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Police Investigate Potential Threat at South Lakes High School

Local police say there is no evidence connected to a threat of violence at South Lakes High School.

On Friday, police investigated the possibility of a threat after receiving a report that a student threatened to “shoot up” the high school on social media.

According to the report, the student posted a picture on Snapchat with guns. If anyone reported the incident, the student threatened to shoot at the school, according to a parent of one of the students who reported the incident.

In a statement to Reston Now, Fairfax County Police Sgt. Brad Woehlren said the threat was investigated and “no threats, charges or arrests” were made.

The parent said he was impressed with how the school and its security officer handled the report.

I personally am very happy with how South Lakes is protecting our kids and I think it would help empower others to feel safe coming forward if they knew that South Lakes takes these issues seriously and can show that action was taken to prevent anything from happening,” said Ray Boatwright.

The school was under a lockdown in March after police received reports of a student with a gun. No weapon was found.

File photo

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Spot a helicopter? — Don’t be alarmed. Helicopters are flying low in the area as crews conduct maintenance on power lines and wires in the coming days. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Obsolete offices — Fairfax County’s oldest office buildings have some of the lowest vacancy rates — even though they’re considered obsolete. That’s despite the fact that trophy towers are going up in Tysons and Reston. [Washington Business Journal]

Ashburn Shooting Arrest — A Centreville man has been arrested in connected with the shooting of a Reston man on Sunday at an Ashburn home. [Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office]

A new age — Metro’s Silver Line brings in a new age for Reston. Some fear development will ruin the community’s character. Others say it will fulfill its vision. [The Washington Post]

Photo submitted by Wade Gilley

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Langston Hughes Middle School Students Stage Walkout

Roughly 200 students participated in a walkout on Friday (April 21) at Langston Hughes Middle School (11401 Ridge Heights Road).

The walkout was in honor of the anniversary of 13 victims of the Columbine High School shooting.

Students left the school building at 10 a.m.. Most students re-entered the building and returned to fifth period class while a small group of students remained to continue the walkout.

Below is a message from Langston Hughes Middle School Principal Aimee Monticchio:

FCPS respects the rights of our students to engage in peaceful protest and express their opinions through speech and other ways as long as it is done respectfully, does not interfere with the rights of others, and does not disrupt learning in the school.   Our school is committed to providing an environment where everyone is treated with respect and encouraged to help others.

Our teachers, administrators and staff continue to reinforce a sense of positive school community focused on teaching and learning in our increasingly complex world.  We thank you for your continued partnership in working with your child to discuss meaningful actions that they can take to engage in studies of all issues and participate fully in their community.

Similar walkouts happened at the school on February 21 and on March 14 in order to remember the victims of a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

File photo

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Monday Morning Notes

Shooting on Sunday in Ashburn —  A Reston man was shot at early Sunday at a home on the 43500 block of Dunhill Court, according to the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office. [Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office]

Population density debate fires up — The Coalition for a Planned Reston will meet tonight to discuss a proposal by the county to increase the community’s population density. [Coalition for a Planned Reston]

Bookmark this, book lovers — Friends of the Reston Regional Library will host its semi-annual book sale from Thursday through Sunday. [Friends of the Reston Regional Library]

Alcohol enforcement update — Officers from the Reston Neighborhood Patrol Unit conducted business compliance checks late last week at 11 businesses. 10 passed. [Fairfax County Police Department]

Photo by Sarah Mccue

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Florida School Shooting Prompts Discussion about Security at South Lakes High School

South Lakes High School is emphasizing its security and protest policies after a Florida high school shooting left 17 students and faculty dead.

Kim Retzer, the school’s principal, said the last several days have been “intense as the conversations and actions around school violence have taken place.” Last week, more than 350 students walked out of the school and stood outside midday for 17 minutes.

In response to mixed reactions about the walkout, Retzer said that Fairfax County Public Schools respect students’ rights to engage in peaceful protest and express their opinions, so long as the form of expression is “done respectfully, does not interfere with the rights of others, and does not disrupt learning in the school.”

“Students participating in marches or walkouts are expected to participate in class and to respond to administrative questions and directives in the same way as all other students,” she added.

School policies also encourage teachers to remain in class with students who do not participate in walkouts. Staff can participate during “non-work time,” she said.

The school regularly assesses its safety protocols, staff indicated. Retzer described Dave Bonner, a school resource officer stationed at SLHS as “pro-active”  and “experienced.” Bonner routinely collaborates with the resource officer at the adjacent Hughes Middle School.

The school installed interior and exterior video surveillance several years ago and is in the process of upgrading older equipment.

Retzer expressed support for the feedback and support received by the school in the past week.

“I know I have hugged my child a little tighter in recent days,” she said.

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Del. Ken Plum: More Than Enough

This is a commentary from Del. Ken Plum (D-Fairfax), who represents Reston in Virginia’s House of Delegates. It does not reflect the opinion of Reston Now.

“Enough is enough” is a slogan adopted by many advocates for action to end gun violence, but with 290 school shootings in the U.S. since 2013 clearly we are to the point that the shootings that have occurred in schools and numerous locales are more than enough.

Last Wednesday started off as a usual day at the legislature with the added feature that it was Valentine’s Day with lots of red decorations in the hallways and an abundance of chocolate available. It was also the first day of Lent with ashes offered at several nearby churches.

The day took a sharp turn in the late afternoon as the news media brought early reports of another instance of school shootings; this time at a school in Parkland, Florida. The timing was critical in that the General Assembly had over the past several weeks defeated with minimal debate and consideration more than 30 bills intended to reduce gun violence. My bill for universal background checks was among those.

The process for considering these bills was the same for all of them regardless of their approach. In the House the bills were assigned to the Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee and then to a subcommittee on guns composed of six members–four of whom have perfect NRA ratings. The outcome of the hearings is predictable. The advocates make many good and passionate arguments on behalf of common sense gun violence prevention legislation.

The NRA representative states the organization’s opposition along with someone from the Virginia Citizens Defense League with little argument or comments. The vote is always two for and four against. As important as the bills are to many people they are defeated; four members of the House of Delegates with their minds already made up decide for all 100 members of the House. There are few voting records to check because most members never get the opportunity to vote on gun regulation issues.

The strong concern among members of the press and on social media makes it clear that the legislature is going to have to respond to gun violence issues. Unfortunately, the schedule for introducing new bills in this session has passed; otherwise bills would have been introduced in response to the Florida shootings. Legislators would have had to confront the reality that there has been more than enough gun violence.

New York Times article offered some direction as to how legislatures might proceed. An article “How to Reduce Mass Shooting Deaths? Experts Say These Gun Laws Could Help” first appeared on October 5, 2017. It found that there is no way to eliminate the risk of mass shootings, “but there are a handful of policies that could reduce the likelihood of such events or reduce the number of people killed when such shootings do occur.” These include denying purchases by anyone convicted of certain felonies, universal background checks, limiting the sale of certain types of weapons and ammunition, and waiting periods for purchases.

In the next cycle of elections, positions of candidates on gun violence will play an even greater role in who gets elected. If minds of incumbents do not change, voters are likely to change their elected officials. The public has had more than enough.

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Herndon Father of Five Killed by Taliban in Afghanistan

Rahim Barak, a 58-year-old father of five, was killed by Taliban insurgents during a chaotic siege at Kabul’s largest hotel last month. It was the first time the U.S. citizen, who lived in Herndon for the last 17 years, visited his home country in 30 years.

Three other U.S. citizens were killed in the Jan. 20 attack. Insurgents stormed the Intercontinental Hotel, a prominent hilltop hotel often visited by foreign guests and envoys. Barak was found with a single gunshot to the head. Others were found with burnt bodies and missing body parts. Hundreds of other guests spend the night hiding in rooms, unsure if they would survive the night.

Minutes before the incident, Barak had taken a photo with two friends as they dined at the hotel. The picture is the last possession his family has of him when he was alive.

Political turmoil and conflict caused by the Soviet Union’s invasion of the Afghanistan pushed Barak to flee from his home. He sought refuge in Peshawar, Pakistan and came to the United States in the late 1980s to build a new life for himself and his family.

Leaving behind his studies in law, Barak took up a motley of jobs at a pizza restaurant, Dulles International Airport, Marriott and a movie theater, working long hours and six days a week at one point. Family members and friends remember him for his loving personality and generous nature.

Barak later married his wife of 22 years and had five children. The youngest is six. Most recently, he worked as a cab driver and a travel agent.

His eldest son, Fawad Barak, 21, describes his father as a “people’s champ” who was always ready to offer a helping hand and sacrificed his life “for the betterment of his family, children, and loved ones.”

“There were very few moments where he was able to enjoy the fruits of his labor but most of his life, especially since the war in Afghanistan, he aimed to seek a better life for his family and children,” his son said. “I remember my father would always tell me that the sweat, toil and tears that he put in for his family will soon be relieved when his eldest child graduated from college and so forth with his other children following his footsteps.”

His father’s dream is now coming close to reality. His eldest son is wrapping up his junior year at George Mason University. In meantime, his son hopes to pass down the dreams and passions that drove his father’s hard work to his siblings.

“I am blessed and grateful to have been in a presence of such a beautiful human being, and most of all for him to be my father will be the greatest honor bestowed upon me while I’m on this earth,” he said.

Barak is survived by five children and his wife. Hundreds attended funeral services at All Dulles Area Muslim Society center in Herndon several weeks ago. He was known for regularly attending pre-dawn prayers at the mosque.

“The amount of love and support from the community we have received and the attendance at his funeral services displays a true testament of his character and who he truly was,” his son said.

A LaunchGood campaign for the family has raised $11,343 since it was launched on Feb. 1.

Photos via Fawad Barak

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BREAKING: Shooting on Greywing Square Wednesday Night

police lineFairfax County Police are looking for a suspect in a shooting Wednesday night near Hunters Woods Village Center.

A 42-year-old man told police he was walking home from work in the 12000 block of Greywing Square about 10:45 p.m. when he heard gunshots.

The man then realized he had been shot in the upper body. He was taken to Reston Hospital, where he is being treated for non-life threatening injuries, said FCPD spokesman Don Gotthardt.

Police searched for the suspect, described by police as a thin black man wearing all black clothing, via helicopter, K9 and ground units.

The suspect has not been located, Gotthardt said Thursday morning. It is unknown if the suspect and victim know each other, he said.

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Update: Man Shot by Deputy Swung, Struck Officers With Metal Signpost

Signpost used as weapon in attack/Credit: FCPD

The man who was shot and killed by a Fairfax County Sheriff’s Deputy on Monday night near Inova Fairfax Hospital appeared to be in a mental health crisis as he pulled a metal signpost out of the ground, striking a security officer and lunging at other authorities, Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roesller said.

The Sheriff’s Deputy who shot the man had tried to negotiate with him to put the sign post down, Roessler said at a Tuesday media briefing. When he was unable to diffuse the situation, he shot the man.

The man was immediately given first aid by officers at the scene. Fairfax County Fire Rescue personnel arrived and transported the man back to the hospital, where he died from his injuries about 4 a.m.

“This is a tragic loss of life and includes an event where someone else was injured,” Roessler said. “This is an active situation.”

Police have not identified the man, pending notification of next of kin. Roessler said he was a 29-year-old Hispanic man.

Here is what happened, according to police.

The man was released from Inova Fairfax Hospital, where he was being treated for an undisclosed issue, shortly before 10 p.m. Monday. He was escorted by security staff to a bus stop near the complex’s green garage.

Within a few minutes, two emergency calls came in that someone was swinging a weapon at the bus stop. Hospital security responded, and a guard was struck and injured with the signpost. Security then called 911.

A Fairfax County Sheriff’s Deputy, on routine assignment guarding jail inmates at Fairfax Hospital, heard the 911 call and responded (as did FCPD officers). The deputy at the scene was an 18-year department veteran who has crisis intervention training, Sheriff Stacey Kincaid said.

“The deputy was crisis trained as was attempting to negotiate,” Roessler said. “But the man raised the post and began charging. The deputy gave the orders to cease and he was trying to retreat, but the man kept charging. He fired his duty weapon, a 40-caliber Glock, and struck the man.”

At first, FCPD said the man’s injuries were not life threatening. A autopsy will be performed, police said.

Anyone who might have witnessed this incident is asked to contact the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131.

Photo: Signpost used as weapon/Credit: FCPD

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Man Dies After Being Shot by Fairfax Sheriff’s Deputy Monday

police lineA man is dead after he was shot by a Fairfax County Sheriff’s Deputy outside of Inova Fairfax Hospital in late Monday, Fairfax County Police said.

About 10 p.m. Monday, hospital security called FCPD to report that a suspicious man “with some sort of edged weapon” was seen at a bus stop in the Falls Church area of the county outside the hospital’s green garage.

An on-duty deputy with the Fairfax County Sheriff’s Office responded to the bus stop and located the suspicious man. FCPD said preliminary information suggests that the man threatened the deputy with an unidentified object, prompting the deputy to discharge his service weapon, striking the man.

Three Fairfax County police officers then arrived and immediately began to render aid to the injured person until rescue arrived. The man was transported to the hospital, where his injuries were originally said to be not life threatening.

The man, whose name has not yet been released, later died at the hospital, police said. FCPD will have an update on the incident at 11 a.m.

The deputy, whose name has also not been released, has been placed on administrative leave.

Police said there is no further threat to public safety and there are no other suspects.

Anyone who might have witnessed this incident is asked to contact the Fairfax County Police Department at 703-691-2131.

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Police: Second Incident of Shots Fired Into Herndon Home

Fairfax County Police Fairfax County Police said there has been a second incident of a bullet being shot into a home in unincorporated Herndon.

Earlier this week, a shot was fired into the bedroom of a 9-year-old girl as she slept in her home in the 2100 block of Monaghan Drive in Herndon. The bullet was found in her mattress, police said.

On Friday at around 10:48 p.m., gunfire apparently was aimed at the same home. A man called police and said he was in his living room when he heard several gunshots.

Officers who processed the scene found that a bullet had penetrated into the residence. Police also found numerous bullet holes located on the exterior of the dwelling but had not entered into the home. There were no injuries, police said.

About 12:30 a.m. on Saturday, officers were still on scene and conducting their investigation when they heard several more gunshots coming from a nearby street. Additional officers and resources responded to check the area.

Officers are continuing their investigation, conducting a canvas, and increasing their presence in the area. There is no suspect information at this time and the investigation is ongoing, police said.

Anyone with information about this incident is asked to contact Crime Solvers electronically by visitingwww.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text-a-tip by texting “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES(274637)** or by calling 1-866-411-TIPS(8477), or call Fairfax County Police at 703-691-2131.

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Gun-Wielding Man Shoots Down Door to Enter Reston Hospital

Reston Hospital

A man with a self-inflicted gunshot wound fired a gun to break through a glass door to Reston Hospital Center’s Pavilion entrance early Wednesday, Fairfax County Police said. Once inside, he fired another shot in the direction of hospital staff.

Fairfax County Police responded to the call about 1:30 a.m. after a 53-year-old Loudoun County man with an apparent gunshot wound to the upper body couldn’t get into the hospital and fired a shot to get in, police said.

Police spokesman Don Gotthardt said the man attempted to gain entry to the hospital, but found the doors locked.

“He gets out of his car in front of the hospital and attempts to gain entry to the hospital,” Gotthardt told WTOP. “He found the doors locked, so he apparently fires a bullet, a round at the glass doors, breaks the doors, gains entry into the hospital.”

“Once inside, he encounters hospital personnel, who immediately realize he’s in need of medical attention. When they go to render aid, he displays a handgun again and fires another bullet inside the hospital. Fortunately, that did not hit anyone.”

Hospital security then convinced the man to give up his handgun.

Police said the man was then stabilized and taken to another hospital for treatment and evaluation.

The man had tried to get into the Pavilion entrance to the hospital, not the emergency room entrance. Emergency room doors are accessible at all hours.

The police investigation is continuing, and the man has not been charged, police said. There is no threat to public safety.

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2015’s Top Stories: Fatal Shooting at Shadowood

Fatal Shooting on Stoneview SquareThis week, Reston Now will highlight some of the most read-stories of 2015. The second-most read story this year was the shooting in May at Shadowood that left one man dead.

An otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon turned deadly last May when a fight broke out on Stoneview Square at Shadowood Condominiums in Reston.

First reported by police as a home invasion, it later was determined a group of men who knew one another got into a fight. One person fired a gun. A man was dead and another injured.

Rashad Kejuan Daye, 24, was killed in the altercation at the residence of Kevin Baldwin, 22. Baldwin was not charged in the incident, police said, because the shot was fired in self defense in his home.

Others are facing charges, though the death is not being investigated as a homicide.

Jalan Merrill, 21, of Herndon, was charged with robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Also arrested were Eddie Rodriquez, 22, of Woodbridge, and South Lakes High School student Dominique May, 18, of Reston. Both were charged with robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Whether to pursue May’s and Rodriguez’s cases are still being pursued by a Fairfax County Grand Jury. Merrill’s was considered Nolle Prosequi (the case will not continue) by a judge several months ago.

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Sad Reminder: Fairfax County Offering Tips to Stay Safe in an Active Shooting

After two mass shootings in the last week, Fairfax County Government has embarked on a public awareness campaign on what to do if you are part of a mass shooting situation.

On Wednesday, 14 people were killed and many more injured when two shooters — a husband and wife —  opened fire in a county government building in San Bernardino, Calif. Last Friday, three people, including a police officer, were killed in a shooting at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo.

San Bernardino was the 355th mass shooting this year, says The Washington Post.

“Just like in any other emergency situation, the best thing you can do is to be prepared with information on what to do next,” says Fairfax County materials.

“Whether it’s an incident like Wednesday’s shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., or you are in the checkout line at the mall or drafting an email in your cubicle — what would you do if you heard gun shots and realized an active shooter was nearby?”

FCPD says remember the words “Run/Hide/Fight” to get you through.

Run:

If there is an escape route, attempt to evacuate.
Leave your belongings behind.
Follow instructions of responding emergency personnel.

Hide:

Hide in an area out of the active shooter’s view.
Block entry to your hiding place and lock the doors.
Send a text message to 9-1-1 if you’re able, but ensure your safety first.

Fight:

As a last resort and only when life is in imminent danger.
Attempt to incapacitate the active shooter.
Act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.

Police also say when calling 911, here is info to provide:

  • Location of the active shooter.
  • Number of shooters.
  • Physical description of shooters.
  • Number and type of weapons shooter has.
  • Number of potential victims at location.

When You Are in a Safe Place:

  • Remain calm and follow instructions.
  • Raise hands and spread fingers.
  • Keep hands visible at all times.
  • Avoid making quick movements toward officers such as attempting to hold on to them for safety.
  • Avoid pointing, screaming and/or yelling.

See more Run/Hide/Fight resources on Fairfax County Government’s website.

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Nearby: Crime Solvers Seeks Tips on Recent Gunshot Cases

Bullet hole in bulding on Worldgate Drive/reader photoFairfax County Crime Solvers is seeking the public’s help in determining who shot at two buildings in separate incidents in the Herndon area of Fairfax County earlier this month.

The first incident occurred on Monday, Aug. 3, around 10 p.m. at a business in the 2200 block of Monroe Street.

The second incident occurred between the hours of 10 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4, and 8 a.m. on Wednesday, August 5, at a business in the 2200 block of Corporate Drive.

Another incident the same week was reported to Reston Now. Those bullet holes were were found in windows of a building in the 12000 block of Worldgate Drive, also in unincorporated Herndon.

In each incident, the business was closed. The suspect fired several shots, striking the front of each building and fled.

There have been additional incidents reported to the Town of Herndon Police Department as well.

Those incidents occurred during the overnight hours of Thursday, July 23 into Friday morning, July 24 and Tuesday, July 28 into Wednesday morning, July 29.

Detectives continue to follow up on leads in these cases and ask anyone with information to contact Crime Solvers. Tipsters may submit a tip electronically by visiting www.fairfaxcrimesolvers.org or text-a-tip by texting “TIP187” plus your message to CRIMES(274637)** or by calling 1-866-411-TIPS(8477).

A $100 to $1,000 cash reward will be paid for information that leads to an arrest and indictment in the Fairfax County incidents.

Photo: Bullet hole in office building/reader photo

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