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Police asking for help as 73-year-old killed during attempted robbery at Falls Church ATM

WJLA – Washington D.C. logo WJLA – Washington D.C. 10/24/2021 Ida Domingo
73-year-old man shot during attempted robbery at Falls Church ATM dies, police say
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A 73-year-old man has died after he was shot during a stranger-on-stranger armed robbery at a Falls Church bank, authorities confirm.

Around 5:20 a.m. Wednesday, Nelson Alexander Sr., 73, of Falls Church, pulled up to the Wells Fargo along the 2900 block of Annandale Road. He exited his light-colored Jeep Cherokee and walked to the outdoor ATM machine. A short while later, a masked male suspect approached Alexander and pointed a handgun at him.

Black and white surveillance video captured a startled Alexander dropping his wallet, credit cards, and other miscellaneous items, which became strewn across the sidewalk. Alexander and the gunman moved out of frame before the gunman shot the 73-year-old in the chest. Police say Alexander wasn't found until an hour later when a bicyclist passed by and summoned help.

“Let me just say this, Nelson did nothing wrong," Major Edward O’Carroll, who commands the Major Crimes, Cyber and Forensics Bureau, said during a Saturday evening press conference held in front of the ATM. “In the video you saw, there’s no resistance. There’s no resistance at all. So, that’s why this killer is Fairfax County’s public enemy number one.”

For the last three days, Alexander struggled to survive at Inova Fairfax Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 12:51 p.m. Saturday.

“He fought for his life for 72 hours after that encounter," O’Carroll noted. "This case has now transitioned to a full-fledged murder investigation."

Police do not believe the gunman walked away with any cash or other property. The case marks Fairfax County's 19th murder of 2021.

“I am confident that we will identify this young man, but we do need the community’s help," O’Carroll added. "We’re going to work for justice.”

Family members tell 7News that Alexander was born in Fairfax County during the 1940s. He sang in the men's choir at Galloway United Methodist Church in Falls Church. He loved to hunt deer and rabbits, attend his nieces and nephews' sporting events, tinker with cars and was an avid Dallas Cowboys fan.

“He was a good, kindhearted person. He’d give you the shirt right off his back," said Steve Brown who met Alexander decades ago in elementary school. "I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again, if the guy had just come out and asked him for some money, he would have given it to him.”

Alexander was a regular customer at Smitty's Unisex Barber Shop on Douglass Avenue in Falls Church. In fact, his apartment is in the same brick building, right around the corner from the barbershop. That's where 7News interviewed Brown Saturday night.

“It seemed to me that when the guy walked up behind [Nelson], and [Nelson] turned, and the guy had the gun and asked him for the money, it seemed like he was willing to give it to him anyway," Brown, who renovated Alexander's apartment bathroom a few months ago, opined. "It’s just hard to swallow. It really is.”

Loved ones say Alexander had been married for more than 50 years and had one child, an adult son who is going to turn 53 next week. Alexander worked as a residential building engineer for many years, but most recently drove for an auto parts store.

“I hope they find him. I really do," Brown added.

SEE ALSO | Man that 'literally kidnapped' DC officer arrested and charged, incident under review

Fairfax County Police made the decision to release two surveillance videos, showing the moments that led up to the shooting. During Saturday's press conference, authorities urged the public to review those video clips to see if they recognized the suspect, who was wearing a distinctive backpack and athletic shoes.

“The young man who took Nelson’s life knows what he did. [He] knows who he is. And [he] knows we’re looking for him," Fairfax County Police Chief Kevin Davis remarked. "Be a human. Be a person. Be a man. Turn yourself in.”

Investigators have not ruled out the possibility that the masked suspect had an accomplice that remained off-camera. They also vow to remain open-minded if and when they make an arrest in the case.

“Surrender on your terms or be arrested on ours," O’Carroll remarked with conviction. “Maybe something happened in the encounter that’s off-camera, that you want to explain to detectives. We will listen to your story. You will enjoy a presumption of innocence, but turn yourself in.”

Chief Davis — who called Alexander's murder an "atrocious act" — echoed O’Carroll's sentiment.

“We do want to hear his story, but we need him off the street. This can’t happen again. This shouldn’t have happened to Nelson... [who] stopped by the ATM machine to get a few bucks on his way to work. That’s all he did, and his life was taken because of it.”

Any residence or business with surveillance cameras near the Wells Fargo is asked to review them from the overnight hours of October 19, into the early morning hours of Oct. 20. Detectives believe the suspect may have been involved in other criminal activity during that time frame.

If you have any information — or if you believe you have surveillance footage that may be helpful — call the Fairfax County Major Crimes Bureau at 703-246-7800.

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