Man dies from injuries after assault at Sunrise of Alexandria

Man dies from injuries after assault at Sunrise of Alexandria

By Chris Teale (Courtesy photo)

Editor’s note: this is an updated version of this article, and appeared in the November 17 edition of the Times.

The Alexandria Police Department announced last Friday it is investigating a death that resulted from an assault at
a West End senior living facility late last month.

Police said in a statement November 11 that at around 12:30 p.m. October 24, a 72-year-old man assaulted an 82-year-old man inside the Sunrise of Alexandria at 3520 Duke St.

The victim was transported to a local hospital, where he died of his injuries October 26. He was later identified as Hunter Alexander, 82, of Alexandria.

Police said no charges have been filed, and that the decision on whether to file charges is in the hands of the commonwealth’s attorney’s office. Commonwealth’s Attorney Bryan Porter did not respond to requests for comment.

Nancy Bull, chief administrator at the Virginia Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s Northern District Office, said
Alexander died from complications from a blunt force trauma to the hip. Blunt force trauma is sustained from injury, impact or physical attack, but does not necessarily require a weapon.

Sunrise Senior Living spokeswoman Jennifer Clark declined to answer specific questions about the incident, including whether the alleged assailant remains a resident at the facility. She said in a statement that the organization expressed their condolences.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss to our family,” Clark said. “We immediately notified all proper authorities when the incident occurred three weeks ago, and the police commenced an investigation right away. It would not be appropriate to discuss further details, as we must respect the privacy of those involved. We remain focused on
providing our cherished residents with a safe, nurturing home.”

All questions posed to the Alexandria facility about the incident were referred to Clark. Alexandria Police Department spokeswoman Crystal Nosal had no further details on the incident as of press time. Nosal declined to comment on the timing of the announcement relative to when the incident occurred.

The Washington Post reported that Alexander was a veteran of the U.S. Navy, and taught Russian at Georgetown University before he retired. His niece Margy Alexander told The Post that he had lived at Sunrise for about five years, and spent the majority of his life in Alexandria.

“I don’t think it was malicious,” Alexander told The Post. “I think it was just an unfortunate accident, probably one that shouldn’t have happened.”

Sunrise has 316 communities in the U.S., Canada and the UK, serving more than 30,000 residents. It provides independent living, assisted living, memory care and short-term stays among other services for seniors.

In a fact sheet posted online, Sunrise said at least once a month, regional officials review standards in resident
care, clinical operations, regulatory and compliance, dining, facilities and maintenance and human resources and training.

Carol Downs, chairwoman of the city’s commission on aging, said she had never heard of a similar incident in a senior living facility, and that it was worrying.

“We are always concerned when it involves something as serious as this, and any time it involves the safety of seniors,” she said. “[It’s] something we all hope would never happen, and I don’t know how to prevent it.”

Mary Lee Anderson, executive director of local nonprofit Senior Services of Alexandria, said she was shocked by the
news and had similarly never heard of such an incident, but declined to comment further given the lack of details.

Both noted that if the facility is found to be at fault during the criminal investigation, the Northern Virginia Long-Term Care Ombudsman would step in to address any underlying issues in an attempt to prevent such an event from happening in the future. Calls to the ombudsman’s main line were not returned.

Downs said the commission on aging will monitor the situation and ask its police liaison for a full update at its
next meeting. She said anyone concerned about similar incidents while considering a senior living facility for either
themselves or a family member should do their research.

“Certainly to do your homework when you’re looking at living facilities, and that’s not to cast any dispersion on Sunrise or any particular facility, but just to really check out facilities,” Downs said. “Find out what their
guidelines would be as far as safety of the residents.”

This is the sixth homicide of the year in the city.

The first took place in April, when Melaku Abraha was assaulted and robbed on the 200 block of S. Alfred St. and later died of his injuries. In May, Shakeel Baldon, 43, was stabbed on Lincolnia Road and died from his injuries in a local hospital.

In June, Pierre Clark was shot on the 1000 block of Montgomery St., then in July Saquan Hall was shot on the 1000 block of First St. On October 5, Rolf Marshall was shot inside his Duke Street residence.

The only unsolved murder from this year is that of Clark, with police having made arrests in all other cases.

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