Former Laurel police chief arrested for arson, attempted murder


The fires took place over the past decade, beginning shortly after his 2010 resignation

MARYLAND (WDVM) — Authorities say a dozen Maryland house fires since 2011 can be traced back to one man – a 69-year-old former Laurel police chief. David Crawford was arrested Wednesday by members of two Arson Task Forces and members of multiple Maryland fire and police agencies.  

Crawford is facing multiple arson and attempted murder charges in connection with arsons in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Howard County, Frederick County and Charles county.  

Authorities say Crawford, who retired from his position as police chief in 2010, set fire to the homes, vehicles and garages of those he had disagreements with. He was a part of Prince George’s County Police for over 20 years.

The scene of the most recent arson Crawford is charged in. Crawford reportedly lit this home in 2017 and November 2020.

Crawford’s victims include a neighbor, two of his former physicians, a former Laurel city official and multiple former Laurel officers, including another former police chief. In six of the arsons, authorities say, the victims and their families were asleep in their homes.  

Officials say Crawford followed a pattern: wearing a hoodie with drawstrings tightly drawn to conceal his face, he visited the homes at night. He poured gasoline and lit the fuel with a stick wrapped in cloth. 

A break in the investigation came when investigators found a link between victims in 2020, after the last known fire.  In January, a search warrant executed in Crawford’s Ellicott City home revealed several “critical items of evidence” including a target list.  

Crawford was charged in court in multiple jurisdictions on Wednesday and was arrested. He is charged with: 

  • In PG County: Four counts of first-degree attempted murder, four counts of second-degree attempted murder, one count of first-degree arson, six counts of first-degree malicious burning, and five counts of second-degree arson.  
  • In Montgomery County: Three counts of first-degree arson, three counts of malicious burning first-degree, and one count of first-degree arson.  
  • In Howard County: Eight counts of first-degree attempted murder, eight counts of second-degree attempted murder, three counts of first-degree malicious burning, two counts of first-degree arson, two counts of second-degree arson, one count of second-degree malicious burning and various malicious destruction charges. 
  • In Frederick County: One count of first-degree arson, one count of second-degree arson and one count of first-degree malicious burning.  

Howard County Executive Howard Ball is expected to hold a press conference Thursday about the arrest.

“We’re incredibly grateful to the multiple jurisdictions and departments who worked together to arrest the suspect and potentially stop any future tragedies,” said Ball. “Not only were these homes, and residents’ lives put in danger – but the lives of our first responders, firefighters, and police officers around the state were endangered.”  

Crawford is also being investigated in connection with a Charles County arson in 2019. He is currently in the booking process at Howard County detention center.  

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