Man who aspired to be firefighter charged with setting 3 blazes

Randallstown resident applied to be volunteer

May 17, 2001|By Tim Craig | Tim Craig,SUN STAFF

A 29-year-old Randallstown man who recently applied to be a volunteer firefighter has been arrested on charges he set three fires near his home during the past month.

Lawrence E. Banton III of the first block of Cinnamon Circle was arrested late Tuesday and charged with two counts each of second-degree arson and burglary and one count of first-degree arson and burglary, police said. Bail was set at $250,000. He is being held at the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Banton is accused of setting a fire April 30 at the Salvation Army store in the 8700 block of Liberty Road; a fire Sunday at a vacant Roy Rogers in the 3500 block of Benbrook Road; and a fire Monday at a vacant house in the 5300 block of Old Court Road.

Banton was arrested after being interviewed by members of the Baltimore County Joint Fire Investigation Division.

Police said Banton - who moved to Maryland in 1999 after being paroled from a New York state prison, having served six years for an arson conviction - applied April 18 to become a volunteer firefighter at the Liberty Road Volunteer Fire Station.

Baltimore County police spokesman Bill Toohey said police and firefighters identified Banton as a suspect after he allegedly showed up at fire scenes repeatedly.

Banton told police he saw the fire at the Salvation Army store, then went to the Randallstown fire station "and beat on the front door to alert the firefighters," according to the charging documents.

Authorities believe that Banton is responsible for a fire Sunday morning at a vacant Randallstown Roy Rogers restaurant. According to charging documents, Banton pried opened a plywood door and set fires in two locations.

The restaurant is across the street from Banton's house.

The next day, according to the charging documents, three Liberty Road volunteer firefighters were talking to Banton in the 5300 block of Old Court Road.

The firefighters left Banton and returned to their station but were called back to the same location a half-hour later for a fire in a vacant house.

Investigators determined the fire had been set.

"Again, Banton was in the immediate area of yet another set fire," the charging documents say.

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