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Washington Co. teen charged in two arsons, harassment

Officials say the fires were racially motivated; harassment charge is equivalent of hate crime

Officials say the fires were racially motivated; harassment charge is equivalent of hate crime

November 01, 2007|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A 14-year-old boy is charged with first-degree arson and harassment of a person with destruction of property in connection with two fires in the Hagerstown area in recent months, the deputy state fire marshal said Wednesday.

Deputy Fire Marshal Jason Mowbray said the harassment charge is the legal equivalent of a hate crime.

The boy was taken into custody Wednesday at Boonsboro Middle School and placed in the Department of Juvenile Services community detention program pending trial, according to a press release from the fire marshal.

Officials charged the boy, whose name was not released, after a three-month investigation, Mowbray said.

The first fire was reported Aug. 18 around midnight on Pheasant Trail in Hagerstown. Someone used an ignitable liquid to set fire to a trash container and tires stored in the back of a home, the fire marshal said.

No one was injured, and firefighters quickly controlled the fire so damage to the home was minimal, Mowbray said.

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The second fire was reported Sept. 16 just before 1 a.m. at the same address. Someone set fire to the inside of a 2000 Cadillac Deville, the fire marshal said. The fire caused more than $8,000 in damage to the vehicle, which was destroyed, Mowbray said.

Through witness interviews and other evidence, officials found that the fires were racially motivated, Mowbray said. He declined to elaborate.

Officials charged with boy with harassment of a person with destruction of property, which falls under part of the criminal code that the legislature created to deal with hate crimes, Assistant State's Attorney Michele Ferris Hansen explained Wednesday.

Evidence also indicates that the boy acted alone, the fire marshal said.

Mowbray did not know if the boy knew the victims, he said.

The boy also was charged with second-degree arson, first-degree malicious burning, attempted arson, reckless endangerment and malicious destruction of property.

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