Four young men were in custody yesterday and may face federal charges in the firebombing this weekend of the North Baltimore home of a woman described by Baltimore police as an outspoken community activist, city police said.
The firebombing was described by police spokesman Matt Jablow as retaliation for the woman helping authorities by providing information about drug trafficking in her Harwood neighborhood, just east of Charles Village.
About 1:30 a.m. Saturday, four Molotov cocktails were thrown against the outside wall of the woman's Lorraine Avenue home, said Sgt. John Wallace of the city police arson squad.
Two of the devices ignited, setting fires that caused minor damage to the home's exterior, he said.
Wallace said the woman was in bed at the time, and went to her window when she saw flames rising from the front of her home and called 911 to alert the fire department.
Jablow declined to identify the 59-year-old woman, who was not injured. He said that she has been relocated out of concern for her safety and that her home was put under a protective 24-hour watch by city police.
Wallace said city arson detectives and agents of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives arrested one suspect Saturday and three others yesterday at various locations. Their names were not available last night, but they range in age from 18 to 20 and live in Harwood, Wallace said.
All four have been charged with attempted arson and possession of destructive devices, and were being held at Central Booking and Intake Center, police said.
"The case of firebombing the woman's home will be presented to the U.S. Attorney's office on Tuesday for prosecution, and more arrests are expected," Jablow said.
"Crimes like this strike at the very heart of the criminal justice system," he said. "We cannot and will not tolerate it. With a crime such as this, they deserve to be punished to the fullest extent of the law."
An East Baltimore firebombing in October 2002 that left a couple and five of their children dead - retaliation against the mother for complaining to police about neighborhood drug trafficking - was prosecuted in federal court, where a small-time dealer pleaded guilty and received a life sentence.