Suspect released on bond days before West End homicide

Suspect released on bond days before West End homicide

By Cody Mello-Klein |

Tavon Marquis Lanier, the suspect arrested for the Sept. 30 homicide of West End resident John Pope, was released on bail eight days before the murder, according to court records.

Pope’s murder is the second homicide in the city this year and the second murder case in which the primary suspect was out on bond when he allegedly committed the crime. Ibrahim Bouaichi, the suspect in the July 29 murder of Karla Dominguez, had been indicted for raping

Dominguez in October 2019 but was released on bond in April after his trial was re- scheduled due to COVID-19.

On Sept. 22, police arrested Lanier, 19, for allegedly stalking and threatening his ex-girlfriend and breaking into her apartment. That same day, Lanier was taken to the magistrate’s office, where he had an initial bail hearing and was released on bond with an arraignment set for Oct. 9, according to court records.

On Sept. 30, Pope, 47, was found with a gunshot wound in his West End home in the 5900 block of Quantrell Avenue. Pope was transported to the hospital where he later died. Lanier was arrested for the murder on Oct. 4.

In Alexandria, the magistrate operates as a quasi-judicial officer within the judicial branch and conducts initial bail hearings 24/7. The arresting officer takes the suspect through booking and then immediately to the magistrate’s office. Based on the officer’s account of the arrest, the magistrate determines whether there is probable cause to issue warrants and holds an initial bail hearing. Only the arresting police officer, defendant and magistrate are present at these initial hearings.

In Lanier’s case, the bond determination and warrants were executed around 11 p.m. on Sept. 22, according to a source familiar with the case.

Chief Magistrate Adam Willard, the magistrate who conducted Lanier’s bail hearing, declined to comment on the case.

Lanier’s preliminary trial is set for Nov. 30. The Office of the Commonwealth’s Attorney, which is now involved in both of Lanier’s cases, moved to revoke his bail on the previous stalking and burglary charges.

Prior to his arrest in September, Lanier was arrested for identity theft and forgery on Sept. 27, 2019, according to court records. He was sentenced to 60 days in prison, but 55 days were suspended. He was put on a two-year probation and was scheduled to appear for an administrative hearing on Dec. 4, according to court records.