Man wanted in Greenmount Avenue firebombing turns himself in

The man wanted in the firebombing of an East Baltimore home that killed two and injured six others turned himself in Monday afternoon, a surrender that was live-streamed on Facebook as he proclaimed his innocence.

Police say Antonio T. Wright, 26, threw two Molotov cocktails into a home in the 1200 block of Greenmount Ave. early Saturday. They have charged him with two counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder.

Authorities had named him "Public Enemy No. 1" and offered a $12,000 reward for information leading to his arrest.

"I did not commit this crime," Wright said in the video as he was being handcuffed. "I won't allow them to bring me in like an animal to portray what y'all saying on TV. ... Y'all judged me before y'all even knew anything. Y'all convicted me off assumption. And I didn't do it."

Shi-heem Sholto, 19, and Tyrone James, 17, died in the blaze, and a woman remains in critical condition after jumping from a third-story window. A 4-year-old girl was among those injured.

The deaths of Sholto and James were among 11 homicides logged in the city in the past week. As of Monday, there had been 71 homicides in 79 days in 2017, a 40 percent increase over the same time last year.

The killings included the fatal shootings of a local boxer, a high school student and a robbery victim, as well as the fatal stabbings of a couple in a home.

The firebombing struck an especially emotional chord in the city, where a similar, targeted firebombing of a family's home in East Baltimore in 2002 killed Angela Dawson, her husband Carnell and their five children.

A woman identifying herself on Facebook as Wright's wife live-streamed his surrender to police on Greenmount Avenue, in the same block as Saturday's fire. He was surrounded by a group of supporters.

The woman, who has not responded to requests for comment from The Baltimore Sun, has been posting messages on Facebook since the weekend, saying Wright is innocent. On Sunday she alleged that Wright was being framed for trying to expose an officer who illegally sold a rifle on the street — a claim police confirm they are now investigating.

Police spokesman T.J. Smith said police were pleased that Wright turned himself in without incident. He declined to release additional details of how Wright has been linked to the crime.

"We have information that there was some ongoing feud between potentially him and someone in the location. I'm not at liberty to discuss who those persons were," Smith said.

The woman who identifies herself as Wright's wife posted a series of videos, filmed by Wright, in which Wright says he is going to expose a police officer who sold an AR-15 rifle on the street and is trying to get it back. State legislators banned the sale of such rifles in 2013.

One of the videos includes Wright interacting with a man who the Police Department confirmed is the officer.

Court records obtained by The Baltimore Sun show that a Northern District officer, as a citizen, filed charges with a District Court commissioner on Jan. 20 alleging that his girlfriend's 16-year-old son broke into their home last year and stole an an AR-15 and a 20-gauge Mossburg shotgun. The home is around the corner from where Saturday's firebombing occurred.

Smith said the officer had reported the weapon stolen to the department, as required. He said the department believes the officer was trying to get his stolen property back when he was filmed engaging with Wright.

"What we believe occurred is that the officer went out in the community based on information that he received that he could get his property back," Smith said. "We think that's not uncommon, and something a lot of officers would do if they have relationships in the community."

Smith compared it to trying to get a stolen lawnmower returned. "You start hearing things, and you do what you can to get the property back," he said.

The charges the officer filed against his girlfriend's son were dropped on Jan. 31. The state's attorney's office said the officer failed to follow through with prosecutors. The officer is not being named because he has not been formally accused of a crime.

Four videos of Wright are posted on the woman's Facebook page, one of which was viewed more than 30,000 times. In one of the videos, Wright talks into the camera and asserts that the police officer was trying to reacquire an AR-15 he had sold.

"He sold ...an AR-15, then he realize he gonna get in trouble and want it back," Wright says in the video.

In another video, Wright appears to unwrap a Bushmaster AR-15 from a garbage bag in a grassy lot. A fourth video shows the officer driving to a vacant lot, getting out of his car, and getting back in. That video is filmed from a porch, and part of the porch obstructs what the man does when he gets out of his vehicle.

Smith said there was "no corroborating evidence" that the officer had illegally sold the gun "outside of that person's words."

"That information is something that obviously we take seriously and look into, but it's also something that was never reported to the Police Department," Smith said. "Allegations like that we take seriously, but I don't want to address it any more than it needs to be addressed."

Wright and the woman also questioned in Facebook posts why police released surveillance footage of the firebombing that was taken from a camera at the far end of the block, when there is a camera just a few doors away from the home that burned.

Smith said the camera at the corner of East Preston Street and Greenmount Avenue was facing the wrong direction when the incident occurred. When not being manually operated, city surveillance cameras are programmed to pan 360 degrees, occasionally zooming up and down blocks.

Smith said police have not presented their full case to the public, only what was necessary to bring Wright into custody.

Wright did not have an attorney listed in court records Monday afternoon.

Wright said in one video posted Sunday night that he has stayed out of trouble since being released from jail in 2015 after an armed robbery conviction. He said he is known in the community for "opening the doors for old ladies, looking out for every kid in the neighborhood, showing respect to everyone."

"I grew up in a crime-infested city. Yeah, I fell victim to some choices I made, but that don't mean I continued making those choices," he said.

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

Baltimore Sun reporter Kevin Rector contributed to this article.

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