Arlington police have arrested a Falls Church man in connection with the fatal shooting of a Wakefield High School student near the Arlington Mill Community Center on April 27, police officials said.
Arlington police suspect the incident was gang-related, which would make it the first deadly gang violence in the county since 2003, Police Spokesman Matt Martin said. This was the second murder in seven days in the Columbia Heights West neighborhood.
Julio Bonilla, 18, and a 17-year-old Wakefield student were shot just before 8:20 p.m. outside the community center, which is off of Columbia Pike.
WHILE POLICE officers were en route to the scene, the two victims arrived at Virginia Hospital Center. Bonilla died at the hospital two hours after the shooting, while the other teenager was treated for life-threatening injuries.
The following day police apprehended 21-year-old Ismael Paiz and have charged him with Bonilla’s murder.
Police have charged two other individuals with participation in a criminal street gang, in relation to the case. They are Hector Rodriguez-Quezada, 19, of Falls Church, and a 16-year-old Arlington juvenile whose name is being withheld because of his age.
Paiz and Rodriguez-Quezada are being held without bond in the Arlington County Detention Center, while the juvenile is being held at the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Home.
Another man, 22-year-old Juan Pablo Salamanca Rodriguez of Falls Church, is wanted for participation in a criminal street gang and is still at large.
As The Connection went to press, Martin did not know where Paiz or the other two individuals had been arrested.
The double shooting has stunned Wakefield students and the Hispanic communities in south Arlington.
"The students have been shook up," said Cathy O’Malley, president of the Wakefield PTA. "Everyone is sad to hear about what happened and concerned about it."
Further compounding the tragedy is the fact that Bonilla’s father died in February after a fire ripped through their south Arlington home, O’Malley said.
Isidro Bonilla, 50, died from smoke inhalation after running upstairs to save their 7-year-old son. Over the past two months the Wakefield PTA has helped collect money for the family.
"This adds real somberness to the news because it’s the same family," O’Malley said.
Wakefield officials declined to comment on the murder. Principal Doris Jackson sent a letter home to parents on April 28 to inform them of the situation.
"Our thoughts and sympathy are with the families of these students," Jackson wrote.
THE SCHOOL has made additional staff and counselors available to the students, and closed the campus during lunch last Friday to ensure that all students were safe and accounted for. Every high school in the county also has a police resource officer to offer guidance and assistance.
Wakefield officials and teachers have actively worked to educate parents and community leaders on ways to keep their children away from gangs.
While the school has been able to avoid the more brutal attacks that have affected neighboring communities, the murder was a harsh reminder that violence can occur even in an affluent county like Arlington.
"Everyone wants to think that [gang violence] is really far away, but it’s much closer than we think," O’Malley said. "At Wakefield we do not tolerate any gang activity."
On April 22, a man was fatally stabbed during a robbery attempt just five blocks from the scene of last week’s shooting. Though the two crimes are unrelated, they have rankled this diverse neighborhood, which Columbia Heights Civic Association President Linda LeDuc called "a mini-United Nations."
LeDuc praised the police department for collaborating with the community to help drive down the crime rate in recent years.
The neighborhood has experienced great success in ridding the area of gang influences, LeDuc said, and for the past two summers it has sponsored sports and recreational activities in local parks to provide students with a positive environment.
Det. Rick Rodriguez said during a gang forum earlier this year that there are between 250 and 300 core gang members in Arlington, with many more moving in and out of the groups. In 2005 there were 200 gang-related criminal incidents, ranging from destruction of property to assaults, Rodriguez added.
The police department has been able to reduce gang violence in the county thanks to increased police surveillance and better enforcement policies, police officials said.
"We have a good handle on the gang situation in Arlington," Martin said. "We’re doing a lot to address it from the law enforcement, human services and community sides."