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Homeless man arrested after investigators say he threatened to burn down homeless encampment

A 57-year-old homeless man has been arrested after allegedly threatening to burn down a Westminster homeless encampment in July.

Douglas Eugene Hughes is charged with second degree assault and for threatening arson. Hughes was arrested on Saturday and was released on 3,000 bond, according to online case records. According to case records and charging documents, Hughes had failed to appear for trial earlier this month.

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A deputy state fire marshal was dispatched to the Westminster encampment at around 10 p.m. on July 15 after Carroll County 911 Center received a call about a fire found burning to the rear of an industrial property located along Railroad Avenue, near the TownMall of Westminster, according to charging documents.

Upon arriving at the property, fire crews found a collection of trash burning underneath a lean-to-type structure in the woods and extinguished the flames, according to charging documents, and evidence of three separate fires was found in the area: the burning trash underneath the lean-to, burnt paper on a wooden table and burnt paper on the path to nearby railroad tracks.

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According to charging documents, a woman who identified Hughes as her boyfriend said he had started arguing with her earlier that night about who she had slept with. The woman told responding officers that Hughes became very angry, and stood up to leave the encampment, but couldn’t find one of his shoes. The woman says she began assisting Hughes in finding his shoe so that he would leave, but, according to charging documents, he struck her on the right side of her face with the back of his closed fist.

According to the documents, the woman told responders Hughes then retrieved a nearby newspaper and lighter, lit the paper on fire and threw it on a nearby table, saying he was going to “burn down the entire [expletive] encampment.” Another witness, who called 911, told investigators he also observed Hughes setting the fire on the wooden table, according to charging documents.

The property where the encampment is located is owned by Maryland Midland Railway Inc., according to charging documents.

A trial is scheduled for Dec. 29, according to online records.

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