Three Makeshift Firebombs in NW Baltimore Renew Concerns

… Early Saturday incidents follow nine similar attacks in September …

By Peter Hermann and Arthur Hirsch, The Baltimore Sun

11:37 AM EST, November 12, 2011

Three more makeshift firebombs were thrown against houses in Northwest Baltimore early Saturday, causing little damage and no injuries but raising concerns that a spate of nine similar attacks in September has renewed.

Baltimore police said they are conducting forensic testing on the bottles used in the Molotov cocktail attacks — including a Remy Martin and a Colt 45 — but have few clues and no suspects.

In one case, a bottle bounced off a screen; in another the bottle went through a window but the lighted wick fell off and burned out outside. In the final incident, the lighted bottle broke through a window and set living room drapes on fire, according to fire officials.

“They appear to be attacking random houses,” said city police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi, who added that detectives believe Saturday’s incidents are connected to the ones two months ago.

Two homeowners heard cars pull off early Saturday but were not able to provide a description. “These are happening at a tough hour,” Guglielmi said. “People are sleeping. It’s clear the ones last night are most likely from the same person. It’s probable that these are all from the same group of people.”

The spokesman said extra police and other security measures he would not discuss are being implemented in Northwest Baltimore, where most of the attacks have occurred. Thus far, there has been no significant damage.

“All we need is for one of these to catch and a house will go up,” Guglielmi said. “We’re not taking this lightly.” Police added in a statement: “The potential for serious injury or life-loss from such acts of arson is substantial.”

Saturday’s attacks occurred between 1 a.m. and 2:30 a.m. Two were within three blocks in the West Arlington neighborhood, and a third occurred about eight blocks to the south.

Police said that in the first firebombing, reported at 1:13 a.m. in the 4100 block of Belvieu Ave., attackers threw a Colt 45 bottle at a first-floor rear window of a house. Baltimore Fire Capt. Stephen Gibson, the lead investigator, said it bounced off a screen and burned out on the ground.

Nine minutes later, police said assailants threw a Remy Martin bottle at a first floor window of an apartment building. Gibson said the bottle broke the window and landed inside, but the wick dropped off outside and burned out. The only damage was to the window.

About an hour later, police said a house in the 3300 block of Liberty Heights Avenue was attacked. Gibson said a lighted bottle went through a living room window and set drapes on fire. He said the occupant used a bucket of water to put out the flames and then called 911.

There was a fourth arson fire in Northwest Baltimore early Saturday — in the 4500 block of Rogers Ave, police said. Gibson said someone stuffed a rag into a door frame and lit it on fire, but investigators believe that was not related to the other incidents.

Guglielmi, the city police spokesman, said arson investigators are “vigorously investigating the incident” but have few leads. They are hoping to obtain fingerprints from the bottles; efforts to gather similar evidence in September did not materialize, police said.

In September, city police commanders held a news conference after nine fire bombings occurred in three weeks. Most were reported in Northwest Baltimore, but there were others scattered around the entire city.

Police at the time, and on Saturday, said the apparent random nature of the crimes is the most perplexing, and is making it difficult to solve. There is connection between victims and the attacks have occurred in different neighborhoods and targeted both single family homes and apartment buildings.

In one case in September, someone threw a lighted whiskey bottle at the side of a house owned by Mavis Mallet on Yosemite Avenue in Ashburton. The bottle crashed threw a window but bounced off a screen and burned out in potted plant on the patio.

The 70-year-old worried that had the bottle gotten inside, it could’ve quickly burned down her house complete with wooden beams and built in 1934. A visitor sleeping upstairs thought someone was breaking into the house and she grabbed a pair of scissors to defend herself.

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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