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Man Charged in Fatal Baltimore Fire

October 17, 2002

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BALTIMORE (AP) _ A man was charged with first-degree murder and arson Thursday in a row house fire that killed five children and their mother, who had crusaded against neighborhood drug dealers.

Police said the suspect, Darrell Brooks, 21, lives near the three-story home where Angela Dawson and her children died early Wednesday. Dawson’s husband was in critical condition with third-degree burns and injuries suffered when he jumped from a second-story window.

The home had been firebombed Oct. 3, but the family escaped injury. The (Baltimore) Sun reported that the family declined an offer of witness protection.

A neighbor said Angela Dawson had argued for weeks with teenage boys dealing drugs on the street corner in front of their homes.

``They had words, they had confrontations. She was threatened,″ Gerlena Jackson said.

Dawson was ``a concerned mother, just like us all,″ she said. ``She stood up to them. She didn’t want them around her kids.″

State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden joined neighbors Wednesday night outside the home to express outrage over the deaths.

``We’ve been fighting this thing, it’s an ongoing battle,″ McFadden said. ``We’re talking about terrorism around the world. We’ve got terrorism right here with some of these drug dealers.″

Killed in the fire were the 36-year-odl Dawson; Carnell Dawson Jr., 10; Juan Ortiz, 12; twins Kevin and Keith Dawson, 9; and LaWanda Ortiz, 14.

``In one swoop, to lose an entire family _ it’s just devastating,″ said Lucretia Coates, principal of the elementary school where four of the children were enrolled.

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