By Erich Wagner (File photo)
Though authorities remain without a suspect in the shooting death of transit policy expert Ronald Kirby, Police Chief Earl Cook reiterated at a Thursday neighborhood meeting that Rosemont residents need not fear for their safety.
“People ask me, ‘Is the neighborhood safe?’ I say it’s as safe as any community I have in Alexandria,” Cook said in front of about 70 residents at Matthew Maury Elementary School. “My educated police guess is we don’t have to worry about someone who is crazed running around, killing people at random.”
But at the meeting, hosted by Rosemont Citizens Association, Cook revealed that he has increased the police department’s presence in the neighborhood, which was rocked by the November 11 murder of Kirby.
“We’ve been patrolling [the Rosemont neighborhood] more often,” he said. “We’ve got marked cruisers as well as sometimes unmarked cars. Detectives are still doing canvasses and re-canvasses, performing interviews and follow-up interviews.”
Cook refused to say at the meeting — which included Mayor Bill Euille and City Councilors Tim Lovain, Paul Smedberg and Justin Wilson — whether authorities believe Kirby, 69, was targeted. And the chief did not budge when pressed by several residents for details on the killing, such as the condition of the home and whether belongings were taken.
“I won’t get into those investigative facts,” he said. “We can use those things as tools in our interrogation process [when we apprehend a suspect]. To publicize what we know could not only destroy our interrogation, but also the eventual prosecution.”
Resident Laura Rose asked Cook how long the neighborhood would receive special attention from the department, specifically regarding extra patrols.
“At least until we’re closer to feeling that we either have something or we don’t have something, which can be a long time in the case of a homicide,” Cook said. “Frankly, as long as I can.”
And Allison DiNardo, a neighbor of the Kirby household, questioned the department’s thoroughness.
“Many of us were not contacted,” she said. “I tried to talk to detectives, and it seemed like police did not want to talk to us and simply gave us a [business] card.”
With the sheer number of people living in Rosemont — a popular residential neighborhood — Cook said that DiNardo likely would hear from officers soon.
“They talked to as many people as they possibly can,” Cook said. “It’s a pretty dense community, so sometimes they can’t get to everyone at once.”
But the neighborhood wasn’t the only thing on residents’ minds. Caitlin Rockwell, president of the Matthew Maury Elementary School PTA, worried about possible risks to students and teachers at the institution.
“There’s been no outreach to parents here,” she said. “Are you confident that our children will be safe?”
“We don’t have anything that suggests that students or staff would have been targeted [if they were in school November 11],” Cook responded. “We don’t feel right now that there’s any reason for parents or children to feel at risk.”
Investigators are working around the clock to track down leads and find a suspect, he said. Cook also encouraged potential witnesses to come to police with anything that triggers “your intuitive nature.”
“We ask that you continue to help us with any leads or anything unusual you notice in the community,” he said. “It doesn’t satisfy me, and it shouldn’t satisfy you or the Kirby family that we don’t have this resolved yet.”