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Kmart Employee Victim of Pepper Spray

Police in Prince William were busy on St. Patrick’s Day.

At 6:10 p.m. Thursday, police were called to the 17200 block of Wexford Loop in Dumfries, off of Wayside Drive and U.S. 1, for a report of an attempted robbery.

Officers found a 33-year-old man had been assaulted by four men, but nothing was taken from him.

He suffered injuries that did not appear to be life-threatening, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

The men were described as black, between 18 and 25-years-old, said Perok.

Later that night at 9:40, an employee at the Kmart store on Dale Boulevard in Dale City was sprayed with pepper spray when that employee went to investigate a suspicious person inside the store, said Perok.

After spraying the employee, the man ran to the front of the store and fled the area on foot.

Nothing was stolen and the victim did not go to the hospital, said Perok.

The man with the pepper spray is described as White or Hispanic, between 20 and 22-years-old, 5 feet 4 inches tall, 140 pounds with a medium build.

He was last seen wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt, dark pants and a baseball cap.

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Slug Changes Focus of Next Town Hall Meeting

Brenda Higgins, a commuter affected by the parking changes at Potomac Mills mall, waits to add her comment at a town hall meeting held in Woodbridge in February 2011. (File)

Woodbridge, Va. –– Commuters will have another chance to be heard this month at a town hall meeting.

Woodbridge Supervisor Frank Principi and Occoquan Supervisor Mike May will hold commuter town hall at 7 p.m. March 23 at the Ferlazzo Building on U.S. 1 Woodbridge.

Last month, the two leaders held a similar meeting to discuss the loss of 750 commuter parking spaces at Potomac Mills mall. Since then the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge near Prince William Parkway and Minnieville Road agreed to lease 350 commuter parking spaces to the county for resident’s use.

“At our last town hall, we heard loud and clear that our commuters wanted parking spaces close to Potomac Mills with enough capacity to slug so their lives were not completely disrupted.   I believe we accomplished this goal,” said Principi.

At the end of the last town hall, many commuters said they would be interested in attending another meeting. This time, officials want to learn more about how commuters are coping with the changes.

“The purpose of the follow up meeting is to update the community as to the logistics of the new First Baptist leased lot, including what bus routes will come through and what slug lines may form.  We will also receive community feedback as to how commuter patterns have changed following the Potomac Mills reduction in spaces,” said May.

Following the loss of the mall parking spaces, Slugs (those who ride in vehicles of three or more occupants to use the High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Interstate 95 and 395) bound for Arlington were told to begin parking at a commuter lot off Gemini Way in Dale City. Those bound for Washington could still continue to park at the mall’s remaining 250 spaces designated for commuter parking.

Late last month, state transportation officials said construction would soon begin on a $7.8 million, 600-space commuter lot near the existing Horner Road lot in Woodbridge.

The lot will be built on the site of an old commuter bus garage.

News
Dale City Names Top Educators

Maj. William Brannen

By Kristina Schnack Kotlus
kkotlus@potomaclocal.com

The Dale City Civic Association named three teachers as the area’s most outstanding educators.

Those chosen this year for the Teacher of the Year award teach at Gar-Field Senior High, Beville Middle and Rosa Parks Elementary schools.

Maj. William Brannen, senior instructor of Gar-Field’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps program, was named High School Teacher of the Year.

Brannen took charge of the JROTC program in July 2006 and since has seen enrollment in the program double.

Last year, Gar-Field’s JROTC program was recognized by the Marine Corps as a Region Honor School, a citation earned by only 10 percent of the schools in the area, according to a Prince William County Public Schools press release.

In addition to the civic association’s award, Brannen was also chosen by his colleagues as the 2010–2011 Gar-Field Senior High School Teacher of the Year.

As one student writes, “He is a great role model… the thing I will most remember about him is his persistence—the fact that he never gives up. He is someone who believes in the impossible.”

Amy Crotty

Amy Crotty, International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme teacher, family and consumer sciences teacher, and department chair at Beville Middle School was named Dale City Civic Association’s Middle School Teacher of the Year.

Crotty is also on the school’s school-wide discipline team and co-sponsor of the student council association.

Crotty consistently uses varied techniques to reach all learning styles, including a “game of life”, the iron chef competition, and a string of guest speakers to spark student’s interest, school officials say.

In nomination letters from students to the civic association, students mentioned feeling safe in her classes and expressed appreciation for the friendly and orderly environment she provides. A coworker notes “[Crotty] gladly does all sorts of things to make our school a better place to work and learn,” school officials said.

Terri Faulkner, school counselor at Rosa Parks Elementary was named Elementary School Teacher of the Year.

Faulkner also leads discipline program, sponsors the safety patrol program, and assists with the Girls on the Run club.

Before students take the Virginia Standards of Learning tests each year, she holds a pre-testing pep rally to inspire children during what can be a stressful time, according to the press release.

Colleagues say she is known for her “fearless” defense of children, and for motivating parents to become involved.

News
DQ Delays Reopening

Dale City, Va. –– You’re going to have to put your brain freeze on hold for a bit longer.

The Dairy Queen restaurant in Center Plaza in Dale City is being renovated and was scheduled to reopen on March 22.

On Wednesday, we learned the owners of the store have hit some snags in the renovation process and have pushed back the reopening to March 29.

Yes, that’s only one week later than the original reopening date, but for some of us who love the creamy goodness of soft serve ice cream that can feel like an eternity.

Rebecca Visperas manages the restaurant and says the location will reopen as a “DQ Grill and Chill,” offering more menu options for the tired and famished.

Another Dairy Queen restaurant on Smoketown Road in Woodbridge across from Potomac Mills mall is also undergoing renovations.

That franchise is owned by a different organization than the one that owns the location in Dale City, said Visperas.

News
Accused Rapist Lived in Dale City

Update 10:30 a.m. Saturday
The man arrested and charged in the case of the East Coast Rapist used to live in Dale City.

Rental records show 49-year-old Aaron H. Thomas lived on Bonita Court, off Brooke Drive in the Birchdale section of Dale City from 2000 until 2007.

Records also show he attended school in Prince Georges County, and The Washington Post reported Friday Thomas still has family who live in the Berryville, Va. area.

Thomas was arrested Friday afternoon in Connecticut after an investigator observed him smoking a cigarette. Suspicious, police picked up that cigarette but and swabbed it for DNA, the Post reported.

That same DNA was later matched to DNA collected at some of the 17 rapes Thomas has been connected to.

Original Post 4:20 p.m.
TBD reports a suspect in the East Coast Rapist case has been arrested in Connecticut.

The suspect’s name has not been released, but he  was taken into custody about 3 p.m. Friday, TBD.com reports.

Word of the arrest come the same week as authorities launched a digital billboard campaign looking for clues into the case.

Investigators also launched a website detailing each attack the tied to the suspected rapist over the past 14 years.

The latest attack was reported on Halloween night 2009, when three teenage girls were walking home from a night of trick-or-treating when a man approached them with a gun, raped two of them while the other looked on.

Police have tied the rapist to 17 attacks on women along the east coast.

The attacks began in Maryland in 1997.

News
East Coast Rapist’s Face Now on Billboards

Police have turned to digital billboard technology to catch the East Coast Rapist.

Authorities in Fairfax and Prince William counties in a partnership with the FBI and other police agencies have posted sketches on digital billboards in states where the rapist is believed to have struck – in Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island and Virginia.

The most recent attack is believed to have happened Oct. 31, 2009 in Dale City, when three female teenagers were approached and two raped as they were walking home from a night of trick-or-treating.

The attack happened behind Glendale Plaza, as a man approached the victim’s –– two of the girls were age 16 and the other 17 –– from behind with a gun.

He led them into a clearing in a wooded ravine and raped the two 17-year-olds while the 16-year-old looked on, police say.

The 16-year-old was able to use her cell phone to text her mother for help, but as police closed in the man was able to get away, police said.

Following the attack, the two 17-year-old girls were treated at a local hospital and the 16-year-old was not injured.

In all, the serial rapist has been tied to 12 attacks that began in February 1997.

“These billboards give each local police department, and the FBI, an added edge to identifying, locating and apprehending the subject,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge of the Criminal Division, Ronald Hosko. “The public is the most important tool law enforcement has for solving crime.”

The billboard’s come after authorities launched a new website aimed at reaching out to the public to get more information about the serial rapist’s whereabouts.

His victims have been black, white or Hispanic females, and he generally approaches victims on foot and threatens them with a knife or handgun, asks for money to give the impression he is robbing the victim. The serial rapist has never been known to take anything from his victims, however.

In the earliest assaults, the man approached his victims on bicycles, authorities said.

He’s been known to wear a black mask or hooded sweatshirt to conceal his face.

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Rosslyn, Pentagon Slug lines moved

Woodbridge, Va. –– Starting on Monday, Slugs headed to Washington may continue to use the commuter lot at Potomac Mills mall. Everyone else needs to go to Dale City.

That was the official word late Sunday afternoon in an email from Woodbridge District Supervisor Frank J. Principi, which directed commuters who Slug to Rosslyn or to the Pentagon to begin parking at a commuter lot on Gemini Way in Dale City, behind the Giant at Center Plaza off Dale Boulevard.

Commuters are to enter the parking lot on Gemini Way from the entrance closest to Dale Boulevard, near the Comcast building. (more…)

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Commuters vent at town hall meeting

Brenda Higgins, a commuter affected by the parking changes at Potomac Mills mall, waits to add her comment at a town hall meeting held in Woodbridge on Wednesday. (Eric Spiegel)

By Eric Spiegel
For PotomacLocal.com

Woodbridge, Va. –– Brenda Higgins told a panel of officials she wouldn’t be shopping at Potomac Mills mall any time soon.

The panel was gathered for the commuter parking town hall meeting held in Woodbridge on Wednesday night.  Higgins was among many who were angered by the decision by outlet mall to reduce commuter parking from 1,000 spaces to 275. (more…)

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Parking reduction could force commuting, work changes

There are several commuter lots in the Woodbridge area.

Rhonda Reed is looking to cut her losses and move north because of the lack of effective commuter parking in Woodbridge.

Though she lives in the Virginia suburb she works in Friendship Heights, Md., just north of the Washington, D.C. line.

Use our interactive map of commuter lots in the Potomac Communities that could provide a you a parking alternative to the Potomac Mills mall commuter parking lot.

She leaves her house each weekday morning by 6:45 a.m. to get to the Potomac Mills mall commuter lot by 7:15 a.m. to get a parking space, before the lot becomes full. (more…)

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Church could ease parking woes

(File) An OmniRide commuter bus bound for Dale City stops at 14th Street and New York Avenue in Downtown Washington and picks up about 20 passengers as slugs looked on.

Woodbridge, Va. –– Commuters that will be forced from the commuter lot at Potomac Mills mall could soon park at the First Baptist Church of Woodbridge.

The church is considering leasing to Prince William County up to 500 parking spaces in their 700-space lot for commuters to use on weekdays.

The church, with a 1,250-member congregation, sits at Minnieville and Elm Farm roads just off Prince William Parkway and stands to benefit financially from the deal.

“This is a deliberative process for us when we are considering annexing a large amount of spaces for commuter parking, and we also have to think about the impacts of our ministry,” said First Baptist Church of Woodbridge Executive Pastor Frank Johnson. (more…)

News
Tires slashed in Dale City

Dale City, Va. –– Tires were slashed on about 20 cars in Dale City, and now police want to know who’s behind the vandalisms.

Police were called at 2:42 p.m. Thursday to the Glendale area of Dale City after someone reported the tire slashing.

At least 20 vehicles all parked on Glendale Road, Granby and Greenwood drives, all had their tires slashed, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

Anyone with information about the incident is encouraged to call Prince William County Crime Solvers at 703-670-3700.

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Fewer parking spaces got you bummed? You have options

OmniLink switch buses at the Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Center in Woodbridge.

Woodbridge, Va. –– The expansion of the Horner Road commuter lot in Woodbridge may provide some relief for commuters that will no longer be able to park at Potomac Mills mall.  But it won’t come fast enough to help those who will be put out on February 14.

Potomac Mills announced Thursday it would curtail commuter parking in their lots by 75 percent beginning Valentine’s Day. Afterward, mall managers suggested putout commuters take the bus.

But that may not be an option for many who would board OmniRide commuter buses near the mall, as nearly all of those early morning buses are full. (more…)

News
A ‘brother’ to be remembered

George Doughty's body was found in the woods in Dale City on Jan. 5, 2011.

Woodbridge, Va. –– George Doughty was a good friend, a sort of keeper of homeless community in Dale City, and was like a brother to the man who will lead his remembrance service Thursday.

Doughty was found dead of apparent medical problems in the woods off Dale Boulevard one week ago. He was homeless, and for at least the past three years had called those woods home.

A service will be held in his honor at 8 p.m. at St. Paul United Methodist Church in Woodbridge.

The church itself is the tallest building in that section of town, a fitting place to remember someone who was loved by so many. (more…)

News
Video: New ice rink anticipated

The Prince William Ice Center collapsed in February 2010 following a major snowstorm. (Prince William Ice Center)

Dale City, Va. –– On the day the Prince William Ice Center collapsed after a snow storm last February, emergency crews, skaters and the center’s owners couldn’t believe it was gone.

The weight of the snow on the center’s roof caused the building’s steel supports to buckle and the roof to collapse.
Those inside said they heard strange noises and said they could see twisting steel just before the roof fell. The sights of twisting steel sent everyone inside running for their lives.

They all made it out safely, but it marked an end a building that since 1996 provided a place for children, parents, hockey leagues and others to enjoy a day on the ice.

Now there are plans to rebuild the center in the same spot it once sat, near the intersection of Dale Boulevard and Ridgefield Road. (more…)

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Dale City, Woodbridge on homes “hot” list

Woorbridge, Va. –– Home values in the Potomac Communities may be on the way up.

According to a report today in DCist, houses in the 22191 (Woodbridge) and 22193 (Dale City) zip codes have been selling on average just below their actual list prices, putting the neighborhood on Washington, D.C. – based real estate firm ZipRealty’s “cool list.” (more…)

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D.C. forces slugs from 14th Street

An OmniRide commuter bus bound for Dale City on Tuesday stops at 14th Street and New York Avenue in Downtown Washington and picks up about 40 passengers as slugs looked on.

Washington –– Tensions rose Tuesday afternoon when Lake Ridge commuters were told they could no longer slug from a busy street in Downtown Washington.

About 15 slugs – commuters who ride in cars of three or more passengers so they can use High Occupancy Vehicle lanes on Interstate 95 and 395 – were handed fliers from the Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation, stating they could no longer stand and wait to be picked up on 14th Street, between H Street and New York Avenue.

The slug line will be relocated one block over, to the less-congested 15th Street, the flier stated.

The change, which officials say will be a two-week trial as they look to see if traffic flow on 14th Street improves without drivers stopping to pick up slugs, came as a surprise for many who now fear they’ll be left without a ride home. (more…)

News
Driver is victim of road rage, nail gun

Dionel Barrios is charged with brandishing a weapon during a case of road rage.

FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va.–Police say a Dale City man used his car to ram another driver three times and then threatened him with a nail gun.

The case of road rage started on Smoketown Road in Woodbridge at 12:25 a.m. Wednesday, when the victim called police to report his car had been rammed by a belligerent driver, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

The attacking driver then brandished what appeared to be a handgun  and then drove off. (more…)

News
Dale City neighborhood gets storm drain labels

DALE CITY, Va. — The Prince William Clean Community Council, a local nonprofit organization in Woodbridge, led volunteers for “Week of Hope,” a volunteer effort to label more than 80 storm drains in Dale City’s Lindendale neighborhood.

Volunteers started during the early morning hours of June 24th and walked each street, labeling every storm drain in their path as part of a national effort to raise awareness about pollution in storm drains. (more…)

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Dale City’s annual parade is tomorrow

A sign is posted on Dale Boulevard warning drivers that the annual Dale City Fourth of July Parade will take place Saturday.

It’s parade time in Dale City again, bringing with it the largest Independence Day event in Virginia.

For Prince William County Board Supervisor John D. Jenkins, this will be his 42nd year participating in the annual Fourth of July tradition.

“Obviously this is the biggest Fourth of July event that we have in the state. When I left this morning, we already had 135 units that had already signed up,” said Jenkins, who represents Dale City on the county board.

The parade kicks off at 10 a.m. tomorrow, staring at the Boys and Girls Club on Dale Boulevard. The three-mile parade route takes marchers and floats down Dale Boulevard, eventually to the grand viewing area in front of the Comcast building. (more…)

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Video: Dale City fire chief remembered

When members of the Dale City Volunteer Fire Department died, Chico Marrero worked with Assistant Chief Carl Persing to make plaques and memorials for their fellow fallen fire fighters and EMTs.

This week, Persing died from complications from colon cancer. He battled the disease three times in the past five years.

“I told him that ‘I never wanted to work on one of these for you.’ It looks like I had to make one anyway,” said Marrero, an 11-year volunteer with the department. With the help of volunteers, Marrero made a large poster in memory of Persing, with photos depicting him at work doing the job he loved.

It was placed under glass and presented at a remembrance gathering held for Persing  Wednesday night at  Dale City Fire Station 13.

Persing had volunteered with the Dale City department since 2001, joining the organization after taking medical leave from the City of Manassas Fire and Rescue Department where he worked for 23 years. He officially retired from Manassas in 2007, but wanted to remain active in the fire service.

“He was a great firefighter, he was a great leader, a great teacher and a good mentor to people. And he cared about his people, and unfortunately at times he didn’t worry about himself, but worried about other people,” said DCVFD Chief Christopher Hool.

Wednesday night’s memorial gathering drew about 100 people. Many who attended remembered Persing for the experience that he brought the job.

During his life, he volunteered with fire stations in Fairfax County, Ft. Belvoir, Woodbridge, the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority and the U.S. Army.

He leaves behind two children, a mother and father, a brother and sister and a family of fire fighting professionals who will miss him.

A viewing for Persing will be held Tuesday June 29 at Dale City Fire Station 13, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

His funeral, with full honors, will be held the following day at 11 a.m., at the Hylton Memorial Chapel in Woodbridge.

*This story originally appeared on PotomacLocal.com on Thursday June 24, 2010.

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