- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

One of the men accused of setting fires at an upscale housing development in Charles County, Md., made racist and threatening comments about blacks moving into the houses and was angry that the “neighborhood is going black,” according to court documents made public yesterday.

The charges about Aaron Lee Speed, who worked as a security guard at the Hunters Brooke development in Indian Head, emerged from an interview with another man charged in the fires, Jeremy Daniel Parady. The interview was detailed in search warrant affidavits unsealed yesterday in federal court.

Mr. Speed and Mr. Parady are among six men charged with arson in the Dec. 6 fires that caused $10 million in damage to 26 houses in various stages of construction. Many of the residents slated to move into the development were black.

Investigators are probing racism as a motive, but none of the six men is charged with federal hate crimes. Other possible motives are revenge and a bid for attention by the suspects.

According to Mr. Parady, Mr. Speed used racial epithets in various conversations before the fires, telling Mr. Parady once that he was angry that blacks were moving to Charles County.

Mr. Speed, whose infant son died last year, told Mr. Parady that the first emergency medical technician (EMT) to arrive on the scene was black and that he didn’t think the EMT did enough to help his child, according to court documents. Using a racist epithet, he later said that all blacks “have to die” and that he would do something “to get everyone,” according to Mr. Parady.

Mr. Speed saw homeowners visit the work sites and knew their races, Mr. Parady said. Mr. Speed told Mr. Parady: “We know the houses we’re looking for,” referring to the ones owned by blacks, the court records state.

John Chamble, Mr. Speed’s public defender, would not comment on the statements. Mr. Parady is the only person in the documents who says Mr. Speed made racist comments and none of the other suspects corroborate his accusations, according to authorities.

The affidavits were filed in December as authorities searched the homes, computers and vehicles of the suspects. Among the items they were looking for was evidence of affiliation with racist groups.

Search warrant returns filed in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt list computer equipment and notebooks among the items seized from the suspects, but do not say whether any racist paraphernalia was recovered.

Authorities think the six men bonded around a mutual interest in street racing and Chevrolet Cavalier cars, referring to themselves as “the family.” The purported ringleader, Patrick S. Walsh, is suspected of starting to plot the fires last summer, saying he wanted to make “the family” bigger and more famous.

According to investigators, the group went to the development early Dec. 6, kicked in the doors of the houses under construction, poured liquid accelerant on the floor and lit them on fire. At least 10 houses were destroyed, with several more seriously damaged.

The affidavits state that another suspect, Michael E. Gilbert, told investigators that he had “Southern pride,” but wasn’t a member of a racist group. Asked about his opinion on slavery, Mr. Gilbert said, “Everything was going OK,” the affidavits state.

Mr. Gilbert’s attorney, Robert Bonsib, did not return a call yesterday seeking comment.



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