Man pleads guilty to arson, looting during Baltimore unrest
BALTIMORE (AP) — A 20-year-old Baltimore man pleaded guilty to charges stemming from fires and looting during the unrest after Freddie Gray’s death, and to an unrelated assault.
Maryland U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein announced the plea Friday.
Court documents say Donta Betts tried to set a police car on fire, looted a CVS pharmacy and lit a roll of toilet paper on fire, placing it atop propane cylinders and squirting it with lighter fluid to try to prevent officers from coming inside the pharmacy during a riot on April 27. After he ignited the fire, the propane tanks exploded, sending metal and debris flying onto the crowded streets.
The CVS burned down and has become a symbol for the anger that engulfed the city in the wake of Gray’s death.
Gray, a 25-year-old black man from West Baltimore, died April 19, a week after his neck was broken in the back of a police transport van.
The statement of facts attached to the plea agreement says that on April 27, Betts threw rocks at police officers at Mondawmin Mall, where the unrest began. Later in the afternoon, Betts created makeshift explosive devices and set fires on Pennsylvania and North avenues, the intersection at the center of the unrest.
The plea agreement also says Betts tried to tip over MTA and police vehicles and set them on fire; at Pennsylvania and North avenue,s Betts stuffed flammable material into the fuel filler pipe of a police car and ignited the material.
Months later, on July 2, Betts shot a woman who’d purchased heroin from him because she owed him $20 for the deal, according to court documents. Betts saw the individual in the driver’s seat of a car, walked up and shot her in the leg. She was taken to the hospital and treated for severe injuries.
According to the agreement, Betts will be sentenced to between 14 and 16 years in prison. He will be sentenced June 24.