The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) is seeking information about the 15 buildings and 144 vehicles set on fire in Baltimore during riots that broke out Monday night -- and the federal agency is ready to pay as much as $10,000 for it. The riots grew out of protests over the death of Freddie Gray, a city resident who sustained a fatal spinal injury while in police custody following his arrest.
Ten thousand dollars is the same amount the ATF offered for information leading to the arrest of anyone involved in similar arson cases in Ferguson, Missouri, where unrest surged when a grand jury failed to indict a white police officer on murder charges after he shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, in August.
Baltimore police were largely conservative in their actions Monday, in many cases opting to block protesters with line formations rather than employ pepper spray and tear gas. Smaller, peaceful weekend demonstrations gave way to violent riots on Monday night after the funeral of 25-year-old Gray, who died under unknown circumstances. Much of the rioting took place in the low-income areas of Baltimore, where frustration over the city’s police practices and the lack of services available to its poor boiled over.
â€” ATF HQ (@ATFHQ) April 30, 2015
The three-alarm fire that engulfed a senior center under construction on Broadway Street was the most destructive. The ATF is trying to determine whether the blaze was arson or an accident. A CVS Pharmacy also burned to the ground. Several police vehicles were among those set alight. WJLA reported that someone sliced a fire hydrant hose line firefighters were using to battle the CVS fire, greatly hindering their ability to keep it under control. The ATF operates specialized task forces to handle such cases.
“ATF Baltimore has more than 50 special agents available to assist with the multiple ongoing arson investigations,” read a Tuesday ATF press release. “The ATF Baltimore Field Division’s Arson & Explosives Group is working at numerous fire scenes. The group has access to several Certified Fire Investigators (CFI’s), highly trained special agents who provide technical support, analysis and assistance in fire origin and cause determination for arson investigation.”