Tysons Corner, VA

Updated at 1:35 p.m. 8/9/19 — Police said that after a thorough investigation, “our detectives have concluded no criminal activity occurred.”

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An ex-employee of a business within the building sent a suspicious group text message to some of his formercolleagues but there were no direct threats made. The following day, an employee in the building overheard two co-workers discussing the text message and asked another employee for additional information. 

There was a language barrier and through the use of a cell phone translator program, the message was interpreted as a present threat of a man in the building with a gun. Building security relayed the information they received to our dispatch center, prompting the emergency response. 

Our investigation determined that no one was actually seen with a gun and we do not have any evidence that the subject who sent the text message was at the building on Wednesday. 

Earlier: Fairfax County police responded en masse to reports of a man with a weapon at Gannett headquarters in Tysons shortly after noon on Wednesday.

The police department tweeted about the incident at 7950 Jones Branch Drive, in the Valo Park office complex, at 12:25 p.m. today (Wednesday). Police vehicles swarmed the area as the building was evacuated.

Gannett, which publishes USA Today and hundreds of local newspapers across the country, this week announced a merger with fellow newspaper chain GateHouse.

USA Today reported around 1:15 p.m. that the incident resulted from “a mistaken report of a person with a weapon.” Fairfax County Police said that they “have found no evidence of any acts of violence or injuries.”

Police Chief Edwin Roessler Jr. said police received a 911 call around noon that said a former employee was spotted inside the building with a gun. Roessler said there is a person of interest being sought, but that there are no gunshots reported in the building. As of 2 p.m., Roessler said police were still searching the building floor by floor.

“Right now, we do not have any reports of gunshots being fired,” Roessler said. “This is a very large office complex, going to take several more hours to clear the building and make the determination that it’s all clear.”

A reunification center was established at the McLean Hilton (7920 Jones Branch Drive) for evacuated employees.

At a later press conference, Roessler said that police were talking to the person of interest, who was said to be a former employee of a company at the Valo Park complex. The person was located in a different part of Fairfax County and there is no evidence of a crime, Roessler said, adding that officers had “cleared every single inch of that building, from the basement to the roof to the parking garages.”

Police are still reviewing surveillance video to determine if the person of interest was actually in the building, as reported by the 911 caller.

Roessler said the large police response — which included heavily-armed SWAT officers and the Fairfax County Police helicopter overhead — was consistent with how the department would respond to an active shooter situation. The response was necessary, he said, given the initial report of an armed ex-employee.

In a press release this evening, police said that the person of interest “was identified in an unrelated area of the county and officers spoke with him, however, criminal charges are not expected.”

“The investigation is ongoing but we don’t have any evidence that a crime occurred – we’re thankful that this was a non-event,” Roessler said in the press release.

“The right decision was made today, even though it disrupted businesses,” he said. “Our prayers have been answered, everyone is safe.”

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(Updated at 4 p.m. 8/6/19) A driver has been arrested after police say he struck and killed a woman who was walking with a child in the West Falls Church area Saturday afternoon.

The victim was identified by police Sunday (Aug. 4) as 60-year-old Betty Ana Bernstein-Zabza of Falls Church. Police said Bernstein-Zabza died as a result of injuries from the crash, which happened shortly before 3 p.m. Saturday near the intersection of Shreve Road and Hickory Street.

“Detectives from our Crash Reconstruction Unit have preliminarily determined that [Bernstein-Zabza] was walking with a juvenile northbound on a pedestrian pathway adjacent to Shreve Road,” police said. “They entered a crosswalk that connected the pathway to a sidewalk when they were hit by a stolen 2013 Nissan Titan pickup truck.”

While police said that couldn’t unable to provide any information about the identity of the child, WUSA9 reported that the child was Zabza’s son.

The crash scene was near the busy W&OD Trail.

Police arrested the vehicle’s driver — 46-year-old Sterling resident David Alan Francis.

“Detectives believe [Francis] lost control of the truck causing it to exit the roadway and hit Bernstein-Zabza and the juvenile,” police said.

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Bernstein-Zabza was taken to a local hospital where she was pronounced deceased.

The juvenile was treated for minor injuries. Francis ran from the scene but was arrested a short time later. He was not injured.

Both speed and drugs appear to be factors. Francis was charged with one count of felony hit and run. He was taken to the Adult Detention Center where he is being held without bond. Additional charges are anticipated.

Detectives believe Francis may have been involved in additional criminal events yesterday in both Fairfax County and adjoining jurisdictions.

Since 2009, Francis has faced 30 charges including many traffic-related ones like driving under a revoked or suspended license, operating an insured vehicle, speeding and improper driving, according to court records.

An FCPD spokesperson told Tysons Reporter that police preliminarily believe that within the hour prior to the fatal pedestrian crash, Francis was involved in the following incidents:

  • hit and run crash with injury at Route 50/Pleasant Valley Rd around 2:15 p.m.
  • hit and run property damage crash in the 7600 block of Virginia Lane
  • subsequent hit and run property damage crash in the 7600 block of Virginia Lane
  • Falls Church City incident
  • subsequent Falls Church City incident
  • fatal pedestrian crash dispatched at 2:47 p.m.

Police ask that anyone with information contact the Crash Reconstruction Unit at 703-280-0543. Anonymous tips can also be submitted through Crime Solvers by phone at 1-866-411-TIPS (866-411-8477).

Image via Google Maps, photo via FCPD

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Updated at 4:50 p.m. 8/8/19 — “The case is still an active investigation and we can confirm that the manner of death has been ruled accidental with the cause being asphyxiation,” a police spokesperson told Tysons Reporter.

Earlier: Fairfax County police are investigating a boy’s death following a construction accident in McLean.

Police tweeted that two males were involved in a fatal construction accident that happened in the 1800 block of Solitaire Lane.

James Curry, a police spokesperson, told Tysons Reporter that police responded around 3:15 p.m. after a ditch collapsed on a residential construction site, trapping two people. The individuals were extricated and taken to nearby hospitals, Curry said.

“The adult male sustained injuries that are considered non-life threatening,” he said. “Unfortunately, the juvenile did pass away.”

Investigators from the police department and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration are currently trying to determine the exact circumstances of the incident.

Anyone who might have witnessed or who has information about what happened is asked to call the Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800.

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is conducting an autopsy to confirm the cause of death, according to FCPD.

Map via Google Maps

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A person has been struck by a train at the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station.

The incident was first reported by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue around 2:15 p.m. Firefighters were “working to access” the person struck by the train, the fire department said via social media; the person has since been extricated from under the train and taken to a local hospital.

Orange Line trains heading toward Vienna are instead terminating at West Falls Church, Metro said, with shuttle buses running between the West Falls Church and Vienna stations.

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Following a similar announcement in Arlington, the City of Falls Church declared a state of emergency after Monday’s flooding.

This means that through the City Emergency Operations Plan, affected residents could qualify for aid and assistance as directed by state law and city code.

Specified assistance includes fee waivers for bulk-waste pickup on Wednesday, July 17, and rebuilding permits for damaged property, according to the City of Falls Church press release.

The emergency declaration will remain in effect until otherwise noted. More information can be found online.

The full press release is below.

Acting City Manager Cindy Mester declared a local emergency for the City of Falls Church, effective 8:30 a.m. on July 8, 2019, in response to the flash flood emergency. This declaration activates the City Emergency Operations Plan and authorizes the provision of aid and assistance as prescribed by State law and City Code and the ordinances, resolutions and approved plans of the City of Falls Church, in order to mitigate the effects of the weather event. The emergency state remains in effect until rescinded.

To help in the aftermath of the flooding, the City is waiving fees for solid waste bulk collection for the Wednesday, July 17 pick-up and for permits.

Residents must call 703-248-5160 (TTY 711), Option 1 to request special collection by noon on Tuesday, July 16. Bulk items left curbside will not be picked up unless a resident calls to schedule a special collection. This offer is only for current residential curbside customers. Contractor-related work is not eligible for curbside special collection pickup. Brush collection fees are not waived. Visit www.fallschurchva.gov/Special for complete details. Items that are eligible for special bulk collection with waived fees include:

  • Furniture
  • Household Appliances
  • Rugs
  • Other items too large or heavy to fit into a trash container.

Permits for flood-related rebuilding are still required, but the fee is waived. This includes electrical repair, gas appliance replacement, and more. More information can be found through the City’s Building Safety Division and Permits Counter: 703-248-5080 (TTY 711); www.fallschurchva.gov/Permit.Residents and businesses can take the following steps to help in the aftermath of the flooding:

  • Call your insurance company, if you have not already done so, to report damage.
  • If any gas appliances were exposed to floodwaters, do not attempt to either relight or disconnect them by yourself. Contact Washington Gas: 1-844-WASH-GAS (1-844-927-4427), Option 1
  • The Virginia State Bureau of Insurance has staff specifically trained to handle disaster insurance questions and problems. Their website also has free consumer guides on what to do after an insured commercial or home property loss. Virginia State Bureau of Insurance:  1-877-310-6560.

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Updated at 1:35 p.m. — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue tweeted that firefighters rescued the driver of a box truck on Arlington Blvd near Prosperity Avenue around 9:45 a.m. 

Updated at 12:25 p.m. — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue tweeted that it has responded to 55 swift water rescue calls. 

Tripps Run has reportedly flooded into backyards and basements in the City of Falls Church.

Updated at 12:05 p.m. — A spokesperson for the Arlington County Fire Department said that AFCD responded to a hazmat call for a flooded building with a fuel leak in the basement at Coleman PowerSports at 435 S. Washington Street in Falls Church.

Updated at 11:20 a.m. — First responders continue responding to numerous reports of flooded roads and swift water rescues.

Earlier: As flash flooding hits Fairfax County, several drivers are stranded in flooded roadways in McLean, Vienna and Merrifield.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue tweeted at 9:46 a.m. today (July 8) that units are responding to about 30 calls for swift water rescues. The fire department tweeted earlier this morning that a majority of its roughly 11 calls were in the McLean and Vienna areas.

“If you do not have to be on the roads right now – stay off,” the fire department tweeted.

Tysons Reporter spotted several cars backed up and in water along Arlington Blvd (Route 50), which was flooded by Prosperity Avenue.

Earlier today, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue got three occupants out of a car stuck in the flooded roadway at Meadowlark Road and Brookside Lane in the Wolf Trap area.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue also responded to a swift water rescue in the 6500 block of Old Dominion Drive in the McLean area and worked to rescue two occupants from the car.

https://twitter.com/fairfaxcounty/status/1148226955638181888

Catherine Moran and Vernon Miles worked on this story.

First photo via @SteveML9022/Twitter

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Updated at 8:45 a.m. on 6/12/19 — Fairfax County Fire and Rescue has determined the fire was accidentally started in the knee wall space of the second-floor master bedroom by electrical malfunction involving the wiring circuitry to the HVAC unit. 

From the fire department:

One worker was present inside the house, and several workers were outside, when the fire was discovered. The worker inside noticed electrical arcing from the main electrical panel. 9-1-1 was then called. Smoke alarms were present but did not alert due to the location of the fire… The house was vacant at the time of the fire. Red Cross assistance was not needed. Damages as a result of the fire were approximately $75,000.

Earlier: Firefighters have extinguished a fire that broke out in the attic of a Merrifield home.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue tweeted at 11:52 a.m. today (June 4) that firefighters were on the scene of the fire in the 2900 block of Cedarest Road.

The fire department then tweeted at 12:22 p.m. that the attic fire is now out.

A spokesperson for the fire department told Tysons Reporter that everyone in the house is OK and that the fire likely started in the attic area and spread up through the roof.

“Crews are performing gross decontamination cleaning on personnel to wash contaminates/potential carcinogens off firefighters’ gear,” the fire department tweeted at 12:48 p.m.

Catherine Moran and Vernon Miles worked on this story.

Map via Google Maps

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A body has been found along Leesburg Pike near the Spring Hill Metro station, according to the Fairfax County Police Department.

The deceased man was found in the 8500 block of Leesburg Pike, which spans from the Audi dealership to an office building just north of the Maserati and Alfa Romeo dealerships in Tysons.

Detectives have started an investigation into the man’s death, the police department tweeted.

“At this point there appears to be no threat to public safety,” the tweet said. “Please avoid the area.”

Map via Google Maps 

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Fairfax County police have arrested Jeffrey Cummins, owner of the Huntington Learning Centers franchises in Tysons and Springfield, on charges of sexually abusing two former students.

Cummins is a music teacher who gives lessons in his Annandale home and, in addition to the Huntington Learning Centers, is the founder and artistic director of Virginia Music Adventures — a music group for school-age children — according to a police report.

Police say Cummins, 56, was arrested on arrival at Dulles airport from international travel and is facing eight felony counts of indecent liberties by a custodian against children. Per a FCPD press release:

Detectives began their investigation in May 2018 when a juvenile disclosed that he had been inappropriately touched by Cummins over a period of several years. In January of this year, another victim came forward and disclosed he had also been abused for several years by Cummins. The investigation showed that the sexual abuse occurred both during music lessons and at other times when the juveniles were at his home.

Police say anyone who is concerned their child may have had inappropriate contact with Cummins should contact the Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800.

Photo via Fairfax County Police Department

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Update at 3:55 p.m. — Tow crews are on scene and one far left lane is now temporarily squeezing by the crash, but VDOT says it will soon completely close the highway again. The closure, which is expected to last throughout the rush hour, is causing serious traffic issues across the area.

The Inner Loop of the Beltway is closed for an extended period of time due to a truck crash prior to the American Legion Bridge.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue say the tanker truck, which overturned on northbound I-495 near the Great Falls exit, is “actively leaking” 8,500 gallons of hazardous fluid, initially reported to be fuel.

Hazmat crews are “aggressively” working to contain the leak, but the Inner Loop is expected to remain closed for at least two hours and possibly longer, well into the evening rush hour.

Only one minor injury was reported.

The crash was caught on a dashcam, per a video posted on social media.

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