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Press Release

Suspect Charged for Arson of Liquor Store During the Baltimore Riots

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Maryland
“Criminals who Destroy Property and Jeopardize Lives Will be Held Accountable”

Baltimore, Maryland – Darius Raymond Stewart, age 21, of Baltimore, has been charged in a federal criminal complaint with malicious destruction of a commercial building, arising from the arson of a liquor store on April 27, 2015, during the riots following the death of Freddie Gray. One victim was trapped and seriously injured inside the store, and another escaped with minor injuries. The criminal complaint was filed on September 24, 2015 and unsealed today. Stewart was arrested on September 28, on unrelated state charges.  Stewart will make his initial appearance on the federal charges on Friday, October 2, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Courtroom 7B, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Gallagher.

“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,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Citizens need to know that the rule of law will be upheld, and criminals who destroy property and jeopardize lives will be held accountable.”

The charges were announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William P. McMullan of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) - Baltimore Field Division; and Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis of the Baltimore Police Department.

“ATF has continuously stated that we would focus our investigative efforts to ensure that the individuals who set these fires across our city would be caught,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge William P. McMullan. “Today's arrest is another example of ATF's commitment to holding people responsible for their violent actions.”

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.

The store’s owners reported that on the day of the incident a group of approximately 20 to 30 people entered the store and began banging on the bulletproof plexiglass window with pipes and crow bars before being chased off by a member of the community.  A second wave of dozens of people then entered the business and began ransacking and looting the store.  Baltimore CitiWatch surveillance footage captured individuals repeatedly assaulting and robbing one of the owners as he stood outside the store while it was being looted.  He was eventually rescued by police, but suffered a head injury.  The second owner hid inside the building until he became aware of a fire inside the building.  He was able to escape through a back door to the roof.  He jumped down off the roof, injuring his ankle, and escaped in his vehicle.

A surveillance camera recorded a man wearing camouflage pants, a dark jacket with an orange lining, and a skull cap, intentionally setting multiple fires within the store. Fire investigators discovered multiple areas of origin within the store, consistent with the locations observed on the surveillance footage.

ATF issued a reward poster with a photo of the man seen in the store surveillance video.  According to the affidavit, a confidential source contacted ATF and identified the man in the photo as Darius Stewart.  Other witnesses also identified Stewart from CitiWatch surveillance camera footage as well as from the store’s surveillance video.

Stewart faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of 20 years in prison for malicious destruction of a commercial building by fire.  Stewart remains detained.

A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt.  An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.

United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein commended ATF and the Baltimore City Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Judson T. Mihok, who is prosecuting the case.

Updated October 1, 2015

Violent Crime