Former MD Police Chief Charged with Setting Multiple Fires

Firefighter helmet

Mary Grace Keller

The Frederick News-Post, Md.

(MCT)

Mar. 4—A former Maryland police chief accused in a dozen arson cases across the state faces charges in Frederick County for setting a garage ablaze in Jefferson nearly three years ago.

Investigators and detectives from multiple fire and police agencies on Wednesday arrested David M. Crawford, 69, of Ellicott City, according to a statement from Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services Department. He faces arson and attempted murder charges in connection to fires in homes, garages and vehicles between 2011 and 2020 in Frederick, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s and Charles counties.

Crawford is a former major of the Prince George’s County Police Department and a former chief of the District Heights Police Department. His most recent law enforcement position ended in 2010, when he resigned as chief of the Laurel Police Department.

Crawford was in the process of being booked into the Howard County Detention Center Wednesday. His arrest was the culmination of collaboration between multiple agencies, including Frederick County Division of Fire and Rescue Servicesand the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office.

In Frederick County, Crawford was charged with first- and second-degree arson and first-degree malicious burning, according to the Prince George’s County fire department. Charges were not yet publicly available in an online judiciary records system Wednesday night.

On April 3, 2018, first responders were called to the 2300 block of Gapland Road in Jefferson for a house fire at about 3:40 a.m. Crews found a fire along the entire base of a three-car attached garage, while the victim and another adult were asleep in the home. Initially, faulty wiring was blamed for the blaze.

Six days later, the homeowner contacted the Office of the Fire Marshal, and an investigator, who is also an accelerant detection canine handler with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, responded to the scene. Samples reportedly tested positive for gasoline, which led to the cause being labeled as arson.

Investigators allege Crawford set fire to places connected to people with whom he had disagreements, according to Prince George’s County fire department. The fires occurred at night, and in six cases, the victims and their families were asleep inside their homes.

“The attempted murder charges arose out of the fact that there were clear signs the residents were inside the homes at the time Crawford set fire to the structures,” the fire department’s statement reads.

Investigators executed a search warrant at Crawford’s home in January 2021 and allegedly found a list of the known victims, among other unnamed evidence.

Crawford’s alleged targets included a former Laurel city official, three former law enforcement officials including a former Laurel police chief, two relatives, two of Crawford’s former physicians and a resident in his neighborhood.

Cases were investigated in each of the jurisdictions where the fires occurred, but investigators found a link between victims shortly after the last known fire in 2020, which reportedly led them to Crawford.

When surveillance footage did capture the arsonist, their identity was usually hidden by a sweatshirt’s hood drawn tightly around their face. The arsonist’s tools included gallon jugs of gasoline and a stick wrapped in cloth to set the fires, according to Prince George’s County fire department. A silver sedan was identified in several of the cases.

Outside of Frederick County, Crawford faces charges for attempted murder, arson and malicious burning.

The fires he was charged in connection to include:

— Laurel, Prince George’s County: two vehicle fires at a residence in 2011 and a house/vehicle/garage fire in 2019.

— Clarksburg, Montgomery County: a townhouse fire in 2016, a second fire at the same home in 2017 and a detached garage fire at a different address in 2020.

— Elkridge and Ellicott City, Howard County: a vehicle fire in 2017, an attached garage fire in 2017, a single-family home fire in 2017, a front lawn fire at the same single-family home in 2018 and a third fire at that same house later in 2018.

— Waldorf, Charles County: Crawford is a suspect in a vehicle/garage/house fire in 2019. He has not been charged in this case, but the investigation is underway.

Anyone with information related to any of these cases is asked to contact authorities by calling the Prince George’s County Fire Investigations Division arson hotline at 301-77-ARSON or 301-772-7766, the Montgomery County arson tip line at 240-777-2263, the Howard County crime tips hotline at 410-313-STOP, the Frederick County Office of the Fire Marshal at 301-600-1479 or the Maryland State Fire Marshal’s Office arson hotline at 1-800-492-7529.

Follow Mary Grace Keller on Twitter: @MaryGraceKeller

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(c)2021 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)

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