Homicide hits Old Town after assault and robbery

Homicide hits Old Town after assault and robbery

By Chris Teale and Erich Wagner (Photo/Chris Teale)

A primarily residential area of Old Town was shaken last week after a 69-year-old man was robbed and assaulted, then died of his injuries in the hospital April 1. It was the city’s first homicide of the year.

Police spokeswoman Crystal Nosal said at around 9:33 p.m. on March 28, officers responded to the report of an assault along the 200 block of S. Alfred St. Upon arriving, they found Melaku Abraha, 69, of Alexandria suffering from a head injury yet conscious and conversant.

Abraha was taken to a local hospital, and investigators later determined he was assaulted during the course of a robbery. Since the incident, the victim’s condition deteriorated, Nosal said, and he died April 1.

“As head trauma sometimes does, it went downhill [over the next several days],” Nosal said. “It wasn’t a case of a shooting or a stabbing … but it was an assault as part of a robbery.”

Neighbors told ABC7 and FOX5 that they heard a noise, and after coming outside, they saw Abraha lying on the ground. Family friend Genet Mulugenat Ima told ABC7 that Abraha had walked to an ATM nearby, and that his attackers watched him withdraw money.

“Then they followed him, beat him. He was down and lost a lot of blood,” Ima told reporters.

That section of South Alfred Street is primarily residential, with the Alfred Street Baptist Church across the intersection of Duke and South Alfred streets. Neighbor Jerusalem Shimeles told ABC7 the homicide was unexpected, especially as Abraha was well-liked.

“I don’t know who did this to him,” Shimeles said. “Last time we had a big snow, he is the guy who helped us shovel. He’ll be missed; he’s a really nice guy.”

Old Town resident Bert Ely, who serves as vice president of the Old Town Civic Association, noted the rarity of major crimes in the area. He pointed to the recent carjacking on South Fairfax and Gibbon streets in January and the robbery of the Safeway on South Royal Street in 2013 as examples that were exceptions rather than the norm.

“Those seemed to have garnered more attention,” Ely said. “Once we know more about the latest homicide, that’ll create more of a stir, but there was the initial report and there’s been nothing since then.”

Instead, Ely said the major crimes in the neighborhood have been from thefts, and that the civic association often hears from police officials to be vigilant.

“You get a lot of standard warnings,” he said. “There are an amazing number of thefts from unlocked cars. It’s standard stuff: you’ve got to lock your cars, don’t leave stuff out in plain view, lock the door to your house. The thing that amazes me is how many of these crimes occur because someone has left something unlocked and leave valuables out in plain sight. A lot of it is just really common-sense stuff. A homicide is relatively rare in Alexandria.”

The Old Town Civic Association’s next meeting is scheduled for April 13, and Ely said he anticipates further discussion about the homicide among members. Nosal had no further details on the incident as of press time.

The slaying was the first homicide in Alexandria in 2016. There were four homicides last year. On December 4, 22-year-old Eduard David Chandias Almendarez was found dead in Four Mile Run Park, then on November 9, Jose Luis Ferman Perez, 24, was found dead in Beverley Park with head and neck wounds. 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.

In January, police officials announced arrests in connection with the killings of Almendarez and Perez. The murders of Williams and Elliot-Tibbs remain unsolved.

Anyone with further information about the incident is asked to contact Detective Bikeramjit Gill of the Alexandria Police Department at 703-746-6751.