Baltimore State’s Attorney Ivan Bates said his office will conduct a new review of a federal investigation into a fire a year ago that killed three firefighters in a vacant West Baltimore rowhouse.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives turned over its report in mid-June to the city prosecutor’s office, then led by Democrat Marilyn Mosby.
Bates, who took office this month, blamed Mosby for lack of movement in the case.
“It is an unfortunate and tragic incident that should have been addressed long before now, but we are committed to moving forward on this matter with resolve to accomplish justice in this case,” said Bates, also a Democrat, in a statement Tuesday.
Paul Butrim, Kenny Lacayo and Kelsey Sadler died Jan. 24, 2022, when the South Stricker Street house collapsed during the fire. Firefighters had gone inside after a 911 caller confused the burning house with an occupied one next door and an emergency dispatcher relayed the incorrect information that someone was trapped inside.
Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott joined fire units across the city Tuesday in a moment of silence to honor the fallen firefighters on the anniversary of their deaths.
ATF investigators worked with Baltimore Police’s arson investigations unit to determine the cause of the fire was incendiary, a classification that means it was set either intentionally or indirectly during other criminal activity.
Despite the federal agency identifying a person of interest and offering a $100,000 award for information about him, no one has been charged.
Asked in October whether prosecutors had charged anyone in the case, Zy Richardson, spokesperson for Mosby’s office, declined to comment because it was an “open and pending matter.”
Bates said he was alerted to the open case when he took office and is reviewing the report and gathering additional evidence.
Mosby’s office met with ATF officials three times to discuss the investigation and report, he added.
“We are mindful that the families of the fallen firefighters, their colleagues, and residents all have lingering questions regarding this tragic event,” Bates said. “However, we owe it to these fallen heroes and the residents of Baltimore to make the appropriate considerations based on evidence and sound legal analysis.”
Reached by phone Tuesday, Mosby said the ATF investigation was not finished, pointed to Bates’ statement that his office needs to gather more evidence, and cited a December report on the Baltimore City Fire Department to explain why her office didn’t take action before her term ended.
Mosby said as the firefighting report came out a month before she left office, she “thought it prudent that the case outcome be determined by the current state’s attorney.”
The report, by area fire department officials, covered city fire department policies and firefighting methods.
An ATF spokesperson confirmed to The Baltimore Sun in October that its probe was complete and in the hands of city prosecutors.