Amazingly, a suspect is charged over arson during Baltimore riots

You all know the story of the Freddie Gray riots by now. The nation was transfixed as all the networks covered the hour by hour unfolding news as police in riot gear largely fell back while hordes of locals looted one store after another and set various business ablaze. In the weeks that followed, all of the focus was on the officers involved in the incident where Gray died and whether they would be charged with a crime. But some of us were wondering if there might not be time to check out the people who were doing the actual “protesting” in the form of destroying the city. Would any charges ever arise from that?

I’d sort of given up on seeing any action on that front. I mean, how rude would it be to distract from the important Social Justice Warriors message by arresting somebody just for tossing a few Molotov cocktails? But my decidedly low expectations were confounded this week when the police actually made an arrest. (Baltimore Sun)

A 21-year-old Baltimore man has been charged in the burning of a West Baltimore liquor store during the riots of April, federal prosecutors said Thursday.

Prosecutors said Darius Raymond Stewart was captured on surveillance cameras “intentionally setting multiple fires” at the Fireside North lounge and liquor store in the 2200 block of W. North Ave…

“There are recordings and other evidence of people looting businesses, starting fires and attacking innocent victims, and it is our duty to prosecute the perpetrators,” U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement. “Citizens need to know that the rule of law will be upheld, and criminals who destroy property and jeopardize lives will be held accountable.”

Stewart was charged with malicious destruction of a commercial building.

Oddly enough I’ve been searching multiple local news outlets and I can’t seem to come up with a picture of Mr. Stewart… not even a mug shot. Still, the authorities seem to think they have the right guy and are moving forward. The Justice Department provides the details of the charges and the damage caused.

According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on April 27, 2015, at approximately 8:33 p.m. Baltimore City Fire Department dispatch received a call reporting a fire at a liquor store located in the 2200 block of West North Avenue. The caller reported that looters had set the building on fire and there was at least one person inside. The Baltimore City Fire Department went to the store and discovered a small trash can on fire inside the store. Approximately 20 minutes later, the fire department was again sent to the store for another fire. They again extinguished the fire and discovered an unconscious victim in the basement of the building. The victim suffered smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning and was hospitalized for one week. The damage caused by the fire was extensive and it is estimated that it will cost approximately $350,000 to repair and restore the building.

You might think that when you have the guy on video going from place to place to place inside the building and setting the fixtures on fire it would have been a pretty fast, open and shut case. Still, for some reason, it’s taken more than five months to even bring charges. That shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. Take a moment and compare the situation in Ferguson last year with the mayhem in Baltimore. It may sound rather counterintuitive at first blush, but examined on a per capita basis the damage done in Baltimore in terms of arson and property loss was actually less than it was in Missouri. There were a lot of fires in Ferguson and many business were pretty much wiped off the map. There was video there as well, but how did they do in terms of arresting the “peaceful protesters” who were upset about Michael Brown?

It took until February of this year before Antonio Whiteside was indicted for one of the arson attacks. At that time, John Ham of the ATF in Kansas City said that they were still aggressively pursuing leads and that, “we’re not going away.” But months later there wasn’t much more movement. Whiteside pleaded guilty in April on what looked like fairly serious charges and then the story basically dropped out of the news. Other arrests were sparse considering the amount of property damage, the number of attacks on police vehicles and the rampant looting. There was video all over the web depicting much of the mayhem with the rioters’ faces clearly visible and yet the police seem to have been stymied in their efforts to bring cases to trial.

In Baltimore we’ve seen City Hall spending all of their time trying to appease people and show them how tough the Mayor was being on the police. I won’t be terribly shocked if they don’t manage to find time to chase down many rioters aside from Mr. Stewart.

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