Ex-police chief in Maryland charged with 12 arsons targeting enemies

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Clients wait in front of a re-opened Apple store after the Swiss government relaxed some of its COVID-19 restrictions, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues, in Zurich, Switzerland March 3, 2021. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

March 4 (Reuters) - A former police chief in Maryland was labeled as a serial arsonist by law enforcement officials on Thursday, a day after he was charged with setting a dozen fires over a span of nine years targeting his enemies.

David Crawford, 69, of Ellicott City who served as police chief in the city of Laurel before resigning in 2010, was arrested on Wednesday. He was charged with 24 counts of attempted first and second-degree murder and more than two dozen counts of arson and malicious burning, officials from several jurisdictions said during a press conference on Thursday.

Investigators said they found all of the fire victims had previous disagreements with Crawford. They said they found a target list of the victims while conducting a search of Crawford’s residence in January.

Lisa Myers, the police chief in Howard County where five of the suspicious fires were set, called the suspect a "serial arsonist" and a "dangerous criminal."

Crawford was being held without bond in Howard County after a brief court hearing on Thursday, Myers said.

In addition to the fires in Howard County, Crawford is accused of setting two fires in Prince George’s County, three in Montgomery County and one Frederick County from 2011 to 2020. Another fire, set in 2019 in Charles County, is still under investigation.

The house, vehicle and garage fires were set by a suspect who was seen on surveillance video wearing a sweatshirt with the hood tightly drawn over his head. The suspect used gasoline and a stick wrapped in cloth to start the blazes, investigators said.

Law enforcement officials said they broke the case open during the investigation of the most recent blaze in Montgomery County on Nov. 17 when they discovered a link between the victims and Crawford, Prince George's County Fire Department said in the statement.

The victims include a former City of Laurel official, three former law enforcement officials including a former City of Laurel Police Chief, two relatives and two of Crawford’s former physicians, law enforcement officials said.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; editing by Grant McCool

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