At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday afternoon, October 14, 38 sign-bearing people set out from Riverton’s Greater Joy Baptist Church parking lot to march to the midway point of the bridge over the South Fork of the Shenandoah River at the northern entrance into the Town of Front Royal, Virginia. Those signs as illustrated in accompanying photos, were of the familial and social roles George Floyd, killed on May 25 while being arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota on a minor criminal accusation, played in life. October 14 would have been Floyd’s 47th birthday. It was acknowledged in demonstrations across the nation.
On their way to the bridge’s center the Front Royal Floyd remembrance demonstrators passed a group of 2nd Amendment advocates gathered near the Riverton 7/11 without incident.
They also heard seemingly supportive honks from a few passing vehicles and heard one American and Trump for President flag-bearing pickup truck gun its engine northbound past them, in what did not appear to be a gesture of solidarity.
They also encountered a familiar lone, sign-bearing counter-protester on the bridge, again without incident other than that person following their march along the bridge’s northbound traffic side walkway. That counter-protester’s sign focused on Floyd’s run-ins with the law, none of which carried a death penalty.
Once at their bridge midpoint destination as 6 p.m. approached they stood silent for 8-minutes-and-46-seconds to honor a 47th birthday that did not come for George Floyd, the man killed by a Minneapolis policeman’s knee to his throat for 8-minutes-and-46 seconds as he was being arrested on May 25 for allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 dollar bill at a convenience store purchase.
The cellphone video of Floyd’s death, murder or modern-day lynching some have called it, as he begged for his life launched a national wave of protests over, not only Floyd’s, but a number of other by all accounts unnecessary deaths by police officers of people of color across the United States of America over the past year-plus.
The Front Royal acknowledgement of George Floyd’s unrealized birthday was organized by Front Royal Unites. Units of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office blocked the outer northbound and southbound lanes from traffic as a safety precaution, although it appeared the southbound lane was opened after it became apparent the involved numbers of Floyd mourners would not require the use of walkways on both sides of the bridge. Rush hour traffic did not appear to be impeded by the march or lane closures.
That Wednesday’s local portion of a national acknowledgement of Floyd’s unrealized birthday did not imply a criticism of local law enforcement’s relationship to all aspects of this community, seemed indicated by Front Royal Unites principal Samuel Porter’s megaphoned thank you to the Sheriff’s Office and nearby support-stationed Town Police units for their cooperation in facilitating Wednesday’s, as well as previous events.
However, questions about Front Royal Unites current leadership’s relationship to all aspects of this community were raised by Norma Jean Shaw’s George Floyd birthday event preview report. Shaw noted Front Royal Unites’ under Porter’s leadership’s initial request was that authorities shut down the South Fork Bridge to all traffic during the Wednesday evening rush hour to facilitate the demonstration.
As Shaw reported, the controlling governmental entity, VDOT (the Virginia Department of Transportation) declined that request to disrupt the traffic flow into and out of Front Royal’s northside for a Wednesday rush hour tribute to Floyd. However, county authorities worked to allow the First Amendment expression of free speech on the equal justice under the law demonstration to occur at the requested site without a major disruption of traffic or safety hazard to the 38 demonstrators, 39 counting the counter-demonstrator on the bridge.
Former FR Unites founding member and first president Stevi Hubbard left the organization in the weeks after its second June public march “For Justice” – the first march was June 5 “Against Racism” drawing an estimated 1500 people to the Bing Crosby Stadium starting and finishing point. The second, June 20 “March for Justice” from Skyline Middle School (the old WCHS massive resistance to desegregation site) to the Gazebo drew about 125 people. Hubbard has declined to comment publicly on the reasons for her departure from the organization.
Frederick County authorities seek ‘person of interest’ in Middletown shooting death
The Frederick County Sheriff’s Office has identified the victim and a “person of interest” being sought for questioning regarding the shooting death in the Middletown McDonald’s parking lot in the early morning hours of October 27th.
The 41-year-old victim is now identified as Keith Tolson.
A person of interest being sought for questioning in Tolson’s death is Jonathan Daniel Mihokovich. The public is advised not to approach Mihokovich if encountered. Rather, call 911 or contact local law enforcement concerning Mihokovich’s whereabouts.
Mihokovich has four current warrants, three drug-related and one for failure to appear.
Tolson was last seen running from the Liberty gas station across Reliance Road towards the McDonald’s restaurant and Econo Lodge hotel. Video evidence shows a pickup truck almost strike and then pursue the victim off the lot and out of camera frame. Shortly afterwards, witnesses report hearing two gunshots and called 9-1-1.
(Info from a release and source information)
Commonwealth alters course in prosecution of George Good in Brinklow murder case
In an unexpected development in the murder case of 20-year-old Tristen Brinklow, three charges against one of the men accused of Brinklow’s 2019 murder were nul-prosed by the prosecution Friday afternoon, October 30, in Warren County General District Court.
Those charges dropped against George Lee Good, 28, are First Degree murder, abduction and disposal of Brinklow’s body. However, Assistant Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney Anna Hammond made it clear the move was not the end of Good’s involvement in the Brinklow murder case.
She informed Judge W. Dale Houff that new direct indictments to the Grand Jury were on the horizon for Good regarding the Brinklow murder. Good remains incarcerated in Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County Regional Jail (RSW Jail) on other charges.
Brinklow’s mother and two other relatives or friends were present to watch Friday’s hearing. Hammond spoke briefly with them in the courtroom during a recess during which Good and his attorney Aaron Burgin left the courtroom to consult privately. The prosecutor also met with them for a longer period in the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office following adjournment after the nul prosequi announcement. The Brinklow contingent did not seem upset by the prosecution’s strategic turn.
Burgin declined to comment on the prosecution’s move following the hearing, noting the promise of new direct felony indictments against his client regarding the case.
The other man charged in Brinklow’s murder, 35-year-old Richard Matthew Crouch has already been indicted on multiple felony counts, including First Degree Murder, by the Grand Jury. A scheduled October 13 Circuit Court hearing on Crouch’s charges was continued to November 9, on the 9 a.m. docket. In addition to First Degree Murder, felony charges against Crouch include Abduction by Force, Concealment of a Dead Body and Physical Defilement of a Dead Body.
As previously reported, in the criminal complaints against the men in the Brinklow murder case it is stated that after being informed of his Miranda Right not to self-incriminate, Crouch gave law enforcement officials a description of the circumstance of Brinklow’s death.
“Mathew (sic) Crouch stated that he and George Good physically assaulted and bound Tristan (sic) Brinklow in a residence, within Front Royal. He stated this assault led to the death of Brinklow. Crouch stated they placed Brinklow into a refrigerator and attempted to conceal the refrigerator at Digs Landing by placing vegetation on and around the refrigerator,” the criminal complaints state, adding, “Crouch provided information against his penal interests, while under Miranda Advisement, and provided information not known to the general public but was confirmed by evidence at the crime scene.”
In a nod to the previous misspelling of Brinklow’s first name in earlier court documents, Hammond also made a motion to amend the spelling to the correct “Tristen” when Friday’s hearing first reconvened following the recess.
Trial or hearing dates on some of Good’s unrelated cases were set during an earlier portion of Good’s court appearance Friday afternoon handled by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Beyrau. Good will return to General District Court December 21-22 on a misdemeanor firearms charge and a January 20, 2021 date was set related to a jail assault charge against Good involving another inmate. Hearing discussion indicated Good has been involved in “a number of” inmate altercations during his incarceration.
Also as previously reported by Royal Examiner, files in the case date Brinklow’s murder to September 28-29, 2019. His body was discovered in the Rivermont area of southwestern Warren County just over two months later, on December 2. The body was not identified as Tristen Brinklow until December 16. Crouch and Good were charged for murder in the case on December 31. Both men were incarcerated without bond on unrelated violent crimes at the time the Warren County Sheriff’s Office brought the charges in the Brinklow case against them, Crouch at Rappahannock-Shenandoah-Warren County (RSW) Regional Jail and Good at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center (NRADC) in Frederick County.
Good was arrested in Frederick County at a DUI check point on December 7 (2019). At the time he was wanted in connection with a non-fatal November 27 shooting on the 200 block of Cloud Street in a residential area adjacent to Front Royal’s Downtown Business District.
Ophelia’s lifetime as a ‘dog for the ages’ immortalized by her owners
Ophelia, a black miniature pug, has died at the age of 12 years. She was deaf when my wife, Carol and I adopted her from the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter, and blind and otherwise infirm when advanced age caught up with her earlier this week.
Me: It never gets easier – 15 of my best friends to date have crossed the Rainbow Bridge. Who knows, maybe I’ll get to see them again someday. Or, so they say.
Carol: There’ll never be another Ophelia. She became “my dog” from the start. She was constantly in my lap and would follow me around up until her vision and hip problem made it difficult to move around. She enjoyed her life and did not hesitate to let us know when she was hungry or wanted to go to bed. I will never forget her sweet little face.
Ophelia was about 10 weeks old, and I was 75, when she was plopped into my lap on a busy Saturday morning at the Wagner Animal Shelter. The staff and I (then president of the Humane Society of Warren County) were asked by executive director Jane Johnson to foster a pet over the weekend because of shelter over-crowding. That “weekend” lasted 12 years.
At the time we adopted the pup, we had a Japanese Chin named Hamlet and were trying to come up with a name for her.
“The answer is simple: You have a Hamlet and there’s no question that you should have an Ophelia.” This suggestion came from our Rockland neighbor and friend, Susan O’Kelly, a Brit who is well versed in the volumes of England’s William Shakespeare, including the play, “Hamlet,” and Hamlet’s love for Ophelia. Hamlet, the dog, died a year or so later, his final months made more tolerable by his chunky little girlfriend.
The diminutive Ophelia made her mark in the local community by helping establish “Yappy Hour”, a fundraiser for the animal shelter, 10 years ago at Vino E Formaggio on Front Royal’s Main Street. About that time, she was “bridesmaid” to restaurant entrepreneurs Rachel and Christian Failmezger, as they strolled down Main Street to their marriage ceremony at the Gazebo. Ophelia trotted proudly behind, a well taught (by me) publicity hound.
Ophelia’s “mid-life crisis” came when our son, then Staff Sgt. Malcolm Barr, Jr., U.S. Air Force, volunteered for duty in Iraq, leaving two huskies, Alfie and Lola, in our care while serving abroad. Asserting herself as only small dogs are prone to do, she became the unchallenged head of the (canine) household, a 15-pound bundle of energy versus two 70-pound invaders of her space.
Our friend, Dr. Roger Wilkes of the U.K, remarked via e-mail following her death that Ophelia was “a great character and very much the grand dame of the canines” at our home.
Aside from her adopted parents, Ophelia leaves behind two large four-footed friends, La Diva, a Siberian Husky, and Goose, a German Shepherd mix. Diva continues as a “hostess” at the newly evolved “Yappy Hour” each Friday at the ViNoVa Tapas Restaurant on East Main Street, from 6 to 8 p.m., to raise money for the Julia Wagner Animal Shelter.
Ophelia has been immortalized in paintings by local artists Kelly Walker and Helga Heiberg, which we proudly display in our home.
R.I.P. dear Ophelia.
Voters worry about voter suppression despite recent legislative changes
Despite the commonwealth recently passing a number of laws to make it easier to vote, some Virginians are concerned over voter suppression.
Michael Fauntroy, an associate professor of political science at Howard University in Washington, said political campaigns have a long history of trying to suppress Black voters.
“I think it happens in every election,” Fauntroy said. “The extent to how sophisticated an operation it is will depend on the sophistication of the campaign and the resources they have to go out and identify voters and try to discourage them from voting.”
Carlette Bailey, a Richmond resident, said she fears ballots will be lost, stolen, or disappear before they have a chance to be counted.
“My main concern is the mail-in votes and making sure they’re there on time,” Bailey said. “The votes have to come from our mailbox and be where they have to be on Election Day so they can be counted.”
The Democratic Party of Virginia recently sued the Richmond General Registrar, J. Kirk Showalter, over an effort to get a list of names whose absentee ballots were rejected because of ballot errors. The organization said they wanted to inform voters of the ballot errors and that other locality had provided similar lists.
Tony Whitehead, another Richmond resident, said he is concerned about the possibility of ballots being stolen from mailboxes by groups who want the opposing party to win.
In early October six outdoor mailboxes were broken into in Henrico and Chesterfield counties and Richmond. The United States Postal Service and Virginia Department of Elections are currently investigating the incident, but it is unknown if the mailboxes contained ballots.
“You can’t really point the finger as to whose doing it, but if my ballots are stolen, that’s voter suppression right there,” Whitehead said. “That one vote that’s been suppressed could be the difference between whom you want in office and who I want in office, and that’s just not right.”
Bailey and Whitehead are not alone. A number of Americans are concerned about their votes being accurately counted in this election. Democrats are more concerned than Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center. Forty-six percent of Democrats believe the election will be conducted fairly and accurately, while 75% of Republicans share the same sentiment.
Fauntroy said Black voters in Virginia will be subjected to less suppression than Black voters in states such as Georgia and Florida with majority Republican leadership.
“The Democratic governor, lieutenant governor, and other leadership in Virginia have been drawing enough attention to this that voters will know what’s at stake,” Fauntroy said.
The Virginia General Assembly has recently taken steps to make it easier to vote, including laws that allow no-excuse absentee voting, early voting that starts 45 days prior to an election and making Election Day a state holiday.
Legislators also passed a bill that repeals a 2013 Republican-backed law requiring a photo ID to vote. The new law also makes additional forms of identification acceptable, such as a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, paycheck, or other government documents that shows the name and address of the voter.
Fauntroy said that photo ID bills are an example of Black voter suppression.
Fauntroy said voter suppression has occurred more frequently since the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby County V. Holder, which found part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act unconstitutional. The decision struck down a formula that required certain states which had discriminatory laws, such as requiring tests to vote, to obtain federal approval before changing voting laws.
Fauntroy said that almost immediately after the ruling North Carolina moved forward with voter ID laws that would not have passed if the preclearance provisions had remained.
“In the 2014 elections, we saw a number of Republicans winning seats because of redrawn districts and voter ID laws that they would not have won,” he said.
Fauntroy said national voter suppression in this election will be a multifaceted effort coming from different levels. This could include litigation, reducing the amount of early voting locations, and moving or eliminating polling locations that could make it harder for people of color to vote.
With no formula dictating which states obtain federal review, communities or individuals who feel they are being targeted by discriminatory voting laws must file lawsuits themselves or rely on ones filed by outside advocates or the Justice Department, according to an opinion piece in The Atlantic. This often happens after laws have been passed.
Federal legislators have introduced bills to establish new criteria for determining which states and political subdivisions must obtain federal approval before changing voting laws, but the measures haven’t advanced.
Local Majority, a progressive political action committee, said common voter suppression strategies include restricting absentee voting, reducing the number of polling places in a jurisdiction, and disenfranchising citizens with past criminal records.
A joint resolution introduced in the 2019 General Assembly session that would allow felons to vote was continued until the 2021 session.
Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, noted that the challenges the country faces aren’t new. The fate of the country is on the line and with that, Black voters and voices matter now more than ever, McClellan said.
“When we have gained social, political, and economic power, there has always been a swift and violent backlash, but we cannot and have not been deterred,” McClellan said. “We owe it to our ancestors, our children, and their children, to vote and help shape the future of our country because democracy and our very existence are on the ballot.”
By Brandon Shillingford
Capital News Service
Lester & Mowery Pharmacy files sold to CVS; last day October 28
One of Front Royal’s better-known local businesses, Lester and Mowery Pharmacy, quietly closed its doors for the last time Wednesday afternoon, October 28, after 25 years serving the public.
Apart from a brief announcement taped to its customer entrance, no other public announcement about the closure was made. A request for an interview by a Royal Examiner reporter was gracefully declined.
Partners Scott Lester and Brian Mowery thanked customers “for allowing us to serve as your pharmacy for the last 25 years” on the three-paragraph posted message to patients. They said prescription files and related materials were being confidentially transferred to CVS Pharmacy, 800 John Marshall Highway, and that telephone calls and faxes would roll over to CVS on Thursday, October 29.
Pointing out a number of benefits for their customers, Lester said he and his partner “would be available … after the merger to answer your questions.” The benefits be described are”: CVS is open seven days a week; there is more parking; a drive-thru for easy pickup; and a rewards program.
Finally, the partners signed off with: “THANK YOU FOR THE LAST 25 YEARS!”
Governor Northam invites small businesses and nonprofits to apply for Up to $100,000 from Rebuild VA Grant Fund
Governor Ralph Northam announced on October 28, 2020, that Rebuild VA, a grant program to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, will expand eligibility criteria and increase the amount of grant money businesses receive.
Rebuild VA launched in August with $70 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Governor Northam is directing an additional $30 million to support the expansion of the program. Businesses with less than $10 million in gross revenue or fewer than 250 employees will be eligible under the new criteria, and the maximum grant award will increase from $10,000 to $100,000.
“We started Rebuild VA to help small businesses and nonprofit organizations navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Northam. “These changes to the program will ensure that we can provide additional financial assistance to even more Virginians, so they can weather this public health crisis and emerge stronger.”
Rebuild VA will now be open to all types of Virginia small businesses that meet size and other eligibility requirements, from restaurants and summer camps to farmers and retail shops. Businesses that previously received a Rebuild VA grant will receive a second award correlated with the updated guidelines.
Rebuild VA is administered by the Department of Small Business and Supplier Diversity (SBSD) in partnership with the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Tourism Corporation, and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership. Eligible businesses and nonprofits must demonstrate that their normal operations were limited by Governor Northam’s Executive Orders Fifty-Three or Fifty-Five, or that they were directly impacted by the closure of such businesses. In September, the program expanded eligibility to supply chain partners of businesses whose normal operations were impacted by the pandemic.
Rebuild VA funding may be utilized for the following eligible expenses:
• Payroll support, including paid sick, medical, or family leave, and costs related to the continuation of group health care benefits during those periods of leave;
• Employee salaries;
• Mortgage payments, rent, and utilities;
• Principal and interest payments for any business loans from national or state-chartered banking, savings and loan institutions, or credit unions, that were incurred before or during the emergency;
• Eligible personal protective equipment, cleaning, and disinfecting materials, or other working capital needed to address COVID-19 response.
For additional information about Rebuild VA and how to submit an application, please visit governor.virginia.gov/RebuildVA.