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Man admits to arson, looting during riots

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Posted at 5:37 PM, Mar 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-18 19:25:15-04

Donta Betts, 20, of Baltimore pleaded guilty to making a destructive device in connection with the April 27, 2015 Baltimore riots.

Betts also pleaded guilty in an unrelated case to discharge of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime on July 2, 2015.

"This is the sad reality confronting brave police officers who try to save lives in Baltimore," said U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein. "Donta Betts engaged in arson, looting, assault and other mayhem during the Baltimore riots. He threw rocks at the police near Mondawmin Mall; tried to destroy police cars; stole from a pharmacy, a liquor store and a shoe store; and set off a homemade bomb. Ten weeks later, he tried to murder a woman over a $20 drug dispute, then he conspired to get her to sign a false affidavit. We caught him only because police and prosecutors spend many hours reviewing video and audio recordings. It may song like a story arc from a TV series, but it is real life in Baltimore."

See also: Nearly 200 people arrested during Baltimore riots

According to his plea agreement, Betts participating in the looting at the CVS Pharmacy located at 2509 Pennsylvania Avenue. He was captured on surveillance video entering the store through the main entrance and removing merchandise from the store. 

By 5:44 p.m. a line of police officers had formed in the 2500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue. In an effort to deter police from advancing, Betts set fire to a roll of toilet paper and placed it on top of the propane cylinders and charcoal briquettes. Bets then squirted lighter fluid onto the burning roll of toilet paper atop the incendiary materials. Betts fled the scene. By 5:58 p.m. a large flame exploded, resulting in flying debris of large metal fragments.

Related: Crude explosive device found in Baltimore riots

The investigation showed that in addition to making the incendiary device, Betts also threw objects at police in the vicinity of Mondawmin Mall; attempted to tip over MTA and police vehicles while encouraging others to join him; attempted to destroy a police cruiser by placing flammable material in the fuel filler pipe and igniting the material; and stole from the CVS, a liquor store in Baltimore and a shoe store at Mondawmin Mall. His involvement in the riots is in surveillance footage and still photographs.

In an unrelated case in early July, 2015, Betts shot and attempted to kill an individual who had purchased heroin from him. According to the plea agreement, Betts expected to be paid $40 for the heroin, but the individual only paid him about $20. 

On the morning of July 2, 2015, Betts saw the individual in the driver's seat of a vehicle with a passenger in southwest Baltimore. He approached the vehicle with a gun and shot at the individual, intending to kill the victim. 

Federal prosecutors previously charged four other defendants for arson crimes committed during the April riots. Trevon Green, 23, of Baltimore is charged with malicious destruction of property by fire, for allegedly setting fire to a food store on North Monroe Street. Gregory Lee Butler, Jr., 22, of Baltimore, faces federal charges for obstruction of firefighters during a civil disorder and for aiding and abetting arson.

See also: Man who torched CVS during Baltimore riots gets 4 years in federal prison

Darius Raymond Stewart, 22, of Baltimore, is charged with malicious destruction of a commercial building for allegedly setting fire to a liquor store on West North Avenue. Raymon Carter, 25, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to the federal crime of rioting, including the arson of the CVS pharmacy and was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $500,000. 

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