Tysons, VA

The woman who was killed in a hit-and-run crash yesterday has been identified as 81-year-old Raymunda Garcia-Hernandez of Falls Church, the Fairfax County Police Department said.

The crash occurred in the 7200 block of Lee Highway in Falls Church, not the 7300 block as previously reported. After receiving a report of a person lying in the roadway just prior to 9 p.m., police officers arrived on the scene to find Garcia-Hernandez in the westbound lanes.

Rescue personnel pronounced her dead at the scene. The crash required a closure of westbound Route 29 at Graham Road that lasted until around 4 a.m. on Thursday.

Detectives have determined through a preliminary crash investigation that Garcia-Hernandez was crossing Lee Highway outside of a crosswalk when she was struck by an unknown vehicle that did not stop.

With the vehicle still not located, FCPD is seeking witnesses for its investigation, which remains ongoing. Anyone with information can contact the crash reconstruction unit at 703-280-0543 or submit tips anonymously.

Anonymous tips can be sent to Crime Solvers by web, phone (1-866-411-TIPS), and text (type “FCCS” plus tip to 847411). The FCPD also has a mobile Tip411 app called “Fairfax Co Crime Solvers.” Anonymous tipsters are eligible for cash rewards of $100 to $1,000 if their information leads to an arrest.

This is the first pedestrian fatality of 2021 for Fairfax County. The county recorded 127 vehicle crashes involving pedestrians in 2020, resulting in 15 deaths and 134 injuries, according to preliminary data from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.

Fairfax County has been developing a countywide pedestrian and bicycle safety initiative and implementing other measures, such as a lane closure pilot project, in an effort to reduce fatalities and crashes.

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A longtime Falls Church City resident who was a familiar presence in the local culinary scene joined the hundreds of COVID-19 victims in the Fairfax County area earlier this week.

The family-owned restaurant Thompson Italian announced on Tuesday (Jan. 19) that its “beloved team member,” Jose Rogelio Martinez Alvarenca, died on Sunday (Jan. 17) after “an extensive battle” with COVID-19.

“He was a true fixture in the Falls Church community,” Thompson Italian said. “He worked in neighborhood restaurants for decades, and seemed to know everyone who walked in our door. He had a ready smile, lots of swagger, and unparalleled enthusiasm.”

Martinez had not been working at Thompson Italian since the restaurant temporarily closed in March due to the pandemic, but the management team says it had “looked forward to welcoming him back in the spring.”

“Nights were better for everyone when Jose was working, and he will be sorely missed by our staff and our guests,” the team said.

Survived by his wife, Ana, and five children – Jessica, Joseph, Gary, Jose “Junior,” and Kiara — Martinez came to the U.S. from El Salvador in 1979 and had lived in the City of Falls Church for the past 30 years.

Prior to joining Thompson Italian, which opened in Falls Church in 2019, Martinez worked at Ireland’s Four Provinces for nine years.

He contracted COVID-19 in November and was hospitalized until his death on Jan. 17, according to his children.

His family started a fundraiser on GoFundMe to assist with costs for medical care and memorial and funeral services, which will be held on Monday (Jan. 25). The fundraiser has more than doubled its goal of $15,000, with 416 donors contributing more than $36,000 as of 8:30 a.m.

Jessica and Joseph Martinez describe their father as someone who was passionate about working with people in his community and enjoyed working in the food industry as a way to connect with neighbors.

“He was very well-known in the community and we are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support by neighbors, friends and family,” they told Tysons Reporter. “We created the GoFundMe fundraiser as so many people that knew Jose reached out and wanted to help.”

They added that the goal of the fundraiser is “to ease the burden for funeral and memorial costs to keep his memory alive and bury him with dignity, so he can be at peace.”

As of Jan. 21, 758 people in the Fairfax Health District have died from COVID-19, including six people in the City of Falls Church.

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The woman who died from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle crash on Leesburg Pike on Sunday (Dec. 6) was Holly Kuga, a 72-year-old resident of Great Falls, the Fairfax County Police Department reported this afternoon (Tuesday).

According to Fairfax County police, the fatal crash occurred around 11 a.m. at the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Towlston Road in Vienna, when Kuga attempted to turn left from southbound Towlston onto Leesburg Pike.

The driver of a 2017 GMC Sierra who was traveling west on Leesburg crashed into Kuga’s 2012 Honda Accord as she was going through the intersection.

Kuga was transported to a hospital, where she succumbed to her injuries.

“Detectives are continuing to investigate whether speed, alcohol or drugs were factors in the crash,” the FCPD said. “Charges are pending further investigation.”

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An upcoming meeting of the McLean Citizens Association tomorrow (Wednesday) will be dedicated to Lilla Richards, a former Dranesville District Supervisor who died on Sept. 22 at 81.

Richards, who had also served as the MCA president, was renowned in the area for her civic activism. She was one of the founders of the McLean Citizens Foundation and helped secure a permanent home for the McLean Project for the Arts.

According to a tribute written by the MCA:

Lilla Richards, a former Dranesville District Supervisor, passed away September 22, at age 81. Former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis who served with Lilla described her as a “professional citizen.” He said, “she never deviated from her moral compass or her commitment to making McLean one of the most attractive residential communities in the county.”

Lilla was a strong activist for her community. She served as President of the McLean Citizens Association and the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Association. She helped found the McLean Citizens Foundation and worked to find a permanent home for the McLean Project for the Arts at the McLean Community Center and was critical to the creation of the Old Firehouse Teen Center.

Her institutional knowledge about Fairfax County’s zoning ordinance helped bring about many positive land-use and environmental changes to Fairfax. Lilla’s archives are located in the Virginia Room at Fairfax Library. She was a Fairfax County giant and will be missed.

Photo via McLean Citizens Association

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Clothing Retailer Closing in Tysons Corner Center — “Five Justice stores are set to close in the D.C. area, along with two Lane Bryant locations, two Catherines locations, one Loft Outlet and the Lou & Grey store at Tysons Corner Center.” [Washington Business Journal]

Signed, Sealed, Delivered — “Fairfax County Planning Commission members on July 29 unanimously approved a comprehensive sign plan for the new Archer Hotel in western McLean on the edge of Tysons, after the applicant reduced the size of several proposed signs.” [Inside NoVa]

Local Man Drowned — “A 21-year-old Vienna man drowned in Lake Anna on Saturday, the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office reported Sunday.” [Inside NoVa]

Special Election in Falls Church — A special election to fill the late Daniel Sze’s council seat will be held as part of the general election on Nov. 3. [Falls Church News Press]

Photo by Michelle Goldchain

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Falls Church Councilmember Dan Sze has died after a battle with esophageal cancer.

The announcement Tuesday night of Sze’s passing comes a week after Mayor David Tarter shared at a City Council meeting that Sze had cancer.

Sze was first elected to the City Council in 2006 after serving as the city’s vice chair of the Economic Development Authority from 2002-2006. Sze served as a councilmember from 2006-2010 and from 2014 until his death.

Sze served on a variety of local and regional boards and commissions, including as a member of the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals and the chair of Virginia Municipal League’s State Committee on Environmental Quality, according to a press release from the city.

The city will lower the city flag outside of City Hall to half-staff for a week to honor Sze and hold a moment of silence at the Aug. 10 meeting, according to the press release, which included tributes from his colleagues.

“The news of Dan’s passing has hit me hard,” Tarter said in the city’s press release. “He was a friend who cared deeply about the best interests of our city and its residents and tirelessly advocated for its betterment. He will be sorely missed. On behalf of the City Council, we mourn his passing and send his wife, Elisabeth and family our deepest condolences.”

The press release highlighted Sze’s work for stronger environmental efforts within and outside of the city. Serving the city, Sze encouraged the city to install LED streetlights and purchase renewable energy, while pushing developers to add green roofs and meet higher LEED standards.

The press release shared his efforts outside of City Hall:

Mr. Sze had an accomplished career that included federal government service. He was responsible for major policy and regulatory initiatives under six American presidents. At his last assignment, Mr. Sze was with the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as Deputy Director of State Energy Programs.

After leaving full-time employment, Mr. Sze regularly lectured on sustainability strategies, worked on clean energy initiatives, was involved with several international start-ups, and was a consultant to businesses, organizations, and government.

“His staff and Council colleagues will certainly miss his intelligence, his hearty greetings, and the jovial conversations they shared with Dan,” City Manager Wyatt Shields said. “He was a one-of-a-kind public servant, and we know his legacy will live on in the many projects he championed.”

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Robert Ames Alden was a “walking institution” in the D.C. area, Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust recently told his fellow county officials.

Alden died at the age of 87 from complications from Alzheimer’s disease on June 7, the Washington Post reported. Foust shared highlights of Alden’s career and life during the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors’ meeting last week.

Born in D.C., Alden worked as a sportswriter for the Cleveland Press before joining the Washington Post in 1952, Foust said. Alden covered wars, riots, natural disasters and more during his nearly 50-year career at the Washington Post.

Alden was a founder of the National Press Foundation. Foust noted that Alden, who was the National Press Club’s president in 1976, was a “leading advocate” in the 1960s and 1970s to allow women to join the Press Club.

Foust remembered Alden as a “living legend in McLean.” On the local level, Alden advocated for the community complex that houses McLean Central Park, the Dolley Madison Library and the McLean Community Center.

Foust said that the then-governing board of the community center wanted to name the building after him.

“If you knew Bob, you know he refused,” Foust said. “That would not be acceptable to him. He wanted it named the McLean Community Center.”

The community center’s auditorium and theater were named after him instead.

“He was an amazingly successful, amazingly accomplished and unbelievably nice, friendly, courteous, kind guy,” Foust said. “We are going to miss him so much.”

Photo via Alden Theatre/Facebook

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The Fairfax County NAACP plans to host a town hall Tuesday night on how to make police departments more accountable to their communities.

“As we watch protests and demonstrations on the streets of America, we look to move forward in our community by reforming police practices and holding police accountable to the community,” according to the event description.

Fairfax NAACP invited the police chief and sheriff in Fairfax County, along with the county’s prosecutor and elected officials, according to the Facebook event page.

Fairfax NAACP recently unveiled a series of public safety recommendations and will go over the proposals during the town hall.

Some of the ideas include:

  • removing the School Resource Officer (SRO) program
  • increasing data reports from the county’s police department
  • continuing the rollout of body-worn cameras
  • putting officer misconduct records in a public database
  • reviewing Fairfax County police’s use of force policy
  • preventing police from buying and using military weapons

The town hall follows global, anti-racism protests sparked by George Floyd’s death and a recent incident in Fairfax County where a white officer stun gunned an unarmed black man.

The town hall is scheduled to take place from 7-9 p.m. via Zoom, according to the Facebook event page.

Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash

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Hundreds of people filled Cherry Hill Park on Sunday afternoon for the “Falls Church Justice for Black Lives Rally.”

The rally came a few days after a student-led march in the city in memory of George Floyd. Both peaceful events protested police brutality and demanded change to systemic racism.

Today’s event served as a gathering to give local leaders a platform, including Edwin Henderson II, the founder of the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation; Sasha Whitney, a cycling instructor; the city’s mayor; Fairfax NAACP’s President Sean Perryman; and City of Alexandria Councilmember John Chapman.

“Black lives matter when they lose their life,” Perryman said. “They have to matter all the time.”

Mindful of COVID-19, the participants spaced out on the grass with their kids and dogs as songs like “They Don’t Care About Us” by Michael Jackson and “Unity” by Queen Latifah blasted on speakers. Most wore face coverings.

The rally kicked off around 1 p.m. with the participants dancing to DJ Casper’s “Cha Cha Slide” before the organizers, Tara Guido and Loreto Jacqueline, gave brief speeches and then asked for a moment of silence for violence toward Black Americans.

The crowd erupted in clapping and cheering when Mayor David Tarter said that Gov. Ralph Northam recently announced that a Robert E. Lee monument will get taken down.

Tarter also pointed out the diversity of the participants. “We’re all here to raise our voices and say this country belongs to all of us,” he said.

Tarter ended his speech, urging people to head to the polls: “If you’re angry, vote in November.” Around the park, people could scan flyers with QR codes to help them register to vote via vote411.org.

Many of the messages centered around actions for long-term change.

Henderson II, with the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation, told people to oppose mandatory sentencing and for-profit prisons and push for election reforms. (For people looking for more events to attend to honor Floyd, Henderson noted that the Tinner Hill Heritage Foundation will unveil a banner in honor of Floyd near the Target (500 S. Washington Street) at 4 p.m. on Monday, June 8).

Perryman stressed the need for policy changes with the City Council, Board of Supervisors and local police departments and urged people to join advocacy groups. “This is a sustained fight,” he said.

Chapman, with the Alexandria City Council, echoed Perryman’s call for new policies. “We all know what we need to do,” Chapman said.

One message in particular — written on several signs — has an immediate impact: “Silence is violence.”

Participants at the rally who spoke to Tysons Reporter said that they are tired of police brutality and racism.

Khadimatu said she decided to come to the rally to represent her family back in Senegal. “There’s a movement that’s defending us,” Khadimatu said. “I hope this is what is going to cause change.”

Khadimatu said she came to the rally with her mom’s best friend, Corey, who heard about the event from her friend who lives in Falls Church. Corey said that she didn’t want to go to the protests in D.C. due to concerns about being in close proximity to a lot more people.

Matt Guey-Lee also said he was a “little nervous” about going to D.C. due to “safety issues.”

After hearing about the event on Facebook, Guey-Lee and the organizers got in touch so that he could bring a canopy for the rally. He said he was heartened to see that other people donated snacks and water for the event.

Guey-Lee said he felt strongly about coming to the rally and speaking out against racism, because he says every voice nudges another one.

“If a million people do just a little bit, it’s really, really loud,” he said.

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Fairfax County is nearing its 12,000th COVID-19 case, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

As of today, the county has a total of 11,904 cases, 1,401 hospitalizations and 410 deaths. The City of Falls Church has 56 cases, 11 hospitalizations and eight deaths.

Of the 389 outbreaks in Virginia, 61 are in the Fairfax Health District, which includes the county and its towns and cities — 51 are at long term care facilities, while two are healthcare settings and a correctional facility and educational setting both have one.

The Fairfax Health District also has Virginia’s only two reports of cases of the virus with Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in children.

The Fairfax Health District continues to lead the commonwealth in the number of PCR tests, which directly detect antigens, with more than 55,000 testing encounters.

Statewide and in the Fairfax Health District, the weekly average of the percent of positive tests has been steadily declining since late April and the number of testing encounters has increased, according to VDH.

Even with the increased testing, Fairfax County officials say more is needed to address a growing racial disparity with the cases.

The Hispanic population makes up 16.8% of the population in the Fairfax Health District, but 66.2% of the COVID-19 cases where race and ethnicity data is available, according to Fairfax County and the state health department. In mid-May, the Hispanic population made of 61.3% of the cases. (Roughly 20% of the cases don’t have race and ethnicity data.)

Officials said on Tuesday that they want to see more neighborhood testing sites and testing available for people who are asymptomatic.

Photo by CDC on Unsplash, graph via Virginia Department of Health

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