North Carolina and North Dakota Police Chiefs and Federal Firearms Licensees Indicted for Conspiracy to Illegally Acquire Machineguns and Other Firearms
Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge George J. Hazel today sentenced Darius Eric Wilder, age 41, of Silver Spring, Maryland, to 35 years in federal prison, followed by five years of supervised release for committing arson, and for using, carrying and possessing a destructive device during and in furtherance of a crime of violence, related to the firebombing of his ex-girlfriend’s apartment. A federal jury convicted Wilder of those charges on August 16, 2018.
The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), Baltimore Field Division; Chief J. Thomas Manger of the Montgomery County Police Department, and Fire Chief Scott Goldstein of the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.
“The evidence at trial proved that Darius Wilder attempted to firebomb his ex-girlfriend’s apartment,” said U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur. “This kind of violence will not be tolerated. If he had been successful in starting the fire, Wilder could have killed all of the residents of the apartment complex where the victim resided, including the woman and her three children. We are all safer with Darius Wilder removed from the community for 35 years in federal prison, where there is no parole – ever.”
“Darius Wilder is a violent criminal who used Molotov cocktails to commit arson in an attempt to seriously injure his ex-girlfriend, her children, and endanger the surrounding community,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada. “We are glad to see that justice has been served and remain committed to working alongside our law enforcement and emergency service partners to stop violent offenders like this.”
According to the information presented at Wilder’s four-day trial, on April 15, 2017, at approximately 9:22 p.m. the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service responded to a fire on the balcony of an apartment in Gaithersburg, Maryland, which they located and extinguished. Investigators from the Montgomery County Office of Fire and Explosives Investigation conducted an investigation and located two incendiary bombs, commonly known as Molotov cocktails. One of the Molotov cocktails was on the balcony of the apartment, and damaged the wooden decking and children’s bikes. The second Molotov cocktail was on the ground below. The liquids within the bottles as well as wick material found in the debris field were submitted to the ATF Forensic Science Laboratory, which later confirmed the presence of gasoline. The ATF National Laboratory Center also conducted DNA analysis of the bottles and found that Wilder was a possible contributor to the DNA profile found on one of the Molotov cocktails.
According to trial testimony, at the time of the fire, the woman who leased the apartment resided there with three children. The woman had recently attempted to end a relationship with Wilder, but Wilder continued to contact the woman. The evidence showed that in February 2017, Wilder threatened to light himself on fire and sent several photographs, depicting a gas can and a lighter with a flame, via numerous text messages to her. Evidence presented at trial, including cell site location information, demonstrated that on March 8 and March 9, 2017, Wilder loosened and removed the lug nuts from the tires on the woman’s vehicle. Later in March 2017, the woman discovered broken glass placed in front of her car tire. Google searches found on Wilder’s cellphone during a forensic analysis also showed that on March 18, 2017 Wilder searched for images of gas lines and brake lines found under the type of vehicle driven by the woman. Finally, the evidence showed that on April 15, 2017, the day of the firebombing, Wilder texted and called the woman repeatedly, with the last text occurring at 9:13 p.m. Cell location data established that Wilder’s cell phone was located in the area of the apartment complex at around the time of the fire.
Witnesses testified that on April 18, 2017, law enforcement saw Wilder leave his residence carrying a cooler with a black trash bag on top. Wilder got into his vehicle and drove away. Law enforcement attempted to stop Wilder’s vehicle, but Wilder rammed a police vehicle and ran away. Montgomery County Police officers pursued and arrested Wilder. A search of the vehicle recovered three lighters, a black plastic bag containing a gas can with gasoline, a 48-quart red cooler, a backpack containing a composition book and a tire iron. According to trial testimony, following his arrest, Wilder admitted to law enforcement that he filled up a gas can at a gas station nearby, transferred the gas into the bottles, and put the bottles together on the side of the house.
This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and make our neighborhoods safer for everyone. Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.
United States Attorney Robert K. Hur commended the ATF, the Montgomery County Police Department, the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Cellular Analysis Survey Team (CAST) for their work in the investigation. Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Sykes, who prosecuted the case.
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