Year in review: Top local stories of 2017

WASHINGTON — An election. Protests. Commuter changes. A D.C. legend lost.

Take a look back at the local news stories that dominated the headlines in 2017.

Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) reacts after Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper struck out for the final out as the Cubs beat the Washington Nationals 9-8 to to win baseball's National League Division Series, at Nationals Park, early Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
9. Game 5 strikes again; Nationals knocked out of playoffs It came down to Game 5. And again the Washington Nationals weren’t able to advance beyond the first round of the playoffs. At the start of the 2017 season, the Nationals were among the favorites to go to the World Series. Despite adding new relief pitchers to the bullpen midseason, the Nats just couldn’t clinch that final victory to move on to the second round. “They lost because they’re the Nats, and because these things happen to the Nats in the precise combination required each year to ensure they lose in the most painful fashion possible,” wrote Noah Frank, WTOP.com sports editor. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this Aug. 21, 2014 file photo, a family walks by a wall covered by a symbol from the Mara Salvatrucha, of MS-13 gang in Ilopango, El Salvador. The gang has gained power and prominence in the D.C. area in recent years, and while it's thought of as a Salvadoran and Central American gang, it started in the U.S. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)
7. MS-13 behind string of brutal killings in region
10 charged in connection with killing of Md. girl
MS-13 member charged with murder in grisly decapitation
5 MS-13 members face federal charges in Va. man’s death
8 Md. MS-13 members charged in string of killings
38 MS-13 members arrested as part of national crackdown
These headlines from WTOP tell the story of MS-13. In 2017, the Latin street gang long considered a low priority for local police came roaring back to life — the death toll a public exclamation of their numbers and strength in the D.C. region. Drug running, extortion and sex trafficking are just some of the gang’s criminal enterprises. A recent rash of young immigrants from Central America has provided the gang with fresh recruits. El Salvador, where the gang has a heavy presence, is the most common country of origin for foreign-born residents in the D.C. area. A crackdown in El Salvador on the gang is also believed to be contributing the group’s activity in the United States. And new recruits are often asked to prove their allegiance by carrying out violent acts. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File) (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)
A mural on the side of Ben's Chili Bowl depicts NBC Washington anchor Jim Vance. Right, Vance speaks at the unveiling. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
6. Voice of a D.C. icon falls silent Local newsman and D.C. legend Jim Vance lost his battle with cancer in July. Vance was 75. With more than 45 years at the NBC Washington news desk, he was D.C.’s longest serving news anchor. “Jim Vance was not only the soul of NBC4 but of the entire Washington area. His smooth voice, brilliant mind and unforgettable laugh leaves each of us with a tremendous void,” Jackie Bradford, NBC Washington’s President and General Manager, said in announcing his death. He survived to see his likeness enshrined on that D.C. landmark, Ben’s Chili Bowl, in June. (WTOP/Kate Ryan) (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Eastbound tolls on Interstate 66 fluctuated, but increased gradually during the morning rush-hour on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
5. Sticker shock: $40 tolls mar debut of express lane on I-66 On Dec. 4, for the first time in decades, solo drivers could legally travel Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway during the morning rush hour. The caveat: They had to pay a toll. Demand was high for the new commuting option and tolls climbed quickly during the first four-hour span to almost $35. The next day the maximum toll hit a whopping $40, quickly followed by cries from state and local lawmakers calling for caps and changes to the rush hour window. The response from the state’s top transportation official: “If you don’t want to pay it, it’s pretty simple: put somebody else in your car.” Transportation Sec. Aubrey Layne has said the lanes are working as designed, moving traffic along at a faster pace and encouraging carpooling. (WTOP/Dave Dildine) (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
A former instructional assistant at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Waldorf was indicted Friday on charges of producing child pornography and second-degree assault. Officials said that he sexually assaulted middle school students and recorded the assaults in a classroom and at his home in Waldorf. More charges are expected. (WTOP/Mike Murillo).
4. Track coach, school aide indicted on a charge of sexual abuse, exploitation of students A former Charles County school aide and coach, Carlos Bell, was arrested in late June on charges of sexually assaulting students. He would later be indicted on 206 counts related to the abuse of 42 children, who ranged in age from 11 to 17. Bell pleaded guilty in November to federal charges of producing child pornography. Federal investigators identified at least 10 victims. Several of Bell’s victims were exploited while police had the evidence needed to arrest him, a WTOP investigation revealed.   (WTOP/Mike Murillo) (WTOP/Mike Murillo)
Law enforcement officers investigate the scene of a shooting near a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, June 14, 2017, where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. was shot at a Congressional baseball practice. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
3. Gunfire at the ballpark Gunfire pierced a quiet morning at a popular park in Alexandria where Republican members of Congress were practicing for a charity baseball game. A rifle-wielding man fired on the men, who dove for cover in the dugout. Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 3 House Republican, was critically injured but would survive his gunshot wounds and would later go on to throw out the first pitch at a Nationals baseball game. Five others were injured including Roger Williams, a Texas congressman, and his aide Zachary Barth, who was shot in the leg. Two Capitol Police officers were wounded and a former congressional staffer turned lobbyist Matt Mika was shot in the chest. The gunman was killed in a shootout with police. James T. Hodgkinson, of Illinois, ran a home-inspection business but had been living out of a van for several months in Alexandria. A report issued in October found that Hodgkinson fired at least 70 rounds. Police officers fired at least 40 — three of which hit the gunman in the chest and hips. The report found that Hodgkinson was “fueled by rage against Republican legislators.” (AP/Alex Brandon) (AP/Alex Brandon)
FILE-In this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 file photo, a white nationalist demonstrator, bloodied after a clash with a counter demonstrator, talks on the radio receiver at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va. How Virginia chooses to remember its past is still a highly combustible issue, as shown by the deadly violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last weekend over plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)
2. Ghosts of racism re-emerge in Charlottesville The nation’s racial tensions spilled out on the streets of a Virginia college town for all the world to see in August. White nationalists gathered in Charlottesville to protest plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee in a city park. Violence quickly erupted as skinheads and neo-Nazis brawled with counter protesters while police stood by and didn’t intervene. Protesters threw punches and launched water bottles. Others used sticks and billy clubs to strike opponents. Three deaths were linked to the violence — two state troopers who died in a helicopter crash — and a Charlottesville woman, Heather Heyer, who was killed when a car drove through a crowd of pedestrians. A report that reviewed the police response found that planning for the event was inadequate, city and state police did not coordinate and that officers lacked necessary training and equipment. The city police chief was also blamed for not moving swiftly to intervene as the protesters fought in the street. Themes of race and the state’s Confederate past rippled throughout the primary contest for governor in the months before the rally. And the violence erupted amid an ongoing debate in the state whether to remove monuments and statues celebrating that past. (AP/Steve Helber) (AP/Steve Helber)
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Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras (40) reacts after Washington Nationals' Bryce Harper struck out for the final out as the Cubs beat the Washington Nationals 9-8 to to win baseball's National League Division Series, at Nationals Park, early Friday, Oct. 13, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
In this Aug. 21, 2014 file photo, a family walks by a wall covered by a symbol from the Mara Salvatrucha, of MS-13 gang in Ilopango, El Salvador. The gang has gained power and prominence in the D.C. area in recent years, and while it's thought of as a Salvadoran and Central American gang, it started in the U.S. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix, File)
A mural on the side of Ben's Chili Bowl depicts NBC Washington anchor Jim Vance. Right, Vance speaks at the unveiling. (WTOP/Kate Ryan)
Eastbound tolls on Interstate 66 fluctuated, but increased gradually during the morning rush-hour on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
A former instructional assistant at Benjamin Stoddert Middle School in Waldorf was indicted Friday on charges of producing child pornography and second-degree assault. Officials said that he sexually assaulted middle school students and recorded the assaults in a classroom and at his home in Waldorf. More charges are expected. (WTOP/Mike Murillo).
Law enforcement officers investigate the scene of a shooting near a baseball field in Alexandria, Va., Wednesday, June 14, 2017, where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise of La. was shot at a Congressional baseball practice. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
FILE-In this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 file photo, a white nationalist demonstrator, bloodied after a clash with a counter demonstrator, talks on the radio receiver at the entrance to Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va. How Virginia chooses to remember its past is still a highly combustible issue, as shown by the deadly violence that erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville last weekend over plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.(AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)


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