- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

BALTIMORE A mother who tried to force drug dealers off her street corner was killed, along with five of her children, when fire ripped through their three-story row house early Wednesday.
Investigators had yet to determine late yesterday what caused the fire in the 1400 block of E. Preston Street but said it was the second to strike the home in two weeks. Federal agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms are helping in the investigation.
The only survivor was the woman's husband, who had third-degree burns and injuries from jumping out a second-floor window, fire officials said.
The names of the victims were not immediately released by police and fire officials. But neighbors and principals at the children's schools identified the mother as Angela Dawson. They also gave the names of the children as Carnell Dawson and Juan Ortiz, who were fifth-graders, twins Kevin and Keith Dawson, who were third-graders, and LaWanda Ortiz, who was a seventh-grader.
"In one swoop, to lose an entire family, it's just devastating," said Lucretia Coates, the principal of Bernard Harris Sr. Elementary School, in which four of the children were enrolled.
Mrs. Dawson's husband was identified as Carnell Dawson Sr. and is listed in critical condition at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Gerlena Jackson, a neighbor, said Mrs. Dawson had argued for weeks with teenage boys who hung out on the corner in front of the women's homes.
She also said the teens threatened Mrs. Dawson and two weeks ago threw a "cocktail bomb" through her kitchen window as the family slept. However, Mr. Dawson woke up in time to get downstairs and extinguish the flames.
The family boarded the kitchen window, but Mrs. Dawson reportedly did not stop her dispute with the teens who stood outside as late as 3 a.m.
Firefighters found the bodies of the mother and the children after fighting for an hour to bring the fire under control, said Kevin Cartwright, Baltimore Fire Department spokesman.
The victims appeared to have died from smoke inhalation and burns, but autopsies were expected to be conducted to determine the cause of death, Mr. Cartwright said.
"I don't even see how the firemen could have gotten in that house," said Geraldine Lee, a neighbor who saw flames coming out of the windows of the home at about 3 a.m.
Classmates of the four brothers paused outside the house yesterday in the steady rain to look at the mound of belongings that included a basketball, a Mickey Mouse picture book and a recliner. The outside of the home was charred black.
Mrs. Coates said Keith Dawson loved putting together puzzles at the school's after-school program. She also said Kevin and Carnell took gymnastics at a recreation center and loved turning cartwheels in the school hallways.
A team of counselors answered questions for students and helped them discuss how they felt.
"In this community [children] deal with a lot of death and violence," Mrs. Coates said. "They understand death but were very upset by it. They wanted to know more about the fire, how it started."
Russell Keene, 52, a neighbor who lives on the same block, said in the summer the children often played in an inflatable pool on the sidewalk.
"I feel devastated because of the kids and their suffering," Mr. Keene said. "It won't be the same around here come summertime with those kids gone."


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