Recording studio closes; building owner says county forced him to boot business

Front of recording studio building with boards over doors
The former Midiest Studio on Telegraph Road is seen last week.

A recording studio on Telegraph Road was forced out of its longtime location last month, and the building’s owner says he acted after pressure from the county gave him little choice.

Midieast Studios, which had operated in a space at 6404 Telegraph Road since 2004, was evicted in early December. The eviction came roughly five months after a daytime shootout between two groups in front of the small commercial building that housed the studio and a few other businesses. The July shooting, which left three men injured and was captured on security camera video, came on the heels of another shooting that occurred in front of the building in February. That incident resulted in no injuries.

Chuck Teets, who owns the 6404 Telegraph Road property, said that ever since the July shootout, the Fairfax County Fire Marshal’s Office and the Fairfax Department of Code Compliance has put the building under a microscope. He says the county blames the recording studio for the shootings, and went after him via code violations in order to force him to act. In doing so, Teets said, the county cost him nearly $100,000.

“The county forced to me to evict them,” Teets said. “It’s a shame because those incidents really had nothing to do with [Midieast].”

A Fairfax County spokesman defended the county’s actions, saying they were taken due to concerns about safety.

“The safety and structural integrity of buildings in Fairfax County is taken very seriously,” Fairfax County Director of Public Affairs Tony Castrilli said. “In the summer of 2019, the Department of Code Compliance found unpermitted alterations and a zoning violation related to the approved site plan at this property.”

Four code complaints have been filed against the property since, according to county records. Two were determined to be unfounded, but notices of violation were issued for a zoning violation and for unpermitted construction violation. Teets is appealing the county’s rulings on those, and a public hearing with the Fairfax County Board of Zoning Appeals is scheduled for March 4.

Teets does not expect the proceedings to go his way, however.

“I don’t think anything is going to come of it,” Teets said. “They’re not going to back off.”

Public concern after shootings

The July 2 shooting in front of Midieast was captured by security cameras installed by the studio’s owners. The videos showed two groups of people in two cars trading gunfire in the middle of the afternoon — right across the street from a large daycare on Telegraph Road and not far from a nearby swimming pool and residential houses.

Screenshot from shooting video
A screenshot from surveillance video that captured a July shooting on Telegraph Road.

Three community meetings were called by police in the wake of the shooting, which was connected to two other shootings around the same time in the Gum Springs area that left three people injured.

One of the community meetings was held at the Highland Park Pool and Tennis Club, which is located behind the building that Midieast leased space in. More than 60 people attended, including new Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk and new Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano, who were each candidates at the time.

Teets also attended, and he says comments made by Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin Roessler at the meeting are proof that Midieast was specifically targeted by the county. When some attendees complained to Roessler about the recording studio, saying it brought drugs and people from outside the area, Roessler told the audience that the police had no power to close down a business. However he said that other county agencies could look into it for potential code violations.

Teets said that is exactly what happened.

“The police colluded with the fire [marshal’s office] and the zoning to department to come down on me like a ton of bricks,” said Teets, who believes the studio was treated unfairly because many of its clients are black. “It’s an abuse of power, discriminatory.”

Teets, who has owned the nondescript building on Telegraph Road since the 1990s, said a portion of the structure dates back to 1953. Because of its age, the building is not up to some current building standards, Teets said. But prior to the July shooting, the county was not concerned, according to Teets.

“If you have a building built in 1953, you can pick it apart,” Teets said. “If they had a problem, they would have been on it before this.”

In addition to the building code complaints, the building was cited for numerous violations by the Fire Marshal’s office after the shooting. But Fairfax County General District Court records indicate that all of the charges were dropped after a December 3 hearing.

Teets, 66, works as a realtor along with his wife. He said he had hoped to retire soon, but those plans are on now on hold. Money lost from not having a tenant, attorney fees and costs related to hiring an architect and submitting a new site plan have put him in a financial hole, according to Teets.

“It’s really made my life hell,” Teets said. “The stress on my family is absolutely astronomical.”

Studio to relocate

Midieast owner Wilfredo Torres said this week that he did not know he was getting evicted until he went to the studio the morning of December 3 and found himself locked out.

“I go to work one day and it’s boarded up,” Torres said. “Just like that. No warning or nothing.”

Torres opened the business in 2004, and saw it grow into a regionally recognized studio that hosted big-name hip-hop artists, including Fat Trel and Logic. He said that while he was disappointed that Teets would take such an action, he blamed the county for giving the owner no choice.

“He felt so much pressure from the county that he had to it,” Torres said.

Torres speaking at microphone
Wilfredo Torres, owner of Mideast Studios, speaks during a public meeting in July at the Gum Springs Community Center.

Torres said he felt scapegoated by the county for the shootings, which he maintains had nothing to do with Midieast. Torres said he has cooperated with the police after both shootings, letting them into his business to view video of both parties involved in the shootout.

“We gave [the police] the best evidence,” Torres said.

Torres, who defended his business publicly during a July community meeting in Gum Springs, reiterated that he did not work with or know the individuals involved in either shooting.

“[The individuals involved in the shooting] never walked into our studio,” said Torres, who said all recording appointments at Midieast were scheduled ahead of time. If someone showed up at an unscheduled time, employees would check the cameras and not answer if they did not recognize them.

“To this day I don’t know who they are. I don’t recognize them,” Torres said.

The December closing cost Midieast a lot of business, particularly because of lost revenue related to the holiday season, Torres said. While longtime clients have been understanding about the sudden closure, Torres said many sessions needed to be canceled, and customers went elsewhere.

Torres remains optimistic however, saying Midieast still has a good name in the industry and many loyal clients. He said he’s close to signing a lease for a new location in Northern Virginia.

“We’re going to bounce back,” Torres said.

No arrests in July shooting

At least three of the people involved in the July shooting on Telegraph Road were wounded, police reported at the time, but no bystanders were injured. Two vehicles took off from the scene afterward, and one later pulled over in a different residential neighborhood near the Huntington Metro station because individuals inside needed medical attention.

Police have maintained that gangs were to blame for the Telegraph Road shootings and the two others that occurred around the same time in the Gum Springs area. Although the police did not name the gangs publicly, warrants in the case later named the crews as “Mob 4 Life” and “Ben Block,” according to The Washington Post.

No arrests have been made in connection with any of the summer shootings, according to FCPD spokesman Lt. Steve Wallace. While police do know the identity of the participants who were wounded in the Telegraph Road incident, they have not been cooperative with investigators, Wallace said.

The February shooting on Telegraph Road resulted in two arrests. Cartier D. Wesley, a Woodbridge resident, was convicted in September of discharging firearms or missiles within or at building or dwelling house. He remains in jail at the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center and is currently awaiting sentencing.

Charges against the second man arrested, James Mark Gibson of Alexandria, were dropped, according to General District Court records.

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