- The Washington Times - Monday, October 21, 2002

BALTIMORE Chanting "Thou shalt not kill," hundreds rallied yesterday in front of the burned-out shell of a home where a suspected arson killed five children and their mother, who had fought to clear drug dealers from her neighborhood.
"The time has come for us not to just say those words, but to live them," Bishop Felton Edwin May, the head of the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, said to those in the crowd, many of whom carried white signs bearing the commandment in large red letters.
Darrel Brooks, a 21-year-old man who police said has a "drug history," has been charged with setting the fire. Prosecutors said Brooks kicked in the door, poured gasoline on the floor and lit the fire that killed Angela Dawson and her children.
Investigators believe some in the neighborhood had grown tired of calls to police by the Dawsons, reporting a variety of offenses, including drug dealing, police have said.
Douglas Flowers said he attended the rally to show support "not only to the family, but also to the community, and let the drug dealers know they will not prevail."
The only survivor was Mrs. Dawson's husband, Carnell Dawson Sr., 59, who was burned over 80 percent of his body and fractured his pelvis jumping from an upper-floor window to escape the flames that gutted the three-story row house early Wednesday, according to court documents.
Also killed in the fire were Carnell Dawson Jr., 10; Juan Ortiz, 12; twins Kevin and Keith Dawson, 9; and LaWanda Dawson, 14.
Brooks, charged with arson and first-degree murder, simply shook his head as 29 charges against him were read at a hearing where bail was denied Friday.
Other arrests are possible, police said.
The crowd also called on Mayor Martin O'Malley to meet with community leaders. People sang the spiritual hymn "Hush, Hush, Somebody's Calling my Name" to urge him to visit the neighborhood.
Rally organizer Robert English, a member of the group Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, said the mayor has not responded to repeated requests for a meeting.
"People are being terrorized in this neighborhood. Two nights ago a man had his throat slit," Mr. English said.
"Drug dealers are like cockroaches, they spread. They've spread to other corners of this neighborhood, and people are continually being terrorized."
A call yesterday by the Associated Press to the mayor's spokesman was not immediately returned.
Aloma Taylor, a 911 operator who took the call reporting the fire, said she was especially moved by the deaths because she grew up in the neighborhood.
She, however, said she did not blame the mayor.
"I'm hoping people will be encouraged by the turnout, and maybe something somebody said will encourage someone to stand up," she said. "The buck doesn't stop with O'Malley, it starts with each home in this neighborhood."
The house had been firebombed two weeks earlier, again in the middle of the night, but the family had escaped injury then.
Police offered to move the Dawsons afterward, but were told they wanted to stay, Police Commissioner Edward Norris has said.
Police said investigators questioned Brooks about the first fire but he wasn't charged and they are taking another look.
On Friday, Stuart Simms, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said a preliminary review found that department procedures were not followed when Brooks was under probationary supervision.
Brooks was put on probation in April for his conviction on a car-theft charge, but he never made contact with the probation office and the office never attempted to make contact with him, even though an officer was assigned to the case, Mr. Simms said.
At a heated meeting with Mr. Norris on Thursday, some called for the governor to send in National Guard troops to protect residents from drug dealers, noting that the Pentagon is aiding the search for a sniper who has stalked the Washington suburbs.
Mr. Norris said he would consider using state police but dismissed the idea of bringing in the National Guard.


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