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Man pleads guilty to setting fire during riots

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Posted at 4:45 PM, May 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-02 16:45:41-04

A Baltimore man pleaded guilty Monday to malicious destruction of property by fire to a city liquor store last April, during the Baltimore riots. 

Darius Raymond Stewart, 22, will be sentenced July 21. He is expected to serve five years in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. 

One victim was seriously injured inside the store, and another escaped with minor injuries, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore.

According to his plea agreement, on April 27, 2015, during unrest in the wake of the funeral for Freddie Gray, there was widespread looting, and multiple structure and vehicle fires were set in Baltimore. 

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The two owners of a liquor store located on West North Avenue were inside their store when the first wave of approximately 20 to 30 people entered the business and began banging on the bulletproof plexiglass window with pipes and crow bars.  The group was chased off by a community member. 

Shortly afterwards, a second wave of approximately 150 people entered the business and began ransacking and looting the store.  One of the business owners was assaulted, resulting in a head injury requiring stitches, and was eventually rescued by police.  Baltimore CitiWatch surveillance footage captured residents robbing and repeatedly assaulting the owner when he stood outside his store while it was being looted. 

The second owner fled upstairs and was able to hide on an enclosed balcony.

At approximately 8:30 p.m. that night, Stewart set three fires inside the store, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. 

Smoke from the fires spread upstairs where the second owner was hiding. He was able to escape the burning building by using the gutter, but jumped to the ground, suffered head trauma and injured his ankle.  He was able to escape in his car.

While extinguishing the fire, Baltimore fire department personnel discovered an unconscious victim in the basement of the building.  The victim suffered smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning, and was hospitalized for five days.

The damage was estimated at around $350,000. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Stewart has agreed to the entry of an order to pay restitution of at least $350,000.

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