Department of Justice
For Immediate Release
Third Case Filed in Federal Court for Arson During Baltimore Riot
Public and Private Surveillance Video Results in Prosecution Under “Civil Disorder” Statute
Baltimore, Maryland –A criminal complaint has been filed charging Donta Betts, age 19, of Baltimore, with attempted arson of a police cruiser, civil disorder and unlawful making of a destructive device. The criminal complaint was filed on October 6, 2015 and unsealed today. Betts was arrested on July 7, 2015, on unrelated state charges. Betts will make his initial appearance on the federal charges on Friday, October 23, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
The criminal complaint was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Rod J. Rosenstein; Special Agent in Charge William P. McMullan of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives - Baltimore Field Division; and Interim Commissioner Kevin Davis of the Baltimore Police Department.
“The rule of law must be upheld, and criminals who destroy property and jeopardize lives must be held accountable,” said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. “Recordings from public and private surveillance cameras allow police and prosecutors to identify suspects and prosecute them even when immediate arrests are not possible.”
“These violent acts endangered the safety of dozens of officers and citizens in the area that day,” said ATF Special Agent in Charge William P. McMullan. “ATF is committed to making sure that the perpetrators of these acts are held responsible and we will continue to investigate anyone who threatens the well-being of our community.”On April 27, 2015, riots and widespread looting erupted in Baltimore. The CVS Pharmacy located at 2509 Pennsylvania Avenue in Baltimore was looted and burned.
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, at 4:49 p.m. that day, Baltimore CitiWatch surveillance footage captured an individual removing the gas cap from a Baltimore Police cruiser, then placing a piece of flammable material into the fuel filler pipe, and igniting the material.
At 5:43 p.m., additional surveillance footage and still photos taken by the media covering the riots captured an assemblage of propane cylinders and charcoal briquettes approximately 10 to 12 feet from the curb directly outside the main entrance to CVS. The individual is captured setting fire to a roll of toilet paper and placing it on top of the propane cylinders and charcoal briquettes. The individual can be seen a few minutes later squirting lighter fluid onto the burning roll of toilet paper atop the incendiary materials. At approximately 5:49 p.m., the individual is seen running away from the improvised incendiary device that he made as it burned in the street. At approximately 5:58 p.m., the improvised incendiary device exploded approximately 40 feet in front of a Baltimore Police riot line that had assembled across Pennsylvania Avenue just north the front entrance of CVS. ATF investigators have determined that the explosion resulted in flying debris of large metal fragments from the propane cylinders and a large fireball with blast effects felt by nearby by-standers.
Additional surveillance footage showed the individual inside the CVS and exiting the store carrying items; throwing rocks at police; and attempting to tip over MTA vehicles while encouraging others to join him.
According to the affidavit, further investigation identified the individual seen in the CitiWatch surveillance camera footage as Donta Betts.
Betts faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison, and a maximum of 20 years in prison for attempted arson; five years in prison for civil disorder; and 10 years in prison for the unlawful making of a destructive device. Betts remains detained.
The investigation into this and other arsons that occurred on April 27, 2015, is continuing. Anyone with information is urged to call the ATF hotline, 1-888-ATF-FIRE (1-888-283-3473). ATF continues to offer a reward of up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any individual responsible for these incidents.
Federal prosecutors previously have charged two other defendants for arson crimes committed during the Baltimore riot on April 27, 2015. Darius Raymond Stewart is charged with malicious destruction of a commercial building for allegedly setting fire to a liquor store on West North Avenue. Raymon Carter pleaded guilty to the federal crime of rioting, including the arson of the CVS pharmacy on Pennsylvania Avenue.
A criminal complaint is not a finding of guilt. An individual charged by criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at some later criminal proceedings.
United States Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein praised the ATF and Baltimore Police Department for their work in the investigation. Mr. Rosenstein thanked Assistant United States Attorneys Sandra Wilkinson and Matthew J. Maddox , who are prosecuting the case.