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Ghaisar family ‘shocked and hurt’ over promotion of US Park Police chief

The family of a man who was killed by U.S. Park Police officers is expressing outrage that the agency’s chief, Robert MacLean, will soon be elevated to a more prestigious federal government role.

Starting Sept. 16, MacLean will become director of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Law Enforcement and Security. He’s stepping down after 28 years with the U.S. Park Police Department.

“The family remains devastated and stunned at the way this government has treated them,” said Roy Austin, a lawyer who represents the family of Bijan Ghaisar.

Ghaisar, 25, was shot by two Park Police officers in November 2017 in the Fort Hunt area of Fairfax County, Virginia, following a police chase on the George Washington Parkway during which the officers said they repeatedly tried to pull Ghaisar over without success.

MacLean has faced scrutiny for not communicating with Ghaisar’s family and refusing to release any further details about why the officers opened fire.

“We have not heard anything of substance from chief MacLean,” Austin said. “He’s not done what one would hope a police chief would have done.”

In a statement, the Park Police did not directly address the family’s concerns, but did defend MacLean, calling him a “28-year veteran of the U.S. Park Police with a stellar record protecting our most symbolic monuments and memorials and the visitors to them.”

The FBI is leading the investigation of the Ghaisar case, and has not yet determined whether the shooting was justified or whether the officers will face charges.

“The family is shocked and hurt that the leader of the organization that killed their son is getting a promotion,” Austin said. “In any other situation, most people would be losing their job.”

The officers involved, who remain on administrative duty, were identified as Alejandro Amaya and Lucas Vinyard. Their names were released only as part of a wrongful-death lawsuit that was filed by Ghaisar’s family against the federal government.

In a previous interview with WTOP, Ghaisar’s mother Kelly said that law enforcement officials “don’t give us a timeline and they don’t give us answers. It’s total silence.”

Ghaisar’s sister, Negeen, described it as “torture.”

“It’s like being in purgatory,” said Negeen. “There’s been no accountability, and every single day you wake up and it’s like you’re reliving the same moment over and over again. You have no answers and no one seems to care.”

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‘Race against the clock’: Time running out in search for missing Fairfax Co. firefighter

It has been nearly a week since a Fairfax County, Virginia, firefighter went missing off the coast of Florida, and the U.S. Coast Guard said time is running out for the multiple agencies and volunteers involved in the widespread search effort.

“We continue to be in a race against the clock,” said Coast Guard Capt. Mark Vlaun. “We’re all struggling and we’re all hoping to find something.”

Justin Walker, a master technician for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, was last seen going on a fishing trip with his friend Brian McCluney, a member of the Jacksonville, Florida, fire department.

The pair left early Friday on McCluney’s 24-foot center console boat off Port Canaveral.

By late Friday night, family members contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and said they did not return as planned and could not be reached by phone.

On Monday, search crews recovered McCluney’s fishing tackle bag about 50 miles off St. Augustine in north Florida, but little has been found since then.

“We are going to have to have a conversation about whether we can continue an active search and whether we still have an opportunity to be successful,” Vlaun said.

Although there is no firm deadline on when the search will be called off, Vlaun said that decision could come Thursday.

As of Wednesday night, the Coast Guard said the search had covered more than 90,000 square miles.

“We’re in some critical times right now,” said Jacksonville fire chief Keith Powers. “Time has really become our enemy.”

Powers said the search area was shifting far north and would be focused on the waters off the coast of South Carolina, as computer models indicated that the firefighters could have drifted there.

The nonprofit Jacksonville FireFighter Charities set up an online fundraiser to help the search effort and to help the families of the firefighters.

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Search for missing firefighters off Florida coast includes Fairfax Co. member

Westlake Legal Group firefighters-picture-e1566211617481 Search for missing firefighters off Florida coast includes Fairfax Co. member virginia news nick iannelli National News missing persons Local News Latest News Justin Walker Jacksonville Florida Fairfax County, VA News Fairfax County Fire & Rescue boating
The search goes on for missing firefighters Justin Walker, right, and Brian McCluney, left, from Jacksonville, Florida. Walker is from Virginia’s Fairfax County. (Courtesy Jacksonville Firefighter Charities)

The search continues for two firefighters — including one from Fairfax County, Virginia — who have gone missing after a fishing trip off the Florida coast.

Justin Walker, a master technician for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, was last seen going on the trip with his friend Brian McCluney, a member of the fire department in Jacksonville, Florida.

The pair launched early Friday on McCluney’s 24-foot center console boat off a ramp in Port Canaveral. By late Friday night, family members contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and said the two did not return as planned and could not be reached by phone.

On Monday, Chief Keith Powers with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue said in an update that a tackle bag was found 50 miles east of St. Augustine, near Jacksonville, and family members had identified the bag as belonging to McCluney.

Search efforts are being directed into that area, Powers said, and it’s likely that some boats may be offshore all night.

“We’re going to ramp up our search in the area where that bag was found,” Powers said. He asked for interested volunteers with a boat, capable of working 30-60 miles off shore, to help with search efforts Tuesday morning.

“We’re going to find these guys,” Powers said. “We finally started zeroing in a little bit today. We’re going to find them. Absolutely, it’s a rescue mission.”

The nonprofit Jacksonville Firefighter Charities has set up an online fundraiser for the search effort and to help the firefighters’ families.

Multiple local, state and federal agencies joined the search effort, including the U.S. Navy.

Jacksonville Fire and Rescue had sent 50 firefighters out on 11 boats. Powers told local station WJXT that other fire departments across that area have been stepping up. “That’s just a unique bond that only firefighters share, and it’s shared throughout the country. You hear the cliché that it’s a second family, but it really is a second family,” he said.

Earlier, the Coast Guard said the search had covered more than 20,000 square miles so far, extending north of Jacksonville and 80 miles off shore.

On Sunday, the Coast Guard investigated a debris field that was spotted about 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine. The agency later said on Twitter that it was a false alarm.

“No boats found and floating items turned out to be other debris not related to the boaters,” the Coast Guard said. “Crews are expanding search patterns in the area.”

The search for Walker is on the minds of firefighters in Virginia.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue said in a statement Monday afternoon that the department is in contact with Walker’s family and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue.

“We remain optimistic that they will be found,” the department said. “We are working closely with authorities in Florida to provide assistance and coordinate any resource needs. Please keep these firefighters, their families and friends in your thoughts and prayers.”

Fairfax County Professional Firefighters & Paramedics President Ron Kuley said that his organization is cautiously optimistic. “It gets a little emotional thinking about this. It’s a very difficult situation, but we’re hoping for a positive outcome,” he said.

Kuley thanked all the people who are searching for the men, saying they have been doing an “extraordinary” job.

“Our brothers out there are alive and they’re going to be found,” Kuley said. “We just need a lot of positive energy and prayers.”

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino and Teta Alim contributed to this report.

Source

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Tackle bag found; Search for Fairfax Co. firefighter and Fla. firefighter continues

Westlake Legal Group firefighters-picture-e1566211617481 Tackle bag found; Search for Fairfax Co. firefighter and Fla. firefighter continues virginia news nick iannelli National News missing persons Local News Latest News Justin Walker Jacksonville Florida Fairfax County, VA News Fairfax County Fire & Rescue boating
The search goes on for missing firefighters Justin Walker, right, and Brian McCluney, left, from Jacksonville, Florida. Walker is from Virginia’s Fairfax County. (Courtesy Jacksonville Firefighter Charities)

The search continues for two firefighters — including one from Fairfax County, Virginia — who have gone missing after a fishing trip off the Florida coast.

Justin Walker, a master technician for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, was last seen going on the trip with his friend Brian McCluney, a member of the fire department in Jacksonville, Florida.

The pair launched early Friday on McCluney’s 24-foot center console boat off a ramp in Port Canaveral. By late Friday night, family members contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and said the two did not return as planned and could not be reached by phone.

On Monday evening, Chief Keith Powers with Jacksonville Fire and Rescue said in an update that a tackle bag was found 50 miles east of St. Augustine, near Jacksonville, and family members had identified the bag as belonging to McCluney. The bag was found by a civilian searcher.

Search efforts are being directed into that area, Powers said, and it’s likely that some boats may be offshore all night.

“We’re going to ramp up our search in the area where that bag was found,” Powers said. He asked for interested volunteers with a boat, capable of working 30-60 miles off shore, to help with search efforts Tuesday morning.

“We’re going to find these guys,” Powers said. “We finally started zeroing in a little bit today. We’re going to find them. Absolutely, it’s a rescue mission.”

Powers added that 37 boats and around 138 people were out searching, including volunteers and firefighters. A search by air involved six aircraft, he said.

The nonprofit Jacksonville Firefighter Charities has set up an online fundraiser for the search effort and to help the firefighters’ families.

Multiple local, state and federal agencies joined the search effort, including the U.S. Navy.

Earlier, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue had sent 50 firefighters out on 11 boats. Powers told local station WJXT that other fire departments across that area have been stepping up. “That’s just a unique bond that only firefighters share, and it’s shared throughout the country. You hear the cliché that it’s a second family, but it really is a second family,” he said.

On Sunday, the Coast Guard said the search had covered more than 20,000 square miles so far, extending north of Jacksonville and 80 miles off shore.

Also Sunday, the Coast Guard investigated a debris field that was spotted about 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine. The agency later said on Twitter that it was a false alarm.

“No boats found and floating items turned out to be other debris not related to the boaters,” the Coast Guard said. “Crews are expanding search patterns in the area.”

The search for Walker is on the minds of firefighters in Virginia.

Fairfax County Fire and Rescue said in a statement Monday afternoon that the department is in contact with Walker’s family and Jacksonville Fire and Rescue.

“We remain optimistic that they will be found,” the department said. “We are working closely with authorities in Florida to provide assistance and coordinate any resource needs. Please keep these firefighters, their families and friends in your thoughts and prayers.”

Fairfax County Professional Firefighters & Paramedics President Ron Kuley said that his organization is cautiously optimistic. “It gets a little emotional thinking about this. It’s a very difficult situation, but we’re hoping for a positive outcome,” he said.

Kuley thanked all the people who are searching for the men, saying they have been doing an “extraordinary” job.

“Our brothers out there are alive and they’re going to be found,” Kuley said. “We just need a lot of positive energy and prayers.”

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino and Teta Alim contributed to this report.

Source

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Search for missing Fairfax firefighter covers 20,000 square miles

Westlake Legal Group firefighters-picture-e1566211617481 Search for missing Fairfax firefighter covers 20,000 square miles virginia news nick iannelli National News missing persons Local News Latest News Justin Walker Jacksonville Florida Fairfax County, VA News Fairfax County Fire & Rescue boating
The search goes on for missing firefighters Justin Walker, right, and Brian McCluney, left, from Jacksonville, Florida. Walker is from Virginia’s Fairfax County. (Courtesy Jacksonville Firefighter Charities)

The search for a Fairfax County, Virginia, firefighter off the coast of Florida stretched into a third full day Monday after a widespread effort by air and sea came up empty over the weekend.

Justin Walker, a master technician for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department, was last seen going on a fishing trip with his friend Brian McCluney, a member of the Jacksonville, Florida, fire department.

The pair launched early Friday on McCluney’s 24-foot center console boat off a ramp in Port Canaveral.

By late Friday night, family members contacted the U.S. Coast Guard and said they did not return as planned and could not be reached by phone.

Multiple local, state and federal agencies joined the search effort, including the U.S. Navy.

The Jacksonville fire department sent 50 firefighters out on 11 boats. Jacksonville Fire Chief Keith Powers told local station WJXT that other fire departments across that area have been stepping up.

“They’re all offering their services, helping out with the search,” Powers said. “That’s just a unique bond that only firefighters share, and it’s shared throughout the country. You hear the cliché that it’s a second family, but it really is a second family.”

According to the Coast Guard, the search has covered more than 20,000 square miles so far, extending north of Jacksonville and 80 miles off shore.

On Sunday, the Coast Guard investigated a debris field that was spotted about 50 miles off the coast of St. Augustine. The agency later said on Twitter that it was a false alarm.

“No boats found and floating items turned out to be other debris not related to the boaters,” the Coast Guard said. “Crews are expanding search patterns in the area.”

The nonprofit Jacksonville Firefighter Charities has set up an online fundraiser for the search effort and to help the firefighters’ families.

Source

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

FBI offers reward for ‘Furry Mask Bandit’

A man with a funny nickname is accused of serious crimes in Maryland and Virginia, and the FBI is offering thousands of dollars in reward money, hoping for tips that will lead to his arrest.

The FBI says the man, known as the “Furry Mask Bandit,” is responsible for at least four bank robberies since October.

“We do feel that he’s a danger to the community,” said Special Agent Robert Bornstein. “We need public assistance in capturing this guy.”

According to the FBI, the man wears hoodie sweatshirts, furry masks or wigs, and sunglasses to cover his face. He has been described as slim and 5 feet, 9 inches to 5 feet, 10 inches tall.

A $5,000 reward is offered for information that leads to the suspect.

“As time goes on, serial bank robbers may get more aggressive, and we just don’t want anyone to be harmed by this individual,” Bornstein said.

The Furry Mask Bandit has robbed SunTrust banks inside Safeway grocery stores in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and in Falls Church and Herndon, Virginia.

Investigators said the man approaches the counter and passes a note demanding money, asking for $100 bills.

“The demand letters are consistent in message and in handwriting style,” said Bornstein.

Anyone with information is urged to contact the FBI Washington Field Office at (202) 278-2000 or submit a tip at https://tips.fbi.gov.

Source

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After flooding, Fairfax Co. declares local emergency; other jurisdictions still adding up damage

Fairfax County, Virginia, became the latest jurisdiction in the area to declare a local emergency following the flash flooding last week that damaged homes, businesses and roads.

The county Board of Supervisors voted for the declaration this week, which is required in Virginia for local governments that plan to seek disaster relief funding for residents and business owners.

The declaration allows jurisdictions to request additional resources from the state and federal governments and could potentially lead to FEMA assistance.

“We’re going to be in that process today, tomorrow and probably in the next couple months, ensuring that these folks are taken care of,” said Fairfax County Executive Bryan Hill.

Arlington County and the City of Falls Church already declared their own local emergencies. Early next week, the Alexandria City Council plans to discuss doing the same thing.

“That was a 100-year storm that we experienced,” Hill said.

Local governments across the area are still adding up the damage.

In Maryland, where the jurisdictions are not required to go through the process of declaring a local emergency, officials have been reviewing reports from residents and deciding whether they will seek assistance.

“Getting a federal disaster declaration is very difficult,” said Earl Stoddard, director of Montgomery County’s Emergency Management Agency. “We’re not sure we’re going to meet those thresholds, but we want to give our residents the best opportunity to make the case to the state that such a declaration is necessary.”

Reagan National Airport reported 3.3 inches of rain in an hour, including a half-inch of rain in 11 minutes, during the morning of Monday, July 8.

Between 3 and 6 inches of rain had fallen in Montgomery County by 11 a.m.

Water levels at Cameron Run, in Alexandria, a flood-prone area along the Capital Beltway, rose more than 7 feet over 30 minutes, according to the National Weather Service.

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Fairfax Co. schools tackling ‘seclusion and restraint’ practices

School officials in Fairfax County, Virginia, are working to address “seclusion and restraint” disciplinary techniques for students with disabilities as they face increasing scrutiny over the issue.

During ongoing budget talks this week, the Fairfax County School Board discussed a number of potential changes aimed at improving the way teachers handle children who have disabilities. Restraint and seclusion refers to the practice of physically restraining students, who often have a disability, if they are being disruptive in class.

“We are making some good first steps to move the system forward,” said Superintendent Scott Brabrand Thursday. “We recognize that healing does need to happen.”

To limit the practice, board members are considering adding more behavior management teachers, more training for current educators and a special education specialist who would work in the school system’s ombudsman’s office.

“The primary responsibility of this additional position would be to support parents with special education concerns,” said Chief Equity Officer Francisco Durán. “We would have an individual who has greater knowledge and experience in special education.”

Brabrand said an independent counsel is currently reviewing the school system’s use of restraint and seclusion. He also said that officials were working to establish a task force that could investigate the practice and provide recommendations moving forward.

He did not have an estimate on how much money the system would ultimately spend on all the changes.

“We don’t want to cost out long-term solutions before we’ve done the work of that task force, or the outside independent review is conducted,” Brabrand said.

School board member Elizabeth Schultz expressed skepticism that adding more employees would help.

“Why are we adding more people when it’s really a professional development issue?” Schultz asked. “I don’t feel like we’re actually talking about what the goal is.”

Brabrand responded by saying that current educators need hands-on guidance.

“We can’t just put people in the classroom, close the door and hope it goes well,” he said.

Fairfax County Public Schools began facing intense scrutiny over the issue following a story by WAMU that showed the school system had reported, incorrectly, that no students were being retrained or secluded. Documents later revealed hundreds of cases showing otherwise.

School officials said they are working to compile the correct information and will submit it to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

Source

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Blocking intersections in Montgomery Co. could soon result in a ticket

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Some area communities have signs at intersections that warn drivers, “Don’t Block the Box.” And Montgomery County, Maryland, could soon join them.

State Sen. Will Smith said he plans to introduce legislation when the state legislative session begins next month that would make it illegal for drivers to block intersections in the county.

“Blocking intersections has been a big problem, especially in downtown Silver Spring during rush hour,” Smith said. “This bill would essentially allow an officer to cite a person who is caught in the intersection blocking the box.”

A ticket for such an offense would be a civil violation — not a criminal one — and would lead to a $100 fine, according to Smith.

Smith listed a few intersections that tend to get blocked during busy times, including Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road; Colesville Road and University Boulevard; and parts of Chevy Chase and Kensington along Connecticut Avenue.

“It’s essentially to increase awareness, pedestrian safety and to keep the flow of traffic going,” Smith said. “In the past year I’ve received no fewer than 15 constituent requests saying, ‘Hey, you’ve got to do something to fix this.’”

Under the legislation, a driver going through a green or yellow light would not be allowed to “enter an intersection if the vehicle is unable to safely and completely proceed through the intersection.”

A police officer would be able to issue a ticket for the offense only if signs were posted at the intersection that warned drivers about blocking the box.

Drivers can be fined for blocking intersections in the District. In Baltimore, a similar law took effect in October, with fines reaching $125.

“To avoid blocking the box, you should wait to enter an intersection until you are sure you can make it all the way through the intersection,” said Baltimore’s Department of Transportation.

“Wait behind the stop bar, not in the crosswalk, and look to see if the vehicles in front of you on the other side of the intersection have left enough room for you to make it through without stopping in the crosswalk on the other side.”

 

Source

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