2021 | Courts

Former Laurel police chief indicted on arson charges in Montgomery County

He has been accused of setting a dozen fires in multiple counties in Maryland

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A former Laurel police chief accused of setting a dozen fires across Maryland has been indicted in Montgomery County, where some of the fires occurred, authorities said.

David Michael Crawford, 69, has been accused of setting 12 fires between 2011 and 2020 in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard, Frederick and Charles counties, according to charging documents from March 3.

A Montgomery County grand jury indicted Crawford on Thursday on four counts of arson and two counts of reckless endangerment, according to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

Authorities have said that Crawford created a “target” list that included government officials, law enforcement officers, relatives and neighbors, The Washington Post reported last month. Three of the fires he is accused of setting were in Montgomery County, targeting his stepson.

Crawford’s attorney, Robert Bonsib, told Bethesda Beat on Friday that he is in the process of preparing a defense.

“He intends to contest the charges and denies the allegations,” he said.

The first fire Crawford set in Montgomery County was on Sept. 5, 2016, at his stepson’s house in Clarksburg, State’s Attorney John McCarthy told reporters on Friday.

According to charging documents, firefighters were called to 22663 Majestic Elm Court around 5:30 a.m. that day. They found a fire burning in the back of a townhouse, and it extended to other homes.

Fire investigators found gasoline along the base of the garage door and later obtained surveillance footage from a neighbor that showed Crawford igniting the fire around 3:17 a.m. that day, charging documents say. They determined that arson was the cause of the fire.

McCarthy said on Friday that Crawford’s stepson’s house was unoccupied at the time of the fire, but two people were inside an adjoining home that was damaged.

On Thursday, Crawford was indicted on two counts of first-degree arson and one count of reckless endangerment related to the September 2016 fire.

Crawford is accused of setting a fire at the same house on Sept. 29, 2017. According to court documents, firefighters were called to the home around 9 a.m. that day, and found that the fire had been “self-extinguished.” The townhome was unoccupied at the time.

As in the previous fire, investigators obtained surveillance video from a neighbor and determined that the cause of the fire was arson. Crawford also used gasoline to ignite the fire in this case, authorities said.

Investigators ultimately determined that the same person was behind both the 2016 and 2017 fires.

On Thursday, Crawford was indicted on one count each of first-degree arson and reckless endangerment related to the 2017 fire.

The third Montgomery County fire Crawford is accused of setting happened on Nov. 17, 2020 at 11848 Peppervine Drive in Clarksburg, where his stepson had moved since the last fire. Firefighters were called to the scene around 3:15 a.m. that day and found a fire contained to a detached garage, documents state.

As was the case in the other two fires, investigators gasoline was used to ignite the fire. Investigators determined it to be arson.

Crawford was indicted Thursday on one count of second-degree arson related to the 2020 fire. The lesser arson charge, McCarthy said, was due to the fact that the fire was to the garage and not the residential unit.

McCarthy said all of the jurisdictions involved in the case are communicating with each other about the case. He thinks the prosecution in Howard County will go forward first.

Dan Schere can be reached at daniel.schere@bethesdamagazine.com