 budget. Last year, county officials set the budget at $40.7 million, but it became clear that number was unrealistic.

According to a May 2022 presentation, bids came in much higher due to supply chain delays, building infrastructure challenges, and “complex construction phasing with market uncertainty.”

Even in the six months since then, the budget has risen again by another $7 million.

“The total project budget is $74,431,381 — an increase of $33.73 million over the original 2021 budget,” FCPA spokesperson Ben Boxer wrote FFXnow in an email. “The cost increase has been driven by ongoing supply chain challenges and inflation. The cost increase is consistent with construction cost increases across the board on all projects.”

The 24-month closing of the facility is also expected to cost the county $1.3 million in revenue.

The additional money needed for the project will come from a reallocation of other bond funds that had been marked for other projects as well as $25 million from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) that was provided to the county, per Boxer.

Residents who have countywide rec center memberships will be able to use it to access the county’s eight other eight centers. The George Washington Rec Center near Mount Vernon High School will expand its hours on Jan. 2, 2023 to accommodate the closure of the Mount Vernon center.

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Fairfax County police car (file photo)

(Updated at 1:15 p.m.) A Lorton man charged with alleged sexual battery of a minor may be responsible for a separate, earlier sexual assault against a woman in Mount Vernon, police say.

The Fairfax County Police Department announced today that additional charges have been filed against Louis C. Allen, 42, after they matched his DNA to evidence collected from a sexual assault at a Mount Vernon Lakes apartment on Feb. 2.

According to police, a woman reported entering her apartment building in the 8300 block of Brockham Drive at 7:05 p.m. that day and being “grabbed from behind by a man,” who sexually assaulted her.

“The victim was able to fight off the suspect. He left property behind as he ran away,” the FCPD said in a news release. “This item was collected as evidence and sent to the Department of Forensic Science (DFS) for DNA testing.”

According to police, the DFS analysis detected Allen’s DNA on the evidence that was collected.

Allen was arrested on May 24 for allegedly touching a kid inappropriately multiple times at a playground in Lake Accotink Park on May 21. He was charged with aggravated sexual battery and served warrants for assault of a family member and failing to appear in court for previous offenses, the FCPD reported at the time.

Fairfax County General District Court records show that Allen previously arrested for an attempted vehicle burglary on Oct. 25, 2020.

He was initially charged with possession of burglary tools and entering a vehicle, which are misdemeanors, as well as destruction of property over $1,000 — a felony. However, the felony was later downgraded to a second misdemeanor charge of entering a vehicle, and Allen entered a no contest guilty plea at a preliminary hearing on Jan. 26, 2021.

He was also arrested on May 13, 2021 for an April 12, 2021 assault and battery incident.

After the Lake Accotink arrest, police said Allen was initially being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. A judge set a bond of $50,000 in the case that hasn’t been paid, according to a Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court clerk.

Right now, though, Allen is in a Tennessee jail on charges of sexual exploitation of a minor and aggravated photography of a minor, the FCPD said today. He was extradited from Fairfax County to face those charges after the May 24 arrest, according to the department.

“Detectives traveled to Tennessee and obtained DNA from Allen,” police said. “DFS was able to provide a DNA confirmation based on the direct comparison of the DNA collected from Allen and the collected evidence” from the Mount Vernon assault, for which he has been charged with abduction with the intent to defile and object sexual penetration.

According to the FCPD, Allen will be extradited from Tennessee to Fairfax County for Lake Accotink Park assault. He’s scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 15.

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Fairfax County police car lights (file photo)

(Updated at 8:15 p.m. on 12/1/2022) A man was found shot outside The Landings I apartments in Mount Vernon Tuesday (Nov. 29) afternoon.

Officers were called to the 8500 block of Hyman Way near Richmond Highway for a shooting at 3:27 p.m. and found an adult man in the parking lot with gunshot wounds to his upper body, the Fairfax County Police Department said.

The victim was transported to a hospital with injuries initially considered life-threatening, though his status was upgraded upon his arrival at the hospital, according to police.

The FCPD said at 4:05 p.m. that a person of interest had been taken into custody. Police determined that the shooting had occurred inside an apartment near the parking lot.

“Officers took a person of interest into custody and located a firearm,” the police department told FFXnow. “The person of interest and the victim are known to each other. Detectives continue to investigate to determine the circumstances that led up to the shooting.”

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Cyclists on the Mount Vernon Trail (via National Park Service)

The George Washington Memorial Parkway and the mostly parallel Mount Vernon Trail could see some substantial changes, with the former being narrowed and the latter being widened.

The plans cover the southern portion of the parkway, covering 15.2 miles from Arlington Memorial Bridge to Mount Vernon. This area includes the majority of the Mount Vernon Trail, though a portion of the parkway and trail through Alexandria isn’t part of the project.

The National Park Service (NPS) will soon present and accept public comment on plans that aim to boost safety with a variety of changes for both pedestrians and drivers along the corridor.

“The road and trail improvements being considered would enhance the visitor experience for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists,” the NPS said in a release. “Potential improvements to the road include the implementation of a new road diet (reducing lanes through pavement striping to improve safety) in some areas, new crosswalks and intersection changes. Potential safety enhancements for the trail could include trail widening and intersection improvements.”

A virtual meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 6. The meeting will be virtual (Webinar ID: 314-024-315).

Comments can be submitted after the meeting online until Jan. 4.

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

A 20-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly burglarizing two Latino restaurants in Mount Vernon earlier this month, Fairfax County police announced last week.

Police say surveillance footage showed the man, a resident of the county’s “Alexandria area,” breaking into Mezcalero Restaurant three times and Mana Pupuseria once from Nov. 13-18.

The Fairfax County Police Department had been investigating the burglaries since the first one at Mezcalero was reported on Nov. 13.

The man was arrested on Nov. 19 after officers in the Mount Vernon Police District responded to the Walmart at 7910 Richmond Highway for a larceny report.

“[He] was wearing clothing that matched images seen on surveillance footage from the four previous reported burglaries,” the police department said in its news release. “Through investigation, detectives determined Flores was responsible for the four commercial burglaries.”

According to the FCPD, videos showed the suspect using a brick to destroy the windows of the two restaurants. He stole merchandise and property, but the amounts are still being determined as part of the police investigation, the public affairs bureau told FFXnow.

The man has been charged with four counts each of burglary and destruction of property, vehicle tampering and petit larceny. The burglary charges are felonies, while the others are misdemeanors.

The Fairfax County General District  Court confirmed that the man is being held without bond at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Jan. 4.

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Residents at Engleside Mobile Home Park (courtesy Tenants and Workers United)

Residents of a mobile home community off Route 1 held a rally Tuesday (Nov. 15) to voice concerns that new ownership could push out current residents.

At a gathering with representatives of community organizers Tenants and Workers United, residents from Engleside Mobile Home Park and Ray’s Mobile Home Colony shared concerns that a recent purchase of the property could lead to rent hikes and evictions.

Marianela Reynado explained that the Engleside property was sold to $24.2 million to Pacific Current Partners despite efforts by residents and a nonprofit to raise funds to purchase the property and keep it affordable.

The sale was finalized Tuesday, according to TWU. Pacific Current Partners could not be reached for comment.

Residents organized in 2020 to oppose a plan that added density to the site. The building owners at the time said there were no plans to redevelop the lot in the near future. The recent sale, however, has raised doubts about those assurances.

According to TWU, residents were notified this September that the owners at the time, Ahora Company LC and Rapido Company LC, had gotten offer from Pacific Current Partners and intended to sell the mobile home parks just two months later.

“I’ve lived in this community for 14 years,” Saul Hernandez said. “It’s a good space, a place for our children. It’s a safe place, a calm place, and knowing that this is a place where there could be an increase in our rents… it’s a place we don’t want that to happen.”

Larisa Zehr, an attorney from Legal Aid Justice Center, told attendees at the rally that there are only eight mobile home parks in Fairfax County, meaning there are increasingly few places in the area available to mobile homeowners.

“Mobile home parks fill an important gap in available affordable housing,” Zehr said. “They’re relatively affordable without subsidy and an asset, as residents have said today, which is very different than an apartment complex where the rent goes to a landlord and the tenant has nothing.”

Another one of the county’s mobile housing communities, Harmony Place in Hybla Valley, was sold to a developer in December, even though residents offered $1.5 million more to take ownership, according to DCist.

A manufactured housing task force created by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last year delivered a report in September with recommendations for how to preserve the county’s 1,750 “mobile” housing units and ensure they remain affordable.

The county has adopted the term manufactured homes, rather than mobile homes, which it says is misleading.

“Unlike traditional homeownership in which the property and the home is owned by a single entity, manufactured homes are typically owned by the occupant who rents the land from a separate entity,” Fairfax County Housing and Community Development said. “In most cases, the homes are not mobile.”

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The Justice Department logo (via DOJ)

A 29-year-old man from Mount Vernon could face life in prison after pleading guilty to transporting a teen for sexual purposes, the Department of Justice announced yesterday.

Apipat Vutipawat pleaded guilty last Thursday (Nov. 10) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania to charges that, from May 29, 2020 through June 2, 2020, he transported an unidentified minor from Virginia to Pennsylvania “with the purpose of engaging in any illicit sexual conduct,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

According to the Observer-Reporter, Vutipawat was arrested on May 14, 2020 in Pennsylvania’s Richhill Township after police found him in a vehicle with a 14-year-old girl who said he was her boyfriend. He had allegedly met the girl through a dating app and faced multiple local assault charges.

Vutipawat pleaded guilty to aggravated indecent assault in Washington County Court and was sentenced to over three years in prison on Jan. 14, according to court records.

Vutipawat was indicted on three federal charges in March 2021, including traveling with the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct, transportation with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and obstruction of justice.

With his guilty plea, he faces a total sentence between at least 10 years and life in prison, a fine of up to $750,000, or both, according to the DOJ.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for 11 a.m. on March 16, 2023.

“Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed is based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history of the defendant,” the DOJ news release said. “Pending sentencing, Vutipawat remains detained.”

The department says the case was part of its national Project Safe Childhood initiative, which started in May 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse. The Fairfax County Police Department joined the investigation with federal, state and local law enforcement in Pennsylvania.

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Farmers market (via Fairfax County)

While the onset of winter usually heralds the end of farmers markets, Fairfax County announced last week that three markets around the county will brave the chill to continue into December.

“The Fairfax County Farmers Markets have extended the season at three popular market locations,” the Fairfax County Park Authority said in a release. “The Reston Farmers Market will remain open until Dec. 3, 2022; the Burke Farmers Market is open until Dec. 17, 2022; and the McCutcheon/Mt. Vernon Farmers Market will be open until Dec. 21, 2022.”

Along with the extended season, some of the markets will be getting a handful of new vendors and new wintery items typically not available in the other seasons.

“Our farmers and producers will continue to bring an abundance of winter squash, greens, apples, potatoes, fresh-baked breads, locally raised meats, and unique prepared foods,” the release said. “Extended season vendors will bring new products, such as macaroons, bagels, kombucha, Moroccan sauces and more. Be sure to visit Burke, Reston and McCutcheon/Mt. Vernon to support your favorite vendors through the season, and to welcome our new vendors.”

The farmers markets with extended hours are:

  • Burke (5671 Roberts Parkway): April 16-Dec. 17, from 8 a.m. to noon
  • Reston (1609-A Washington Plaza): April 30-Dec. 3, from 8 a.m. to noon
  • McCutcheon/Mount Vernon (2501 Sherwood Hall Lane): April 20-Dec. 21, from 8 a.m. to noon

Customers and vendors had requested a continuation into December for the Mount Vernon market — typically the last one to close just before Thanksgiving, according to Park Authority spokesperson Judith Pedersen.

The Burke and Reston markets were also chosen for extensions, because they’re held on Saturdays, are the park authority’s largest, and “have vendors with enough products and product mix to sustain a vibrant market,” Pedersen told FFXnow.

“Unfortunately, the weather is too unpredictable to extend through the winter,” she said. “However, all vendors from the other markets are invited to participate in the extended season at these markets if they have product to sell.”

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Mount Vernon High School (via Google Maps)

(Updated at 1:30 p.m.) Fairfax County police have charged two teens in connection to yesterday’s stabbing at Mount Vernon High School.

A male teen was stabbed in a bathroom “following an altercation with another student,” drawing a police response to the school on Old Mount Vernon Road at 1:17 p.m., the Fairfax County Police Department said in an email.

The student who got stabbed was transported to a hospital with injuries that were not considered life-threatening. Two other teens — both male — “fled the school but were quickly identified and taken into custody by officers,” the FCPD said.

No other injuries have been reported, and police say there was no threat at the school after the teens fled, though a shelter-in-place order was “briefly” issued.

“One juvenile was charged with malicious wounding,” the police department told FFXnow this morning. “The other juvenile was charged with trespassing and principal in the second degree of malicious wounding. Both were taken to juvenile intake.”

The teen charged with trespassing is not a student at Mount Vernon High School, police confirmed.

The FCPD didn’t say what weapon was used, but a local scanner watcher indicated that it was a pocket knife.

Fairfax County Public Schools directed all questions to the police when asked about the stabbing incident.

Photo via Google Maps

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