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Three Injured In Possible Hate Crimes Following Two Residential Arsons In Baltimore
Baltimore Police are searching for the person or persons responsible for setting two fires that resulted in four homes being "engulfed in flames" and caused three injuries. The arsons were reportedly committed at homes decorated with LGBTQ+ flags and decorations.
Police officials in Baltimore are investigating two separate fires that injured several people in what may have been a targeted attack against LGBTQ+ supporters.
On Wednesday morning, the Baltimore City Fire Department and the Baltimore Police Department responded to two separate fires on East 31st Street in the Abell neighborhood of the city, according to a press release from Mayor Brandon M. Scott. At the first, around 4:30 a.m., responders found four houses “engulfed in flames,” resulting in the injuries of three people.
Fire Chief Niles R. Ford stated the department contained the fire by 4:46 a.m., “preventing the fire from spreading to additional homes.”
Police listed the victims as a 74-year-old man, a 57-year-old man and a 30-year-old woman. According to the release, two victims had been released from the hospital while one of the men was in stable condition by Wednesday evening.
“Across the street from the above incident, firefighters were alerted that a pride flag was set on fire,” the release stated. “This fire was quickly extinguished, and there were no injuries reported from this fire.”
The first fire also started after a suspect or suspects intentionally set fire to a Pride flag on one of the homes that burned, according to CBS Baltimore.
Police are investigating whether or not the arsons were a hate crime. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison spoke at a news briefing, stating officials were not yet in a position to “determine [the] cause or the facts of how it started,” according to CBS.
The ATF, which is participating in the investigation, e-mailed a statement to Oxygen.com explaining their role.
“ATF Baltimore is working with our law enforcement partners from Baltimore Police, Baltimore Fire Department, and FBI on this investigation,” said Public Information Officer Amanda M. Hils. “Our ATF Special Agent Certified Fire Investigators routinely assist with complex fire scenes; specialize in identifying origin and cause; and investigate fires that are potentially caused by arson.”
Joint agencies are “conducting interviews, and canvassing the area for information and video footage,” according to the Mayor’s Office.
“What happened this morning in the Abell community was a horrific incident for our neighbors,” Mayor Brandon M. Scott stated in a press release. “At this point, we cannot confirm that this was a hate crime. However, my agencies will bring every appropriate resource to bear to get to the bottom of this tragic event."
"I continue to stand in solidarity with our LGBTQ+ community," he added.
Councilwoman Odette Ramos was also on the scene and stated that she looked forward to the results of the investigation, according to the press release. When she spoke to CBS Baltimore, she also noted there had been two other fires nearby on Wednesday morning, including a car fire and a dumpster fire.
It was still unclear whether or not those were acts of arson and if they were related to the residential blazes.
“It is completely unacceptable that there are now lives at risk and homes destroyed due to the actions of persons who have no regard for the lives and property of others,” said Commissioner Harrison, according to the press release. “While we are still working to determine the details and motives for these incidents, I want to say that the BPD, the City and our communities will not tolerate any criminal behavior of any sort, let alone actions that may stem from hatred, bias, and other bigoted attacks.”
Officials ask that anyone with information contact Metro Crime Stoppers at 1-866-7LockUp or the ATF at 1-888-ATF-TIPS or ATFtips@atf.gov.