Baltimore police are looking for arsonists responsible for throwing about a dozen crude incendiary devices at buildings since late April.
One of the homes hit by the devices — made from bottles and jugs — belonged to a Muslim family in North Baltimore.
A preliminary investigation suggested that the incident was hate-related, Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said. But investigators now believe it was one in a series of attacks on apparently random places.
"There's a Muslim family who's had an incident and we've talked to them at length," said Baltimore police Sgt. Dennis Raftery, who leads arson investigations. "We don't know what that lead is just yet."
Police are keeping open all possibilities but said further in-depth interviews with the family and an analysis of evidence have led detectives to believe the incident is part of a larger spate of citywide attacks.
The attack on the Muslim family's home was reported at 2:37 a.m. on June 10 in the 900 block of Cator Ave. in the Pen Lucy neighborhood. The police department brought in its liaison to the Muslim community to help arson investigators with interviews of the family, Guglielmi said.
Neither the interviews nor evidence suggest the family was specifically targeted, Guglielmi said.
"We do not believe that that was any kind of hate crime," he said. "We believe that this is connected to other evidence where incendiary devices were used in public buildings and alleys and other areas."
Police believe that the attacks over the past two months are all related and that most of the sites where the devices were found appear to have been chosen at random.
No one has been injured in the attacks, which have caused minor property damage. But detectives are worried about the potential for injuries as the attacks typically have taken place in the afternoon or at night when people have been at home or asleep.
Fire and police officials urge the public to stay away from the devices if they see one.
"If they find these devices, don't touch them," Baltimore City Fire Department Deputy Chief Shawn Belton said.
The first attack occurred on April 29 and the most recent case was reported at 9:32 a.m. Monday in the first block of N. Beechfield Ave. in Southwest Baltimore. Four attacks have taken place in North Baltimore, three in Southwest Baltimore, three in North Baltimore and two in the northwestern parts of the city.
"Worst damage we had is there was a window that didn't break so there was scorching damage to the window," Raftery said.
Some of the devices are similar to Molotov cocktails and have consisted of a flammable liquid and a wick enclosed in a bottle or jug, police said. In most cases, the devices were found and reported to police several hours after they were thrown, Raftery said.
Police are asking anyone with information to contact the Baltimore Fire Department at 911. In 2011, a series of 13 similar attacks occurred around Liberty Heights and Wabash avenues, causing police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to offer a $5,000 reward for tips.
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