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Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

Fairfax County Public Schools will require all workers to undergo “regular” background checks after a now-terminated counselor remained employed at Lincolnia’s Glasgow Middle School despite being convicted of a sex crime.

The new policy is one of several changes announced yesterday (Tuesday) by FCPS Superintendent Dr. Michelle Reid in response to an independent investigation into why the school system continued to employ Darren Thornton after he was convicted on March 11 of soliciting prostitution from a minor in Chesterfield County.

Conducted by outside legal counsel, the investigation found that Chesterfield officials didn’t notify FCPS of Thornton’s arrest on Nov. 19 or about his subsequent conviction, according to a summary of the report.

The Chesterfield Police Department has said that its emails to FCPS bounced back as undeliverable after ending up in a spam folder.

Once informed about the conviction, the Fairfax County School Board “acted without delay,” FCPS says. Reid told the community on Aug. 18 that she and the board had ordered an outside, independent investigation into what happened.

The investigation found systematic human resources issues related to hiring, licensure, leave, dismissal, and resignations, according to FCPS. Among the issues are a pattern of suspending employees without pay after felony convictions, rather than “consistently and promptly dismissing” them.

“These have been exacerbated by factors such as significant leadership churn,” FCPS wrote in the summary. “As we plan to work with identifying and implementing strong systems of accountability, it will be important that we implement these actions with fidelity and have frequent accountability checks.”

Reid said in her message to families that she has “begun to take appropriate disciplinary actions” but didn’t detail which personnel are being disciplined or how.

Reid shared results of the investigation with Glasgow parents at a community meeting yesterday, but said that the full report won’t be made public “because parts of it are protected by attorney-client privilege,” WTOP reported.

In addition to requiring regular background checks of current employees, Reid said FCPS will add more steps to the hiring process, including reference checks with former employers and more timely verifications of their licensure status. It will also seek to dismiss and get licenses revoked for any employees convicted of “barrier crimes.”

The school system is also looking at joining the FBI’s Rap Back program, which notifies employers if a worker’s fingerprints are entered into its database in connection with criminal activity. However, FCPS says it won’t be able to enroll in the program until it’s made available in Virginia.

Reid says FCPS is working with state lawmakers and federal, state and local law enforcement “to ensure timely and robust information sharing and notice regarding employee arrests and convictions.” Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay and School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore-Heizer sent a letter to the county’s General Assembly delegation in August proposing a centralized, statewide notification system. Read More

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Kimball Bryant Winn, arrested for possession of child pornography (photo via City of Falls Church)

(Updated 4:25 p.m.) The City of Falls Church Police announced earlier this week that they’d arrested a man on five counts of Possession of Child Pornography.

Kimball Bryant Winn (64) was arrested on Sept. 9 as the result of an investigation by a task force comprised of Falls Church police and Virginia State Police, according to the release.

“The City of Falls Church Police Criminal Investigation Division began investigating the suspect after receiving a cyber-tip from the Northern Virginia and Washington, DC Internet Crimes Against Children (NOVA-DC ICAC) Task Force about possible crimes involving child pornography. During the execution of the search warrant at the suspect’s residence on August 31, 2022, multiple digital devices were forensically previewed and child pornography was located,” the release stated.

The items were seized and the investigation into the suspect’s online activities is ongoing.

Anyone with information related to the investigation is asked to contact the City of Falls Church Police Department at 703-241-5050.

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Construction on the new, nearly $80 million Franconia Government Center will begin later than expected.

Back in February, construction was anticipated to begin in “early summer,” but it’s now been pushed back a few months to the fall, Department of Public Works and Environmental Services spokesperson Sharon North told FFXnow.

The project is expected to cost about $79.5 million, though that could change with construction bidding currently underway. If commenced this fall, construction will be completed in early 2025 — slightly behind the initial 2024 date.

Located between Beulah Street, Silver Lake Boulevard, and Interparcel Road in Franconia, the 90,000-square-foot building will house a number of county services and departments with the goal of centralizing the services and providing better facilities.

The building will include the Franconia police station, the public library, an active adult center, a childcare center, the Franconia Museum, and the office of now-called Franconia District Supervisor Rodney Lusk, who will run for re-election.

“​​County services in the Kingstowne area of Alexandria are scattered and facilities are small and outdated,” the county’s project page says.

Site of the new Franconia Government Center (via Fairfax County)

The Kingstowne Regional Library’s footprint will double in the new building, getting more seating, group study rooms, a brighter children’s area, and a teen zone with a gaming station.

The Active Adult Center will also nearly double in size to 7,200 square feet of space.

Both are currently in leased space that the county says “has significant challenges including space constraints, limited parking and disruption to operations due to maintenance.”

The Franconia police station, Franconia Museum, and the district supervisor’s office are all currently housed at 6121 Franconia Road, about a mile and a half from where the new building will be.

According to the county, the old building “needs to be replaced” since it is “undersized” and “outdated.” Parking is also insufficient, and the county-owned fuel station is “located within the secure perimeter thereby disallowing access to it by county vehicles other than those used by the police.”

When the county departments eventually move out in a few years to the new one, the old building might be redeveloped and turned into affordable housing.

That part of Franconia is undergoing a lot of changes.

Next to the new building will be a new townhouse development that is being planned. Just down the street, Inova is massively expanding its campus while the nearby Franconia-Springfield Metro might get new bus bays and a layover facility. This is part of the $180 million Frontier Drive extension project.

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Morning Notes

The sky is reflected by the office building at 8150 Leesburg Pike in Tysons (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Metro Warns of Hour-Long Waits for July 4 — “Due to the reduced number of railcars available for service, capacity on Metrorail will be less than previous Independence Days. That means customers should be prepared for longer wait times, up to 60 minutes, and for crowding to occur, especially at the conclusion of the fireworks.” [WMATA]

Unhealthy Air Possible Today — “Code Orange unhealthy air is forecast for tomorrow (Thursday) for the metropolitan Washington region. Area residents are encouraged to limit outdoor activities.” [Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments/Twitter]

Police Make Arrest in Fairfax Shooting — Joshua Daniel Danehower, 33, of Arlington has been charged with second-degree murder after the fatal shooting of 32-year-old Fairfax City resident Gret Glyer. Founder of the online fundraising platform DonorSee, Glyer was reportedly killed while in bed with his wife on June 24. Police describe Danehower as an “acquaintance of the family” but didn’t comment on a potential motive. [Patch, NBC4]

Local Man Indicted for Fatal Alexandria Crash — “A 44-year-old Fairfax County man was arrested on June 22 and faces multiple charges for a February 22 crash on Duke Street that resulted in the death of a driver and injuries to other drivers.” A grand jury indicted Carlos Kami Adar McKethan for aggravated vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence of phencyclidine, or PCP. [ALXnow]

Fairfax City Revises Official Seal — “Fairfax City Council voted unanimously during a Tuesday night public hearing to adopt a new city seal. The new seal replaces one containing depictions of a Confederate soldier and a British lord with no direct connection to the city.” [Patch]

Metro Police to Introduce Body Cameras — “Transit Police officers that monitor Metro stations and buses will wear body-worn cameras starting next year, the agency said Tuesday. The Department of Justice gave the Metro Transit Police Department a $905,000 grant for the cameras last year, but now is moving forward with the program.” [DCist]

Health Food Stall Now Open in Tysons — “#MakawSuperfoods’ grand opening is Friday at noon! The health food restaurant that offers fresh açaí bowls and smoothies, recently opened in @TysonsGalleria. For their grand opening, they will be offering a buy ONE get ONE 50% OFF deal and a FREE gift for the first 25 orders.” [Tysons Partnership/Twitter]

New Garden Proposed at Lincolnia’s Green Spring — “Green Spring’s Moon Gate Garden project will include a mix of traditional and modern design concepts to draw visitors into this new Asian-inspired garden. This new garden will provide sanctuary and inspiration for 200,000 visitors who come to this Fairfax County Park Authority site annually.” [FCPA]

Oakton Office Complex Changes Hands — “Network Realty Partners has acquired Redwood Plaza, a three-building office complex in Fairfax. Va., for $23 million…Located at 10560, 10580 and 10600 Arrowhead Drive, the trio of Class A office buildings were recently renovated with the addition of a new tenant lounge, which features arcade games, shuffleboard, craft beer on tap, and a 24-hour café.” [Commercial Observer]

It’s Thursday — Clear throughout the day. High of 87 and low of 68. Sunrise at 5:48 am and sunset at 8:40 pm. [Weather.gov]

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(Updated at 9:20 p.m.) Tysons Corner Center has been evacuated after reports of at least one gunshot fired in or near the mall.

Despite videos posted to social media showing people fleeing from the mall in a panic, after hearing gunfire, Fairfax County police say this is not an active shooter situation.

There are no reports of injuries stemming from the gunfire, but three people were transported to local hospitals with injuries sustained while fleeing, Fairfax County police said in a media briefing at 5:30 p.m.

“We’re going to find them. I promise you that,” Police Chief Kevin Davis said. “They’ll be held accountable, and that’s going to be in short order. This shouldn’t happen. It can’t happen. This isn’t acceptable to any of us, so enough. We’re going to find these guys and hold them accountable.”

Police said they were unable to confirm the number of shooters or how many shots were fired.

According to the Fairfax County Police Department, the shots were fired after a fight broke out “between a small group” in a walkway on the mall’s second floor. Just after 2:45 p.m., the county’s 911 call center received several calls from community members who said there had been a shooting.

One person told FFXnow shortly after 3 p.m. that a “stampede” prompted Coastal Flats to lock its doors. State police later let patrons and employees leave the restaurant via the exit by Barnes & Noble.

Another tipster says their son was barricaded in the store where he works, while other people reportedly hid in a store’s backroom after hearing shots and screams. One visitor who hid in a store told FFXnow that “people were just running out” of the mall, and some left their belongings behind.

“People were crying outside or just fleeing the scene,” she said.

Tysons Corner Center has been closed since the incident, and it will remain shut down for the remainder of the day with a possible reopening tomorrow (Sunday), police said.

Several law enforcement departments from around the D.C. region joined Fairfax County in the emergency response. Virginia State Police assisted with traffic control.

Police said they found shell casings and other evidence of gunfire, and detectives are in the process of interviewing “double digits” of witnesses who remained on the scene.

Though he acknowledged that gun violence in the U.S. feels “relentless,” Davis sought to reassure the community that the largest mall in the D.C. area is safe, noting that the FCPD has a team of officers specifically assigned there.

“That’s how important Tysons Corner Center is to us and to the community not just in Fairfax County, but the entire national capital region,” Davis said. “All you have to do is say the word ‘Tysons.’ People come here because it’s safe. That’s going to continue to be the case.”

Fatimah Waseem, Angela Woolsey and James Cullum contributed to this report.

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A lab worker is seen at Bode Technology’s facility (via Fairfax County Economic Development Authority)

Bode Technology, which assists Fairfax County and Virginia with forensic services, will spend $2 million to hire more staff to meet its growing needs.

Announced today (Monday) by Gov. Glenn Youngkin and the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority, the investment will help the company hire “additional senior and entry-level laboratory technicians, information technology and engineering professionals and other business support roles,” the news releases said.

“For more than 25 years, Bode Technology has called Virginia our home, and today’s announcement is a testament to that bond,” Bode Technology CEO Mike Cariola said. “To help fight crime, we need to hire the most talented scientists in the world, and the universities in Virginia and surrounding areas have been essential to our success.”

Located at 10430 Furnace Road, the company will get support from the Commonwealth through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, where state funding helps businesses recoup costs of adding jobs.

“Bode Technology is eligible to receive up to $850 per job, for a total of up to $60,350 for 71 net new jobs, from the Virginia Jobs Investment Program (VJIP),” Virginia Economic Development Partnership spokesperson Suzanne Clark told FFXnow in an email. “VJIP is a performance-based incentive. Once a designated funding amount is approved, companies do not receive reimbursement until they have created the minimum net new, full-time jobs to qualify for funding and the new hires have been on the company’s payroll for at least 90 days.”

The company currently has 250 employees.

The governor’s news release noted that the state’s economic development authority worked with the Fairfax County EDA through the Virginia Jobs Investment Program, which provides consultative services and funding to companies creating new jobs to support employee recruitment and training activities.

Bode Technology uses DNA to help law enforcement agencies track criminals, and it also reduces backlogs by processing sexual assault kits, among other services. According to the company, it helped identify victims of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and the remains of U.S. soldiers dating back to World War II.

“Demand for our services has increased, and today we are recruiting talented scientists from across the country to join us here in Fairfax County so that we can continue our mission,” Cariola’s statement said.

Photo via FCEDA

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Construction continues on the new South County Police Station on Lorton Road.

The station will include 34,000 square feet of space and a 23,000-square-foot animal shelter. It also has 20,000 square feet of outdoor space dedicated for the shelter, a fuel island to support fleet vehicles and parking.

“The addition of the South County Police Station will allow the department to organize smaller patrol areas and decrease response times throughout the county,” a Fairfax County Police Department spokesperson told FFXnow.

While the facility isn’t slated to open until the spring of 2023, the police department is already working to recruit officers. A hiring event is scheduled for Friday (April 8) at the Workhouse Arts Center.

The FCPD has added 70 positions over the past few years in preparation for the new station. An additional $290,000 for two initial positions to staff the animal shelter has been proposed in the county’s advertised fiscal year 2023 budget, which is currently being negotiated before the Board of Supervisors’ scheduled May 10 adoption.

Voters approved a $151 million public safety bond referendum in 2015. The facility is expected to cost roughly $30 million to design and construct, according to FCPD.

Here’s more from the county on why the project was chosen:

The growing population of southern Fairfax County will be served by the new police station and animal shelter. Officers will have a shorter distance to drive when responding to calls, and officers won’t be pulled away from their own districts. The new South County Animal Shelter will offer services such as rabies clinics, pet adoptions, spay and neuter services, wildlife education and a volunteer program in a convenient location.

The project was successfully bid out to Forrester Construction in February 2021, and workers broke ground in May of last year.

The county currently has an animal shelter in Fairfax.

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A Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office cruiser (via Abigail Salomon/Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook)

A 38-year-old man from Herndon was charged with larceny and fraud-related charges earlier this month.

Steven Canavan turned himself in to the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center on March 18 in connection with the 2021 incidents, according to a Wednesday (March 30) crime report.

Police belief that Canavan embezzled from Michael & Son Sportsplex in Sterling.

“Upon finishing the investigation it was determine that the employee took cash, items and Venmo payments that were for the business,” the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said.

Someone also reported that Canavan may have attempted to pay back a personal loan with a forged cashier’s check, according to LCSO.

Both incidents happened between June 1 and December 17.

Canavan was released on an unsecured personal recognizance bond.

Photo via Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office/Facebook

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Fairfax County police badge (via FCPD/Facebook)

(updated March 10) After receiving two complaints in the last year, Fairfax County’s Police Civilian Review Panel is recommending that the police department address swatting incidents before one turns tragic.

In its annual report, the panel urged the Fairfax County Police Department to adjust how it handles “swatting incidents” — when police are called on someone as a hoax, putting residents and officers in danger.

It suggested the department could train officers to handle situations that do not match dispatch information, and explore if such calls can be investigated as false reports.

In one of the incidents reported last year, two sisters who lived together in an Annandale townhome said they were awoken at 4 a.m. by officers banging on their door and complained about their conduct and communication, according to the report.

The officers went to the residence after receiving two separate 911 calls from a man who said he was a neighbor and heard a shouting match coming from the home, including pounding on the walls.

Upon arrival, the women did not answer repeated knocks on the door, which they said frightened them because they did not know it was officers and not an intruder, the report said.

The sisters later submitted a complaint to the panel saying the officers were excessively knocking and did not identify themselves.

The panel agreed with the FCPD’s finding clearing the officers of any misconduct, but it discovered from the investigation that there was no follow-up with the 911 caller, whose information was “either outright fabrications or a curious case of mistaken location.”

The FCPD told the panel that it does not follow up calls with unconfirmed or inaccurate information due to privacy concerns and to avoid potentially deterring community members from making 911 calls.

“The Panel understands these concerns, but where the situation is as clear cut as it was here, the Panel believes it would be in the interest of all parties involved to get to the bottom of what happened and why,” the report reads.

It’s not uncommon for officers to encounter a scene that doesn’t match the dispatcher’s description, according to the panel report.

“Under those circumstances, an officer should take steps to clarify,” the report says. “In this instance, the Subject Officers did so by verifying the address and confirming that the Caller did not want to be identified. Nevertheless, the Subject Officers knocked on the door to investigate the Caller’s complaint.”

The panel believes the second reported swatting incident was more clearly deliberate and dangerous for all involved.

A full SWAT team was dispatched to someone’s home after a 911 caller reported shots being fired, according to the panel. Despite the false information, under the circumstances, police followed procedure and diffused the situation quickly, the report stated.

“Still, the Panel was concerned that such a situation could have had a very different and very tragic outcome,” the report says.

Given the seriousness of the dispatch information, the FCPD does investigate incidents like that because they are akin to filing a false police report, it told the panel. But the panel still wondered if more steps could have been taken to prevent the potential for a dangerous situation.

“We had both seen what was either a mistaken address or possibly malicious with one incident,” said Jimmy Bierman in his last meeting as the panel’s chairman on Feb. 28. “We’d also saw a full scale swatting incident. We’d seen variations of degree on 911 calls leading to situations that were dangerous for both individuals involved and the police.”

A spokeswoman for FCPD said there were 11 such incidents in 2020 and 30 in 2021.

The panel typically presents its annual report to the Board of Supervisors’ public safety committee a few months after it votes to pass it, Bierman said.

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For years, Fairfax County officials have conceded that county services in the Kingstowne area are scattered and its facilities small and outdated.

The county hopes that a multi-million-dollar project for a new government campus and library will help shift that narrative.

Construction is expected to begin this summer on the 90,000-square-foot project, which will house the Franconia Governmental Center, the Franconia Police Station, and Kingstowne Regional Library. The building will occupy a county-owned site between Beulah Street, Silver Lake Boulevard, and Interparcel Road.

“The design of the facility is complete, and we are currently in the process of getting bid authorization from the Cap Deputy Director,” said Sharon North, a spokesperson for the county’s Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.

North declined to provide a construction cost estimate because the project has not gone out to bid yet. That will happen in late March or early April.

Expected to be complete by 2024, the project is being funded partly through a $23 million public safety bond from fiscal year 2015 and a library bond referendum in fiscal year 2020.

The campus is expected to be the new home of an Active Adult Center with 7,200 square feet of space — nearly double its current size — and a 10,000-square-foot child care center for infants and preschool.

The Kingstowne Regional Library’s footprint will expand from 15,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet. It will include more space for seating, four group study rooms, a teen zone with a gaming station, and extended hours for public meeting rooms.

Three public meeting rooms are also incorporated in the campus. A 182-space parking garage is planned for the public, along with a 172-space garage for the police station.

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