Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Strong-arm rape reported in Rockville parking lot

Rockville City police responded to a report of a strong-arm rape at a parking lot in an East Rockville industrial park early Sunday morning, October 29, 2023. The sexual assault was reported in a parking lot in the 7400 block of Westmore Road at 2:00 AM Sunday. A 2nd-degree assault was reported at a business on the same block about 40 hours earlier

Hate crime report filed with USDOJ regarding desecrated Montgomery County cemetery

A protest of a Democratic Party fundraiser in Potomac this past weekend by advocates for the desecrated Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda has borne political fruit. The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition announced today that it has filed a hate crime report with the U.S. Department of Justice, as advised by U.S. Congressman Jamie Raskin (D - 8th District). Raskin, who along with Maryland Gov. Wes Moore was one of the targets of the protest at the Saturday event, has told the BACC that he will follow up with the DOJ to "ensure the report is reviewed," the organization claimed in a statement. 

Moses African Cemetery, located largely on the Westwood Tower property in Bethesda, was first desecrated in the late 1960s by workers building the apartment tower. The rest of the graves were paved over for a parking lot, and the matter was covered up by Montgomery County officials for decades. A potential sale of the Westwood Tower property, including the graveyard, by owner Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County is stalled in a legal battle that is now moving to the Maryland Supreme Court. BACC has alleged that the HOC violated Maryland law by entering a sale agreement of a burial site without contacting the descendants of those interred there.

Over 200 bone fragments from a construction site directly adjacent to the cemetery have been trucked to a warehouse in Virginia over objections by the BACC, which has asked the private developer and County officials to allow their independent expert to examine them. Neither has agreed to date to allow the review.

"The report provides a detailed overview of the desecration of Moses, detailing the crimes, the criminals, and their accomplices," BACC said in today's statement. "Despite years of advocacy and appeals by BACC and our legal team to end the pillaging of funerary objects, tombstones, and possible human remains, we have seen no action from local officials. As we have documented and shared with the public, it is clear that many of these officials are themselves deeply involved in this hate crime and subsequent cover-up. They have been named in the report.

"BACC will continue to demand the return of all funerary objects, possible human remains (for independent testing by Dr. Michael Blakey), and ultimately the return of Moses Cemetery to the descendant community for proper stewardship. The county and the developers it has provided permits to (which they have failed to comply with) should not be responsible for our ancestors, whom they have dug up and disrespected time and time again."

A series of rallies outside the U.S. Department of Justice are being planned by BACC. The organization is hopeful that the report they have filed will result in a long-sought federal investigation into the known crimes and alleged crimes that have taken place at the historic Black cemetery over the last six decades. Maryland's Supreme Court is expected to take up the BACC's case against the HOC in January.

Monday, October 30, 2023

The Phantom of the Shady Grove Metro station

Montgomery County Halloween Countdown

Tomorrow is Halloween, and what is Halloween without a ghost? There's one who haunts the area around the Shady Grove Metro station in Derwood, and has since his untimely death there in 1864. Walter "Wat" Bowie was among many Marylanders who were Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War. Like some, such as Bethesda plantation owner Nathan Loughborough, Bowie couldn't resist getting in on the fighting action himself despite living in a state that hadn't seceded from the Union. And yes, Wat Bowie was a member of that Bowie family, whose home turf is now a fast-growing city in Prince George's County.

Bowie's final adventure began on an ambitious note: a botched plan to kidnap the governor of Maryland. Retreating back to Virginia from Annapolis via Montgomery County, Bowie made the mistake of trying to loot a store in Sandy Spring. Tired after previous pillaging by earlier Confederate raiders, the store owner rounded up a posse, and pursued Bowie and his men as they traveled toward Poolesville. 

The vigilantes caught up with Bowie in Derwood, near the site of today's Metro station. His party escaped, but Wat himself wasn't as lucky. Bowie was shot off his horse with a shotgun blast. Historian Earl Eisenhart pinpoints the exact location as being next to the Metro tracks off Somerville Road, by the McDonald's. Bowie's ghost is said to haunt that area to this day.





Sunday, October 29, 2023

Assault at Rockville auto repair shop

Rockville City police were called to an auto repair shop in an East Rockville industrial park Friday morning, October 27, 2023, after someone reported having been the victim of a 2nd-degree assault there. The assault was reported at a repair shop in the 7400 block of Westmore Road at 10:54 AM.

Rockville Wendy's reopens after renovations (Photos)

The Wendy's restaurant at 808 Rockville Pike has reopened for business after an extensive remodeling. While the building's distinctive curved glass roofline was permanently retired, the pleasant surprise is that the redesign is a newer one than the Derwood location received nearly a year ago. The logos are the latest iteration being used by the Ohio-based chain, and there are extra pictures of Wendy on the building itself, rather than the plain black strip running around the top of the Derwood restaurant. Inside, the dining room seems brighter and more-welcoming than it was previously. It's time to celebrate with a Baconator and Frosty - but don't tell the County Council!

PacSun closes at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

has permanently closed at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Signage has been removed from above the storefront. PacSun, a.k.a. Pacific Sunwear, started as a small surf shop in Seal Beach, California in 1980. It had a long run at Montgomery Mall. The closure is the latest sign of a moribund Montgomery County economy, as PacSun has recovered from its 2016 bankruptcy filing, and more recently has been opening or remodeling stores rather than closing them. 

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Assault in Rockville townhome community

Montgomery County police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault on a residential street in a townhome community off of Shady Grove Road Thursday evening, October 26, 2023. The assault was reported in the unit block of Travilah Crest Terrace at 9:00 PM Thursday. That is in the Travilah Station community.

Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition to protest Maryland governor, congressman at Potomac fundraiser

BACC President Marsha Coleman-Adebayo at
a 2017 protest regarding Moses African Cemetery

The Bethesda African Cemetery Coalition will protest outside a Maryland Democratic Party fundraiser in Potomac today, an event Maryland Gov. Wes Moore (D) and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D - 8th District) are expected to attend. Leaders of the BACC are demanding Moore and Raskin take action to end the desecration of the Moses African Cemetery in Bethesda, and force the release the over 200 bone fragments that were exhumed on a construction site adjacent to the graveyard for testing, to determine if they are human remains. Those remains were trucked out of state to a Virginia warehouse, and neither Montgomery County nor the private developer of the site has agreed to make them available for independent testing. Raskin visited the graveyard site in-person, and was asked to act at the federal level to address the cemetery issues, but later said he would defer to Montgomery County officials on the matter and ceased correspondence with BACC.

Today's protest will take place between 12:15 and 2:30 PM outside 9400 Persimmon Tree Road in Potomac. This appears to be a private mansion. According to the website of the Montgomery County Democratic Party, the "Afternoon of Elegance" event will be held from 2:00 to 4:00 PM today.

Friday, October 27, 2023

Route 666, the real-life Highway to Hell, is in Montgomery County

Montgomery County Halloween Countdown

Did you know there is a real Route 666, and it is located in Kensington, Maryland? The Satanic-numbered Maryland highway designation was given to Armory Avenue, a portion of Howard Avenue, and St. Paul Street, when they served as the original route to cross the Baltimore & Ohio (now CSX) Railroad tracks in Kensington. Today, the newer Connecticut Avenue serves that purpose to the west, with a grade-separated bridge crossing. The controversial 666 route number was removed in 1958, but you can still drive the real-life "Highway to Hell" today. However, the only way to travel the entire length continously is on foot, by using the pedestrian crossing at the Kensington railroad station. 

Police called after assault at school in Derwood

Montgomery County police were called to a school in Derwood yesterday afternoon, October 26, 2023, after a 2nd-degree assault was reported there. Officers responded to a school in the 5900 block of Muncaster Mill Road at 4:13 PM Thursday. Col. Zadok Magruder High School is located on that block.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The creepiest license plate in Montgomery County

Montgomery County Halloween Countdown

Today on the Montgomery County Halloween Countdown, we have the creepiest license plate you're likely to find in MoCo. "Casket" is the vanity tag for a Chrysler 300 sedan staff vehicle at the Robert A. Pumphrey Funeral Home in downtown Bethesda. The black car also features the flashing emergency lights for funeral processions that have become standard on most funeral home hearses in recent years. Don't expect an actual casket to fit into a Chrysler 300, despite the spine-chilling tags.

Police arrest 2 after assault at Rockville Town Square

Rockville City police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault at Rockville Town Square early Sunday morning, October 22, 2023. The assault was reported in the 100 block of Gibbs Street at 2:40 AM Sunday. Officers arrested a male and a female suspect at the scene.

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

The Rockville Mall had a newspaper, and it could be as creepy as the mall was (Photos)

Montgomery County Halloween Countdown

Today, as we count down the final days to Halloween, let's take a look at the Halloween 1976 edition of The Rockville Mall Times. Yes, Rockville's ill-fated dead mall of the 1970s and 80s had its own newspaper, and it could be as creepy as many considered the mall to be. Especially the Halloween edition. Who was Mr. Barfly, and was he a denizen of the shadows of the mall? Are you encouraged, or discouraged, to visit Ransom's, with Mr. Barfly as the face of the business? His disturbing visage suggests a ransom may indeed be involved to secure your release from his clutches, and from the mall's infamous dark parking garage.

Mr. Barfly, a denizen of the darkest
corners of the Rockville Mall

"Hey, kids! Let's all pile into the station wagon and pick up a copy of Adolf Hitler by John Toland at Waldenbooks at the Rockville Mall." With Roots as the other choice highlighted, talk about a stark contrast in offerings. Some lighthearted reading for the whole family at Waldenbooks.

Name-brand leisure suits were 50% off - if Herb Tarlek didn't get to Crane's Men's Shop first and clean 'em out. It's hard to get more 70s than leisure suits. But Beyda's gave it the old college try with corduroy, gabardine and velveteen pantsuits.

The front-page story in the Halloween 1976 edition of the The Rockville Mall Times looked back at the tragic demolition of the Rockville's historic town center with an almost-giddy glee. Vinson's drugstore and the Milo theater are visible in a bustling scene from 1945. Thirty years later, the Rockville Mall fills the field of view from the same photographic vantage point (and only 20 years later, the mall itself would be demolished). 

"Progress comes to Rockville," the headline reads. "Shopping sure has changed in Rockville," the article begins. The uncredited reporter made sure to thank the city politicians who approved the demolition of most of the original, historic buildings in downtown Rockville. "During this week, Rockville Mall also salutes the City of Rockville for the many years of progressive city planning that has made Rockville a model city for responsive government, and a convenient place for residents to shop."

A 1976 mall directory shown lists more than 30 tenants. But in a sign of the mall's struggles, previous department store anchors Lansburgh and Lit Brothers were already conspicuously missing from the roster. The interesting names among the remaining tenants were Roy Rogers, Franklin Simon department store and W&J Sloane furniture (both from the same ownership group as Lansburgh and Lit Brothers, coincidentally), King's Court (an original tenant when the mall opened, the restaurant closed in 1984 when its space was replaced with an elevator shaft in the "Rockville Metro Center" makeover of the mall), Friendly's Ice Cream and Real Rich Ice Cream (2 ice cream shops! Which one was better?), Masi's Fun House (was Mr. Barfly ever lurking in there, as well?), Kurly's (what's that?), Empress Restaurant and Waxie Maxie's record store. 

In case shoppers didn't already have it penciled in on their calendars, The Rockville Mall Times noted that National Alcoholism Week was rapidly approaching on November 12. But just when the gloom became too much, the Times promised that "Santa arrives at Rockville Mall Friday, November 26 at 10 AM." After a reminder to "Support your local Rockville Mall merchant who supports you with low prices," the front page ends with the mall's 70s logo, and the tagline "GOOD NEWS/GOOD TIMES."

Maryland Governor Wes Moore endorses Angela Alsobrooks in U.S. Senate race

Maryland Democrats suddenly have a barnburner of a primary race on their hands in the U.S. Senate race to replace retiring Senator Ben Cardin in the 2024 election. Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks' candidacy got a twin jolt of energy when primary opponent Will Jawando dropped out of the race and endorsed her, and Maryland Governor Wes Moore unexpectedly weighed in on the contest in her favor. Moore appeared free to move once Jawando, a friend, ended his campaign. But Moore's endorsement of Alsobrooks is a risky political move, as Alsobrooks' top rival David Trone is a wealthy fundraiser who counts former president Barack Obama among his political allies.

Trone not only handily funds his own campaigns with his Total Wine fortune, but is a powerhouse fundraiser for Democrats nationally, including Obama. He has hosted Obama for fundraisers at his Montgomery County home in the past. But Obama endorsed Moore in his successful 2022 gubernatorial campaign, and Moore's name entered the 2028 presidential race discussion before he had even been sworn in as Maryland's first Black governor in January. Along with Moore's central casting persona, and stellar resume, the fallout for the rookie governor may be minimal.

The Moore and Jawando tag-team endorsement has potentially united the Black vote in the race behind Alsobrooks. She leads the second-wealthiest majority-Black jurisdiction in the nation, and the wealthiest - Charles County - is also in Maryland. The Black vote is critical to victory in the state, although that didn't help Donna Edwards in her U.S. Senate race against eventual winner Chris Van Hollen. Trone is popular among independents, and among the growing number of Republicans who switch to the Democratic party for primary elections in Maryland. Even many conservatives respect his business acumen and success.

Former state legislator Robin Ficker is the only current Republican candidate in the race with any statewide name recognition. Former Gov. Larry Hogan was well-positioned to run - and had an outside chance to win. But he chose to focus on a potential presidential campaign instead, and remains among those rumored to be under consideration for the No Labels independent ticket, should it materialize next year. Fantasy GOP candidates like Cal Ripken and Pat Sajak have shown no interest in running, and the Republican farm team is virtually non-existent. The absence of a prominent MAGA Republican candidate in the race means there is a wide lane open for a Hogan-style moderate GOP candidate to enter the race.

Assault at Rockville Metro station

Rockville City police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault at the Rockville Metro station Monday evening, October 23, 2023. The assault was reported near the S. Stonestreet Avenue side of the station property at 6:39 PM. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Buy Buy Baby to return in Rockville this fall (Photos)

The new owners of the Buy Buy Baby retail chain have posted signage regarding their plan to reopen the Rockville location at Congressional Plaza. It is scheduled to reopen this fall. Here's a sneak peek inside the store, where you can see that shelving is in place, and even a Buy Buy Baby shopping cart. Buy Buy Baby's return in Rockville is fitting, as the chain's very first store opened in 1996 in Rockville.

Monday, October 23, 2023

Calzedonia opening soon at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

is opening soon at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. The Italian brand specializes in legwear, swimwear and socks. Calzedonia also owns Intimissimi, a lingerie brand that also has a boutique at the mall. When Calzedonia opens, look for it on Level 1, between Talbots and Sunglass Hut.

Assault at Rockville bus stop

Rockville City police responded to a report of a 2nd-degree assault on Thursday night, October 19, 2023. The assault was reported at a bus stop in the 2200 block of Veirs Mill Road at 6:30 PM Thursday. That's in the vicinity of the Twinbrook Shopping Center.

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Two more pickpocket incidents in Rockville

Nimble fingers continue to flex their pocket-searching muscles in Rockville in recent days. Two more pickpocket incidents were reported at retail establishments on Friday, October 20, and yesterday, October 21, 2023. A pocket was picked at a store in the 10000 block of Darnestown Road at 6:46 PM on Friday. Another wallet was pilfered at a business in the 5200 block of Randolph Road yesterday afternoon at 1:15 PM. Watch your wallet: the National Crime Prevention Council recommends carrying your wallet in a front pocket, rather than in your rear pocket.

Police respond to assault at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

Montgomery County police responded to a report of an assault at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda on Friday afternoon, October 20, 2023. The assault was reported at 3:07 PM Friday. This is the fourth assault reported at the mall this year, and the first since July 19. Despite that, violent crime has trended downward at the mall since police established a "resource room" at the popular retail center, following a string of assaults last year. By comparison, there were 12 assaults reported at the mall in 2022.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Fix relocates at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

The Fix
has relocated inside Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda. Its old space near the food court has been cleared out. Look for the device repair and accessories shop next to AT&T. The Fix opened at the mall in 2017. Their new spot looks a bit bigger.

Pickpockets strike twice in 7 minutes in Rockville

Watch your wallet in Rockville! Pickpockets struck twice in two different locations within 7 minutes of each other on Wednesday, October 18, 2023. The first incident was reported at 5:23 PM at a store in the 12200 block of Rockville Pike. Seven minutes later, Montgomery County police were called for a second pickpocket incident at a restaurant in the 1400 block of Research Boulevard. The latter theft appears to have taken place at the Research Row development, which has several restaurants.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Will Jawando ends campaign for Maryland U.S. Senate seat

Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando (D - At-Large) announced this morning that he is ending his campaign for the Maryland U.S. Senate seat of Ben Cardin (D), who will retire in January 2025. In a statement released by his campaign, Jawando said that "after a lot of thought and prayer and late nights with my wife Michele, I’ve decided that it’s time to take a step back from the race. Not because we believe any less in the cause that started it. The fights we talked about in this campaign are and always will be the fights of my life. But after thinking long and hard about this race in particular, I frankly no longer see a path for myself to victory. And because I have so much respect for my loyal supporters, my constituents in Montgomery County, and my loving wife and children, I cannot remain in a race I do not believe I can win."

Jawando's exit is disappointing for progressive voters who supported his campaign. "I am sorry for those who will find this news disappointing – believe me, I am also disappointed," Jawando said. To his supporters, and the local and state-level elected officials who endorsed him, the councilman said, "I am so proud to have earned your support. I look forward to fighting alongside you each and every day. Thank you again to every supporter of my campaign, it truly means the world to me that you believed in me, my message, and our vision."

Barring a late entry by Congressman Jamie Raskin or another established progressive candidate, Jawando's exit is most likely to benefit Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. While many - including a few journalists - have questioned Alsobrooks' progressive bonafides based on her law enforcement record, she is still considered to stand to the left of her biggest rival, Congressman David Trone (D - 6th District). Police reform and transparency were niche issues for Jawando in the race, and those will likely fade into the background now that neither Trone nor Alsobrooks are likely to raise them going forward. 

While Jawando is folding his Senate campaign, he assured supporters he won't be stepping away from politics. "I am not going anywhere!" he said. "I will continue serving the people of Maryland no matter what." Some observers have theorized that, should a referendum barring Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich (D) from seeking a third term appear on the 2024 ballot and pass, Jawando might be a candidate for that top County office in 2026. An open executive seat is likely to be pursued by Jawando, Councilmember Evan Glass (D - At-Large), and Councilmember Andrew Friedson (D - District 1), among other notable Democrats. As Jawando signed off in his statement today, "This is not the end – it is only the beginning."

Police called after assault at school in Rockville

Montgomery County police were dispatched to Parkland Magnet Middle School for Aerospace Technology at 4610 W. Frankfort Drive in Rockville yesterday afternoon, after a 2nd-degree assault was reported there. The assault was reported at the school at 5:26 PM Thursday.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

PacSun closing at Montgomery Mall in Bethesda

One of the longest-tenured tenants at Westfield Montgomery Mall in Bethesda will soon close its doors forever. PacSun is now winding down operations. Everything in the store is on sale, and many shelves are already bare as a result.

The California-inspired casualwear store is also offering a Buy One, Get One Free promotion. We probably can't blame this particular closure on Montgomery County's moribund economy, or on the County Council. PacSun has been struggling as a chain for most of this century. Despite filing for, and successfully emerging from, bankruptcy nearly a decade ago, PacSun is repositioning itself in the market with a new women's activewear store concept.

Sushi Damo closes in Rockville

The hits just keep on coming at Rockville Town Square. Sushi Damo has permanently closed at 36-G Maryland Avenue. The well-reviewed restaurant was in business for 16 years, a relative eternity in Montgomery County's business-unfriendly climate, where restaurants often operate on razor-thin profit margins. Now it's the latest victim of this struggling Town Center property, and the moribund Montgomery County economy. Sushi Damo left the following farewell message inside the front door of the shuttered restaurant: