- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

BALTIMORE Hundreds of people cried, held hands and prayed for an end to drug-related violence yesterday next to the charred home where an arson fire killed a mother and five of her children Wednesday.
John Harrington, the brother of Angela Dawson, 36, who called police to clear drug dealers from her neighborhood, 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 said told a crowd gathered around a stage near the gutted three-story row house, which smelled of acrid smoke.
"If we can focus all of our energy into our children as she focused into hers, then most of the people that would do bad things like this wouldn't be allowed to continue to do the things that they do because their society will shrink a little more."
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 E. Cummings, Maryland Democrat, said 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.
Mayor Martin O'Malley led the group in a prayer.
"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.
Earlier at City Hall, Mr. O'Malley said city officials were searching for better ways to take violent drug dealers off the streets.
The mayor said the city needed to make it easier for residents to report crime without fear of retribution from drug dealers. He also said he was hopeful that up to 75 more parole and probation agents would be hired to help stop repeat offenders.
The city was in a crisis, Mr. O'Malley said, because residents fear reporting drug dealers to police.
"That's a crisis," he said. "We can't allow that to go unaddressed, and we're going to address it."
Mr. O'Malley said he believes the man charged with killing Mrs. Dawson and her five children could have been taken off the streets because of a parole violation.
A draft action plan that the mayor discussed also included enlisting the help of 100 troopers from the Maryland State Police to fight drug trafficking.
Mr. O'Malley also met with ministers and activists yesterday to discuss the city's drug problem.
Bishop Douglas Miles, a co-chairman of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, said the group met for about 20 minutes with Mr. O'Malley yesterday. Bishop Miles said the mayor was asked to arrange regular meetings with the group's pastors in the community where Mrs. Dawson lived and to develop a long-term strategy to improve the community.
Bishop Miles said he hoped the meeting would initiate a productive relationship between the group and the mayor.
Darrell Brooks, 21, has been charged with setting the fire. Prosecutors say Brooks kicked in the door to Mrs. Dawson's home, poured gasoline onto the floor and lit the fire.
Police said Brooks had a "drug history" and started the blaze to retaliate against Mrs. Dawson after she complained to authorities about street-corner drug dealers.
Brooks is being held without bail on charges of arson and first-degree murder. Police said others may be arrested.
The only survivor was Mrs. Dawson's husband, Carnell Dawson Sr., who was burned over 80 percent of his body. He fractured his pelvis jumping from an upper-floor window to escape the fire and was in critical condition yesterday at a hospital, police said.
The children killed were Carnell Dawson Jr., 10; Juan Ortiz, 12; twins Kevin and Keith Dawson, 9; and LaWanda Dawson, 14.
The house was firebombed two weeks earlier, but the family escaped injury that time.

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