Vigil Held to Mourn Md. Fire Deaths
Oct. 23, 2002
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BALTIMORE (AP) _ Mayor Martin O'Malley led a group in prayer at the burned-out row house where a woman and her five children were killed after she complained to authorities about drug pushers.
``We are going to pull this city together as we've never been pulled together because we have a responsibility to the little ones that gave their lives across the way for us,'' he said Monday.
The mourners cried, held hands and prayed for an end to drug-related violence.
Neighbors described Angela Dawson as a concerned mother who was threatened after she tried to force dealers off her street corner. The family's house had been firebombed two weeks earlier, but they escaped injury.
Then, last Wednesday, fire tore through the home again, killing Dawson and the five children _ Carnell Dawson Jr., 10; Juan Ortiz, 12; twins Kevin and Keith Dawson, 9; and LaWanda Ortiz, 14.
The woman's brother, John Harrington, spoke of a recent sleepless night he had trying to compose a poem about the loss of life.
``One thing we can't forget is the love that she had for her children,'' he told a crowd gathered around a stage by the charred home.
Lola Jenkins, who lives nearby, said she came to the candlelight vigil because she was worried about the future of her grandchildren in an inner city she described as ``a killing ground.''
``It was something that I just had to do,'' she said, her grandchildren by her side. ``It's something that all of us have to do.''
Rep. Elijah Cummings said young children shouldn't have to ``be coming to rallies and going to funerals, seeing their loved ones die.''
``There is something wrong with that picture, and we cannot allow that to go on,'' he said.
Earlier at City Hall, O'Malley said city officials were searching for better ways to take violent drug dealers off the streets.
O'Malley said he believes the man charged with killing Dawson and her five children could have been taken off the streets because of a parole violation.
Darrell Brooks, 21, has been charged with setting the fire. Prosecutors allege Brooks kicked in the door to Dawson's home, poured gasoline on the floor and lit the fatal fire.
Police said Brooks has a ``drug history'' and started the blaze to get back at Dawson after she complained to authorities about street-corner drug dealers. He is being held without bail on charges of arson and first-degree murder. Police said others may be arrested.
The only survivor was Dawson's husband, Carnell Dawson Sr., who was burned over 80 percent of his body. He remained hospitalized in critical condition, police said.