A former Maryland police chief is facing multiple arson and attempted murder charges in connection with 11 fires spanning from 2011 to 2020, according to a news release from the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.
Authorities determined the homes, garages and vehicles that were set on fire were all connected to people with whom David M. Crawford had previous disagreements, according to the release.
“The victims include a former City of Laurel official, three former law enforcement officials including a former City of Laurel Police Chief, two relatives, two of Crawford’s former physicians, and a resident in his neighborhood,” the release said.
Crawford, 69, was arrested Wednesday, according to the release. He is being held without bond, according to Howard County Police Chief Lisa Myers
Crawford last served as a law enforcement official in 2010, when he resigned as the chief of the City of Laurel Police Department, the release said. Before that, Crawford was the chief of the District Heights Police Department and a major with Prince George’s County police, it added.
The 11 fires took place in several Maryland counties, including Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, Howard County and Frederick County, and had previously been investigated separately.
A 12th fire, in Charles County, is still under investigation and Crawford is a suspect in the case, the release said. No charges have so far been filed.
Robert Bonsib, Crawford’s lawyer, told CNN Thursday that “Dave Crawford has a long history of serving his community as a police officer for a large local department and then as Chief of Police for a municipal department. The allegations in the criminal complaint are inconsistent with his long history of public service.”
How investigators tied the incidents together
In each case where surveillance video was discovered, the arsonist’s identity was hidden, the release said, oftentimes by a hooded sweatshirt drawn tightly around their face.
The arsonist also had a pattern of using gallon gasoline jugs and a stick wrapped in cloth to set the fires. And all of the fires were set at night, the release said.
And in several cases, there were similar vehicle descriptions: a silver sedan.
The big break in the case came after the last-known fire, in 2020, when investigators discovered a link between the victims, and found out they had been in disagreements with Crawford, the release said.
The attempted murder charges stem from the fact that in several cases, there were clear signs the victims and their families were inside their homes at the time Crawford set the fires.
In January, investigators executed a search warrant at Crawford’s home and found “several critical items of evidence,” the release said, including a target list of the known victims that linked him to the fires.