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by Dave Emke — October 16, 2017 at 3:45 pm 7 Comments

The man police say murdered Nabra Hassanen in June will face charges of capital murder and rape, the Associated Press reports. According to the AP, the grand jury ruling against 22-year-old Darwin Martinez-Torres in Fairfax County Circuit Court came down today.

A capital murder charge can be punishable by death. Virginia state code allows prosecutors to pursue a death penalty under certain conditions, including premeditated murder during a rape. The county’s prosecutor indicates that he will seek the death penalty in the case.

Hassanen was part of a large group of teenagers walking and biking on Dranesville Road at about 3:40 a.m. Sunday, June 18 after a Ramadan service at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. The suspect allegedly approached the group in a car and argued with a teenage boy. The group scattered, but police say Martinez-Torres caught up a short time later armed with a baseball bat. Hassanen was struck and taken in the car. Her body was discovered later that day in a Sterling pond.

Days after Hassanen’s death, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler said the possibility of sexual assault during the attack was being investigated. Monday’s grand jury ruling, however, is the first official indication that it is believed a rape was committed.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainer was lodged against Martinez-Torres immediately following his arrest. The 22-year-old native of El Salvador was living in Sterling illegally. While rumors circulated that he is a member of the gang MS-13, FCPD has said there is “no credible information” pointing to that.

Police say Martinez-Torres committed the crime as part of an extreme case of road rage. Members of the community, including Hassanen’s friends and family, have suggested the crime was fueled by a bias against Muslims.

A vigil at Lake Anne Plaza in honor of Hassanen, just days after her death, drew thousands of mourners.

A preliminary hearing for Martinez-Torres last week was disrupted when Hassanen’s parents began shouting at the suspect and threatening him. The suspect ultimately waived his right to the hearing, allowing the case to proceed without further delay.

by Dave Emke — October 13, 2017 at 2:05 pm 20 Comments

(This article was updated at 2:50 p.m. following the conclusion of the hearing.)

A preliminary hearing in a Fairfax County court Friday afternoon for the suspect in the June murder of Nabra Hassanen was disrupted when her family’s anger boiled over.

The hearing was briefly halted after disruptions and outbursts directed toward the suspect, 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, which included Hassanen’s father shouting “You killed my daughter!” and lunging toward the suspect. Hassanen’s mother also threatened and threw a shoe at the man.

Fairfax County deputies rushed into the crowded courtroom to maintain order, while the judge and Torres were ushered out of the room for safety.

At least five people were individually removed from the courtroom, WTOP reporter Mike Murillo reported, for their outbursts. Two, including Hassanen’s father, were forcibly removed by guards. The hundreds in attendance, many of whom were wearing “Justice for Nabra” T-shirts, were then all ordered out of the courtroom. The hearing was moved to a smaller courtroom and made private.

No cameras were allowed in either courtroom.

Torres, who faces a second-degree murder charge, ultimately waived his right to the preliminary hearing. That means the case is cleared to advance to trial.

by RestonNow.com — October 11, 2017 at 2:45 pm 7 Comments

Those seeking justice for the murder of Nabra Hassanen, whose death rattled the Reston community this summer, will have their first day in court this week.

A preliminary hearing for the Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s prosecution of murder suspect Darwin Martinez Torres, 22, will be on Friday in Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

Judge Kimberly Daniel will preside over the hearing for the court, according to Rae Ann Stein, who works for the Fairfax County Court Services Administration in records management. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations court has jurisdiction over juvenile matters, including offenses committed by adults against juveniles under the age of 18.

Torres is charged with killing 17-year-old Hassanen of Reston on June 18 in what the Fairfax County Police Department calls a deadly case of road rage. She was a sophomore at South Lakes High School.

Police say Hassanen was part of a large group of teenagers walking and biking on Dranesville Road at about 3:40 a.m. after a Ramadan service at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. The suspect allegedly approached the group in a car and argued with a teenage boy. The group scattered, but police say Torres caught up a short time later armed with a baseball bat. Hassanen was struck and taken in the car. Her body was discovered later that day in a Sterling pond.

Torres, who is a citizen of El Salvador and was living in Sterling without legal permission, had a detainer request lodged against him by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Hassanen was laid to rest as a martyr of her Muslim community on Wednesday, June 21. Later that same day, the community packed into Lake Anne Plaza for her vigil.

Torres was incarcerated at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center without bail, according to police. Authorities are seeking the harshest punishment, while many in the community are calling for the murder charges to be elevated to a bias-related crime.

by Dave Emke — September 28, 2017 at 9:00 am 1 Comment

Reston Association Board Meets Tonight — Directors are scheduled to give their thoughts about Fairfax County’s proposed zoning ordinance amendment on Reston density, appoint a new member to the Board and make decisions on budget items, among other actions and discussions. [Reston Now]

Search Warrant Gives Details of Nabra Hassanen Killing — The newly unsealed document reports that the man accused of killing the Reston teenager in July led police to her body after officers found him in his blood-stained vehicle. [Washington Post]

Fall Book Sale Starts Today — The Friends of Reston Regional Library will be hosting their semi-annual fundraiser sale from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 3:30 p.m. Sunday. [Friends of Reston Regional Library]

Sound Artist at GRACE Gallery Tonight — Alex Braden will perform a new piece composed in direct response to “Sue Wrbican: Well Past the Echo,” now on display at the gallery (12001 Market St.). The event is scheduled for 6-7 p.m. [Greater Reston Arts Center]

by RestonNow.com — September 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm 33 Comments

NextStop Theatre Company (269 Sunset Park Drive, Herndon) is hoping to spark open dialogue about Muslim assimilation and identity in America with the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Disgraced,” which opens Thursday.

According to a press release from NextStop, several recent incidents have made this an issue of great relevance locally:

Not only did a viral video of an anti-Islam encounter in a Reston grocery store recently sweep the internet, with more than 3 million viewers watching the shocking incident, but the family of a recently murdered [Reston] teen believes their daughter was targeted because of her religion. Additionally, incidents of vandalism have also shaken residents recently, with the Northern Virginia Jewish Community Center being targeted and graffiti found on a highway wall of Baron Cameron Drive near Fairfax County Parkway espousing hate messages.

In the play, “Amir” (portrayed by Jesse Bhamrah) is a Pakistani-American who has hidden his Muslim background as he finds success as a Manhattan corporate lawyer. He struggles with his identity and America’s complex attitudes about Muslims and Islam throughout the play.

“This is an opportunity to have conversations with people about identity and open up and explore who you are,” said Thembi Duncan, the play’s director, in the release. “That doesn’t necessarily sound pretty in marketing language, but you’re learning more about yourself by seeing these other people … and the only way that we move forward as a society is by making human connections across lines of difference.”

In addition to Bhamrah, the cast includes other professional actors from the DC area including Nahm Darr, Jordan Friend, Chaela Phillips and Jenna Rossman. The production team includes Jack Golden, set designer; Kristina Martin, costume designer; Jonathan Alexander, lighting designer; Kevin Alexander, sound designer; Keta Newborn, stage manager; Jessica Dubish, assistant director; Cheyanne Christopher, assistant stage manager; Marilyn Lopes, costume design apprentice; Jonathan Abolins, master electrician; and Kristin Pilgrim, fight choreographer.

Performances will be each Thursday through Sunday, through Oct. 1, with general admission tickets ranging from $17.50 to $55. The show contains adult language and situations that may not be appropriate for all audiences.

by Dave Emke — July 31, 2017 at 9:00 am 21 Comments

Silver Line Struggling to Maintain Riders — Phase 1 of Metro’s Silver Line expansion fueled an unprecedented building boom in areas adjacent to its five stations, the Washington Post reports. However, the line has struggled to attract riders in the three years since it opened. Only the Wiehle-Metro East station is even close to projected ridership numbers. [Washington Post]

Remembering Bob Simon — In a piece for an English-language Indian newspaper, Manish Nandy remembers the stories Bob Simon told him during daily walks around Lake Anne. [The Statesman]

‘White Liberals Give Themselves Too Much Credit’ — In an opinion piece for an “intersectional feminist” magazine, a Restonian looks back on the death of Nabra Hassanen, saying that hate lives here and everywhere. [Wear Your Voice]

Work Today at Park & Ride — The access road to the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride will have daytime lane closures for paving from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Drivers should watch for flaggers, who will help direct traffic around the lane closures. [Fairfax County]

Teavana Stores Shutting Down — Starbucks announced last week will close all 379 of its Teavana stores, which it says have been underperforming. This will include the store in Reston Town Center (1826 Library St.). [CNN Money]

Get Ready for Terraset — All rising Terraset kindergarteners are invited to the Terraset playground from 5:30-6:30 p.m. on Wednesdays in August to meet classmates and play on the new Terraset playground. The August kindergarten play dates are sponsored by Terraset Elementary School and Terraset Elementary Parent Teacher Organization (PTO). Representatives from the PTO will be on hand Aug. 2 and Aug. 9 to answer parent questions. No RSVP is required. [Terraset Parent Teacher Organization]

by Dave Emke — July 26, 2017 at 9:00 am 3 Comments

Hassanen Murder Suspect Court Date Set — A preliminary hearing has been set for Friday, Oct. 13, for the prosecution of Darwin Martinez Torres. Torres is accused of attacking, abducting and killing Nabra Hassanen in the early morning hours of June 18. [Connection Newspapers]

Libertarian Leaders Speaking in Reston — The Young Americans for Liberty conference, taking place today through Saturday at the Sheraton Reston Hotel, will feature more than 40 speakers sharing Libertarian values. Among them will be Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) and Judge Andrew Napolitano. [Young Americans for Liberty]

Changes Made to WMATA Board — The Trump Administration is replacing a pair of safety specialists, who were appointed by President Obama’s transportation secretary, with a pair of finance and budget bureaucrats who worked in the Bush Administration. [WAMU]

Work Being Done on Reston Station Staircase — The stairs from Reston Station Boulevard to the Wiehle-Reston East plaza are closed for repairs, which include new tiles on the landings and improvements to the drainage system. [Fairfax Connector]

Nearly $60M in County’s Carryover Budget — The county executive recommends the funds be used in part to fund reserves and infrastructure needs, along with other projects including the demolition of the Massey Building. [Fairfax County]

Supreme Court Ruling Leads to Changes in Sign Zoning — After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “content-based” regulations on signs do not meet the strict scrutiny test required by the First Amendment to protect free speech, the County must re-examine its zoning rules regarding messages on signs. [Fairfax County]

by Katherine Berko — July 13, 2017 at 9:00 am 0

Saving the Environment One Straw at a Time — Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day. Karan Marari, 11, of Reston, is aiming to reduce their use locally with his “no straw request.” He is educating restaurant owners, urging them to change their wait staff’s behaviors and practices that lead to the unsolicited placement of plastic straws in patrons’ drinks. [Reston Connection]

One Month Anniversary of Nabra’s Death  An event is scheduled for Sunday to mark the one-month anniversary Nabra Hassanen’s killing. The goal of the event is to ease people’s pain through prayer. [All Dulles Area Muslim Society]

Boating Safety Tips  The Marine Patrol Unit has published a list of safety tips for those who plan to spend time on the water. These include wearing a life jacket, checking the durability of one’s boat, bringing emergency items such as snacks and water onboard, and more. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Line Dancer to Instruct Tonight at Lake Anne — The “Take A Break” concert series at Lake Anne Plaza will continue tonight with a dance night from Cedar Creek. Learn to dance as the tunes take over. [Lake Anne Plaza]

by Dave Emke — July 6, 2017 at 2:45 pm 5 Comments

As the community continues to grieve after last month’s shocking killing of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen, the All Dulles Area Muslim Society is providing opportunities for support.

“It’s still having a shock wave, a ripple effect, however you want to describe it,” said Joshua Salaam, ADAMS Center chaplain, prior to a parent-outreach session Thursday afternoon at Forest Edge Elementary School. “People of all ages, all genders, all ethnicities are so traumatized by it.”

To help work through that trauma, the ADAMS Center along with Fairfax and Loudoun counties have been reaching out into the community to lend strength. Further relief opportunities have been announced for later this month, including listening sessions, youth hangouts and a letter-writing campaign.

In addition, a public gathering to reflect on the tragedy is scheduled for Sunday, June 16, from noon-3 p.m. at the ADAMS Center (46903 Sugarland Road, Sterling). Abidah Ali, ADAMS Center youth coordinator, said the afternoon will be directed toward young people, but all members of the community are invited to attend and show their support.

Salaam said the July dates are the beginnings of a year-long support plan to help the community work its way through the stages of grief.

“[The plan] involves a diverse way of healing — some might be with animals, some might be with art, some might be with writing,” he said. “We want it to be long-term, so youth and parents are given hope that they’re not just going to be forgotten about in a week.”

To be kept up-to-date on future activities related to coping with the loss, text @e4Nabra to 81010. You can also stay connected through the ADAMS Youth website.

by Dave Emke — June 28, 2017 at 3:35 pm 5 Comments

Following a Washington Post report that the man accused of killing 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen last week is involved with MS-13, county police say otherwise.

In a media alert Wednesday afternoon, the Fairfax County Police Department says there is no credible information to link 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, a Salvadoran national living in Sterling, with any gang.

“Homicide detectives investigating the murder of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen looked into whether the suspect, Darwin Martinez Torres, is a gang member or affiliated with gangs, but have found no credible information to support any connection. The case remains active and we will release additional information as we can. Martinez Torres remains at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.”

Using information received from a Loudoun County woman, the Washington Post reported Tuesday that Torres “had punched, choked and sexually assaulted [the woman] and was a member of the MS-13 street gang.” The newspaper also cited Loudoun County Child Protective Services documents that “were read to a Washington Post reporter.”

FCPD has worked to combat rumors throughout its investigation into the brutal killing last Sunday morning. It has also repeatedly shot down community insistence that the Muslim teen’s slaying was hate-motivated. Rather, they’ve said, Torres was experiencing extreme road rage when he drove onto the curb, exited his vehicle with a baseball bat and attacked.

Nabra’s violent death has struck a chord within the community at large. A crowd in the thousands came out for a vigil in her honor last week at Lake Anne Plaza.

by Kalina Newman — June 28, 2017 at 9:00 am 4 Comments

Torres Linked to Previous Attack, Gang — A week before Darwin Martinez Torres was arrested and charged with murdering Nabra Hassanen, a woman reported he had punched, choked and sexually assaulted her. She also claims he is a member of the MS-13 street gang. [Washington Post] (Editor’s Note: The Fairfax County Police Department later said there is “no credible information” to support gang ties.)

Brew House To Host Beer Rally Tonight — Teams of three will run three laps around Lake Anne. Each lap is a mile and a half, and contestants can either run one lap each or all three laps together. There will be prizes raffled and a chance for free drinks. [Lake Anne Brew House/Facebook]

Reston Hospital Center Gives Out Scholarships  Last week, the medical staff of Reston Hospital Center awarded $15,000 worth of scholarships to 15 Fairfax and Loudoun County high school seniors. Hasmah Hussain, from  South Lakes High School, was one of the recipients. [Reston Hospital Center]

Modified Bus Schedule for July 4  Fairfax Connector buses will run on a Saturday schedule on July 4. [Fairfax County Goverment]

E. Ethelbert Miller at Greater Reston Arts Center  Writer and literary activist will come to the Greater Reston Arts Center at 6 p.m. Thursday. Miller has been the editor of poetry magazine Poet Lore for 10 years, and he is the author of several collections of poetry and two memoirs.  [Greater Reston Arts Center]

by Kalina Newman — June 26, 2017 at 4:00 pm 21 Comments

As the community continues to recover after last week’s brutal killing of a Reston teenager, one activist says the psychological impact on surviving youth will live on.

“For many of us in Northern Virginia, it’s really during Ramadan where we carve out special places to feel like home,” said Aya Saed, a Harvard Law School student and organizer for the Deeply Rooted Retreat for Black Muslim Youth. “For the crime to have happened in this moment is really quite traumatic to young people who are just starting to creating safe spaces for themselves and forever.”

Saed and other prominent members of the area’s Muslim community appeared on “The Kojo Nnamdi Show” today on WAMU to reflect on the slaying of Nabra Hassanen and discuss its implications on a future generation of Muslim children.

Nabra, 17, was attacked and abducted in the early morning hours June 18 while walking back from McDonald’s after an overnight service at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society. She was beaten to death and her body was found in a Loudoun County pond. Fairfax County police say that her killing followed an extreme case of road rage.

“Any time this type of incident happens, it runs deep,” said Joshua Salaam, ADAMS Center chaplain, of the community atmosphere following Nabra’s death. “Any individual can point back to five [or] six incidents in the last year where the victim was a Muslim.”

Carmel Delshad, a news producer for WAMU, said young Muslims are fearful in a time when violence against them appears to be increasing.

“I think mosques are doing what they can to ensure extra security measures in place,” she said. “People are looking over their shoulder [and] they’re taking self-defense classes just to be prepared.”

Saed said that kids Nabra’s age, both locally and elsewhere in the country, have been rocked by what happened to her that morning.

“It’s worth talking about the kinds of psychological impact this is having,” she said. “For many young Muslims, this is the only reality that they know in the United States.”

(more…)

by Dave Emke — June 22, 2017 at 1:30 pm 11 Comments

The possibility that 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen was sexually assaulted during the events leading to her death is being investigated, police say.

Edwin Roessler, Fairfax County Police Department chief, told media prior to the start of a vigil in Nabra’s honor Wednesday that test results are being awaited before any official statement can be made.

“At this point in time right now, it’s an active investigation,” Roessler said. “We’re pursuing that possibility [that a sexual assault happened], but we have to wait for forensic examination results and the report of autopsy from the medical examiner to confirm whether or not that took place.”

The assaults Nabra suffered prior to her death were “one continuous event” that began in Fairfax County and ended in Loudoun County, Roessler said. He reiterated once again, emphatically, that no evidence has emerged that points to the killing as being a hate crime.

“Right now, that is a myth on social media,” Roessler said. “There is no evidence at this point in the investigation, at all, that this was hate-motivated.”

Roessler said if anyone has information that would point toward the crime being bias-motivated, he wants to hear it. But he shot down several questions from media regarding rumors about the suspect’s motives.

Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society expressed his confidence in the work of the Fairfax County Police Department, and he thanked them for all they have done already to help put the pieces together.

“We are so glad that they were able to find [the suspect] and get him into custody very quick,” Magid said. “The community has trust in [the police] in this investigation. They told us they will not leave any stone unturned in this investigation, and we appreciate that.”

The suspect, a 22-year-old Salvadoran national named Darwin Martinez Torres, remains in custody at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center. He has a court date set for July 19.

by Dave Emke — June 22, 2017 at 10:15 am 11 Comments

She was beautiful. She was selfless. She was caring. She was open-minded. She was compassionate. She was so many other wonderful things.

Her name was Nabra Hassanen.

That message was heard by a crowd of attendees in the thousands at a vigil in her honor Wednesday evening at Lake Anne Plaza. It was shared by the family and friends of the slain 17-year-old Reston girl, as well as by members of the area’s interfaith community, as they said goodbye to a beloved young lady taken too soon and too violently.

She was a young lady who must be remembered as more than just another faceless victim of a violent crime, mourners reminded.

“We tend to talk about ‘a Muslim woman’ or ‘a black woman,'” said Herndon native Rosalie Kendall, who now lives in Arlington. She came to the vigil with a sign that read, in part, #SayHerName. “[We don’t] talk about them by name when these things happen, and that makes them seem like they’re interchangeable and disposal.”

One of Nabra’s family members who addressed the crowd during the vigil repeated the sentiment.

“I just want to say, ‘I love you, baby girl, and I know you’re looking down,’ and I just hope she rests easy,” said a cousin. “Thank you all for coming and please don’t forget to say her name.”

In addition to tearful speeches from friends and family, the vigil featured an address from Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, of which Nabra was a member and where she was just before she was killed early Sunday morning by a Salvadoran national police say experienced extreme road rage. Nabra was laid to rest earlier Wednesday following a funeral service at ADAMS.

Magid said the large crowd of all ages, religions and races that came out Wednesday night to support Nabra was a testament to her spirit.

“The love and the respect and the care this community has shown to all of us is overwhelming,” Magid said. “Everybody made us feel as if this is their own daughter, and I appreciate that very much.”

Other speakers included Rabbi Michael Holzman of the Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation, as well as a representative of Restoration Church, located very near Nabra’s home on Becontree Lane.

Nabra was a sophomore at South Lakes High School, and the event was organized by the SLHS Muslim Student Association. Principal Kim Retzer spoke on behalf of the school.

“As we mourn the loss of Nabra, we delight in the fact that we were part of her journey and she touched our lives in a very meaningful way,” Retzer said. “We will remember her for the joy she brought us in the short time we knew her, for her sweet smile, for her love of family and friends, and for the way she united our school and our community.”

The community came together with an outpouring of signs, flowers and kind words during the vigil. A memorial book was signed by many of those who attended, and some made displays of their condolences through chalk artwork on the bricks at the plaza’s entrance.

Nada A., a Muslim woman from Reston who declined to provide her full last name, was one of those who left a message in chalk. After drawing a heart with “In Loving Memory – Nabra” etched inside, she said that while she didn’t know Nabra personally, she felt a connection with her.

“This is bringing people together and shattering any sort of boundaries; any sort of taboos; any racial, social or religious boundaries,” Nada said. “Everyone is just gathering for a girl whose life was just taken away too soon — it really is just the common factor.”

Romin Patel, who lives at Lake Anne, said he came out for the vigil because he was compelled to show his support for the community.

“We are one, there is no different race,” he said. “If we could just help each other out, it would be great for society as a whole.”

For more scenes and reactions from Wednesday’s vigil, see below.

(more…)

by Dave Emke — June 21, 2017 at 2:45 pm 21 Comments

Homicide detectives from the Fairfax County Police Department will continue to lead the investigation into the death of 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen of Reston.

Jurisdictional issues have arisen since the crime, which took place just before 4 a.m. Sunday. Police say Nabra was assaulted and abducted near the intersection of Dranesville Road and Woodson Drive, which is just east of the Fairfax/Loudoun county line. Police say she was then taken to Loudoun County, where she was assaulted again and her body was thrown into a pond.

According to police accounts, Nabra and a group of friends had been at a Ramadan service at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society and were on their way back after going to breakfast at the McDonald’s in the Town Center at Sterling plaza. Both of those places are just west of the Fairfax/Loudoun line.

“The Fairfax County Police Department has partnered closely with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office with the common goal of justice for Nabra as well as for her family, friends and community,” FCPD said in a news release. “Our department will continue to work alongside the Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney as this case moves forward.”

Police have charged 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres, a Salvadoran national, with murder in the case. They say Torres became enraged with the group of teens and exited his car wielding a baseball bat, striking Nabra. An autopsy revealed her cause of death as blunt force trauma.

Nabra was finishing her sophomore year at South Lakes High School.

Police say they are not investigating Nabra’s death as a hate crime; however, Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh has said he will continue to weigh the possibility before deciding how to proceed with the case. Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney Jim Plowman says he supports the decision to keep the case in Fairfax County and “will lend any assistance if requested.”

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