By Chris Teale (Photo/Chris Teale)
For the second time in as many months, the Alexandria Police Department is investigating a homicide in one of the city’s public spaces, as a man was found dead in Four Mile Run Park on December 4.
Local officers working in conjunction with the Fairfax County Search and Rescue Urban Team found the body of city resident Eduardo David Chandias Almendarez, 22, in the Arlandria park, suffering from what officers described at the time as “apparent injuries.” He was reported missing on November 28 in the area near Four Mile Run Park, and was described by police as a victim of previous crime and in danger.
Police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said that he suffered a felonious assault in the spring, and that given this history, officers had not ruled out the possibility of the homicide being related to gang activity in the Arlandria area.
“It’s certainly something under investigation considering the victim’s previous issues. He’s been a previous victim of crime, which is why we were concerned when he went missing,” she said. “We’re certainly looking into it, but we don’t have anything conclusive to release to the public.”
Virginia State Police assisted local officers in cordoning off the park and searching for evidence, while Alexandria police were on patrol Sunday during the Four Mile Run Farmers’ Market and available to answer residents’ questions. Nosal had no further details on the status of the investigation as of press time, and for residents in the Arlandria neighborhood, the homicide is troubling.
“It’s really disconcerting and really sad, particularly because there’s been a whole bunch of work particularly in the park lately to try to make it more of a healthier, inviting, good environment for folks,” said local resident Kevin Beekman, who also runs The Arlandrian blog. “This maybe was something that wouldn’t have been as unexpected years ago, but in the last couple of years especially, there has been something more positive and healthy going on in the park, more families playing, more kids playing.”
Beekman said plenty of rehabilitation work has been done in Four Mile Run Park over the past few years to make it more appealing and usable. In addition to wetlands restoration, parks and playgrounds have been rehabilitated and open space has been acquired by the city for recreational use.
In addition, Beekman noted the work done by the Alexandria Aces and volunteers to rehabilitate Frank Mann Field on Commonwealth Avenue and make it playable for the city’s team in the Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League every summer.
“Those [improvements] are all things that are tying the neighborhood together and creating a much more usable recreation and natural space there,” he said.
Arlandria struggled in the past to contain gang activity, including the Salvadorian gang MS-13, but in recent times the neighborhood has improved, according to police and residents.
“There really has been in general a downtick in even nuisance crime, and it really seemed like the neighborhood had turned a corner from some of the history that it has,” Beekman said. “It’s disconcerting. I know the police were in touch with me and other neighbors right away to follow up and let people know what they’re doing.”
Community policing remains a priority in Arlandria, and Beekman said ties between the police department, residents and local civic associations remain strong, especially because of the work of Joe Regotti, the city’s gang prevention and intervention coordinator as part of the city’s gang prevention community task force.
“There is a lot of turnover in this city, a mixture of where we are, people coming here pretty often so the civic associations have really been active in trying to keep those ties with the police and the city and the residents going,” Beekman said.
This is the fourth homicide in Alexandria this year. On November 9, Jose Luis Ferman Perez, 24, was found dead in Beverley Park, commonly known as The Pit, suffering from “chop and stab wounds to his head and neck,” according to an autopsy. Leon Williams, 37, was shot and killed October 7 on Belle Pre Way, and Shakkan Elliot-Tibbs, 22, of Woodbridge was shot and killed July 2 along the 700 block of N. Fayette St. Nosal noted that at this stage, there is nothing to connect this most recent incident with any previous slayings.
The police will host a community meeting on Monday, December 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the gymnasium of the Cora Kelly Recreation Center to address community concerns in the Arlandria, Lynhaven and Hume Springs neighborhoods and surrounding areas. Nosal said that while the meeting will not only focus on the two recent homicides, it was “good timing” for the meeting to be planned for that time.
The Alexandria Police Department asked that anyone with information about this investigation or the victim to contact Detective William Oakley at 703-746-6606.