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As police department turns 40, top cop comments

Prince William County Police Chief Charlie T. Deane to celebrate department's 40th anniversary.

The Prince William County Police Department will turn 40 next month and they want you to come and celebrate with them.

The party starts at 11 a.m. Saturday on the Sean T. Connaughton Plaza, behind the McCoart Building off Prince William Parkway in Woodbridge. All of the usual outdoor family fun activities are planned, like a dunk tank, face painting, moon bounce and an appearance by McGruff the Crime Dog.

But those who are curious about how police officers do their jobs and those who want to know more about the tools they use will get a behind the scenes look. Scheduled to be on display is the major crimes and incident command unit, Command One, the SWAT team, scuba team, forensic unit, mounted patrol and Marine One – Prince William County’s watercraft patrol unit – just to name a few, according to the county police Web site.

Police equipment, old and new, will also be on display. And so will a chronology of major events in Prince William County’s history. They’ll also have a vintage county police cruiser on display.

The police department formed in July 1970, taking over major policing operations from the Prince William County Sheriff’s Department, said police chief Charlie T. Deane. He was promoted to chief in 1988 but was recruited to the force from the Virginia State Police the same year the department began, when the county’s population was just over 100,000 people.

“We were all very excited about embarking on a new segment of our careers and establishing a new department,” said Deane. “Back then we were all generalists. We had K9s and the motorcycles, but over time, because of the demand for the services we developed more specialization.”

Now nearly 400,000 people live in the county and the department in recent years has seen its fair share of tough cases, including the Lexie Glover case in 2009, the Smith murders in Dale City in 2008 and the Bobbit case in 1993, when at 26, Lorena Bobbit used a knife to sever her husband’s penis.

She was later found not guilty by reason of insanity. Her husband, John Wayne Bobbit, went on to star in a pornographic film after having the organ reattached.

*This story originally appeared on PotomacLocal.com on Wednesday June 23, 2010.

News
Push to collect cell phones for soldiers pays off

More soldiers serving abroad will be able to speak with their families thanks to the generosity of area residents.

During the past six months, Belvoir Credit Union collected 322 cell phones at their more than 10 branches. And with each cell phone donation, the credit union has donated one dollar to the Cell Phones for Soldiers charity.

The charity turns the donated phones into calling cards that are sent to soldiers, said Belvoir Credit Union spokeswoman Amy Shanks.

Since two Massachusetts teenagers formed the charity in 2008, Cell Phones for Soldiers has been working to collect 50,000 old cell phones per month at more than 3,000 collection sites, according to the charity’s Web site.

You can donate your old cell phones at Belvoir’s Woodbridge location, at 14040 Central Loop, just off Prince William Parkway.

*This story originally appeared on PotomacLocal.com on Tuesday June 22, 2010.

News
Woodbridge fighter to get second chance

Kris McCray, the 28-year-old mixed martial arts championship fighter who appeared Saturday on cable television in an Ultimate Fighting Championship match, hails from Woodbridge.

At the match in Las Vegas, he was competing for a contract that comes with a six-figure salary to become a full-time UFC fighter. But he came up short when he lost to his opponent, Court McGee.

His friend and trainer for the past 10 years, Elijah Harshbarger, says he’ll get another chance to step into the ring.

“We talked to the UFC guys and they should be calling us in the next few weeks, so we’ll be there to pick up the phone when it rings,” said Harshbarger.

He didn’t say when or where the match could take place, but did say McCray cannot participate in any other fighting events as long as he is involved with UFC.

Harshbarger was in McCray’s corner during Saturday’s fight and said McCray was prepared for the match, but McGee had an overall better game plan from the start of the bout.

McCray congratulated McGee on his win Saturday during the show’s live season finale.

McCray and Harshbarger met as wrestlers in high school. Harshbarger graduated from Gar-Field High School and McCray from Woodbridge Senior High School.

Both went on to coach for their respective schools and that’s when McCray decided he wanted to be a professional fighter, said Harshbarger.

Three years ago, Harshbarger opened Gold Medal Grappling, a gym in Woodbridge where McCray trains at least two days a week.

He says McCray gets a lot of support from his hometown.

“We have fans from everywhere and when go out to clubs and hang out we don’t have to stand in line, we shake hands and take a lot of pictures,” said Harshbarger.

UFC fighters use a mix of kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, judo, karate and boxing when they’re in the ring. The events are televised on Spike TV.

*This story originally appeared on PotomacLocal.com on Monday June 21, 2010.

News
Drowning victim identified

Police identified the man who fell into the Occoquan River and drowned last week.

Gregory James Gilker, 52, of Occoquan fell into the water while docking his sailboat at the Belmont Bay marina in Woodbridge on Thursday night.

A preliminary investigation revealed that  the man became stuck underneath the boat after falling into the river, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

Residents were able to get him onto the dock and fire and rescue personnel preformed CPR, but the man could not be saved and drowned, said Perok.

An autopsy confirmed drowning as the cause of death, he added.

*This story originally appeared on PotomacLocal.com on Tuesday June 22, 2010.

News
Man drowned while docking sailboat

A man who drowned last night at a Woodbridge marina was trying to tie his sailboat to the dock.

Police said the unidentified 52-year-old man fell from the marina into the Occoquan River at 9:18 p.m., at the Belmont Bay marina at 530 Harbor Side Street.

A resident who was walking in the area then jumped into the river to help the man, but found him trapped underneath the boat, said Prince William police spokesman Jonathan Perok.

Police will release the victim’s name after they notify his next of kin, said Perok.

His death is being investigated as an accident.

Fire and rescue crews were called to the scene just about 9:30 p.m. Thursday. They pulled the man out the water and started CPR, but were unable to save the man’s life, according to initial reports from the scene.

*This story originally appeared on PotomacLocal.com on Friday June 18, 2010.

Traffic
Plan to use taxes to build HOT lanes explored

Photo: Mary Davidson

Commuters use a busy Interstate 95 near Woodbridge on a weekday morning. Photo: Mary Davidson

Taxpayers could get a bill for the cost to build High Occupancy Toll lanes on Interstates 95 and 395.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean T. Connaughton said his office is reviewing plans which explore the financial viability of converting HOV lanes between Dumfries and the Pentagon to toll lanes, and then extending then south to Stafford and Spotsylvania counties.

Part of those plans, presented by the Virginia Department of Transportation at Connaughton’s request, include slapping taxpayers with a portion of the construction costs for the proposed lanes.

Another scenario has two private firms, Texas-based Fluor, Inc. and Australia’s Transurban, which would operate, maintain and profit from the lanes for up to 80 years, harboring all of the construction costs, said Connaughton.

VDOT’s plans could become public in the next few weeks, after they are reviewed the Federal Highway Administration, said Connaughton.

The renewed interest in building the lanes follows a combined $20,000 donation from Fluor, Inc. and Transurban to the Virginia GOP last month, according to the Virginia Public Access Project.

After giving $25,000 to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell during his 2009 campaign, Fluor, Inc. also donated $15,000 to McDonnell’s inaugural committee in January, according to VPAP.

In addition to donating to R. Creigh Deed’s gubernatorial campaign last year, Fluor, Inc. has donated $13,500 to state Democrats so far in 2010, VPAP showed.

The I-95 / 395 HOT lanes project was put on hold in August when VDOT said Fluor Inc. and Transurban couldn’t come up with enough private investors for the project.

Then Arlington County sued state and federal officials claiming that required environmental impact studies needed before the lanes could be built were not done, and that the lanes would adversely affect residents who live along I-95.

Arlington leaders last fall courted Prince William County officials about joining their suit, but they declined after reading the suit’s allegations that only rich, white suburbanites from Stafford and Spotsylvania counties would benefit from the new lanes.

*This story originally appeared on PotomacLocal.com on Tuesday June 15, 2010.

News
Report finds failings after campus shooting

Jason Michael Hamilton was charged in a December 2009 shooting at Northern Virginia Community College’s Woodbridge campus.

School officials in a new report say there was a delay in communicaiton following a shooting at a Woodbridge community college campus in December.

After shots were fired at Northern Virginia Community College off Neabsco Mills Road on Dec. 8, it took up to 40 minutes to send voice and text messages to students, faculty and staff informing them of the shooting, and telling them to shelter in place, according to The Fortnightly.

No one was injured, but systems put in place after the deadly 2007 Virginia Tech shootings  – such as a designated operations room that was supposed to provide access to computers, phones and television news channels – were not utilized, the newspaper reported.

The report also shows there was limited access to security camera feeds, and that Prince William police – who were called to immediately after the shooting – were not able to get into the campus’ police office, which hindered their ability to get keys to classrooms, and the get the building’s floor plans which were later used in a campus-wide search to ensure everyone had evacuated.

Jason Michael Hamilton, who was 20 at the time of the shooting, is set to appear in court Aug. 16 on an attempted murder charge in connection to the shooting.

Police say the shooter used a high-powered rifle that was purchased at a nearby sporting goods store. After walking into the school building, the gunman then walked into a fourth-floor classroom and fired two shots at a math professor who was standing just feet away from him. The teacher was able to evade the shots, the gun jammed, students fled and the shooter surrendered to police.

*This story originally appeared on PotomacLocal.com on Monday June 14, 2010.

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