Man dies a week after fire at home

2,000 at viewing of wife, 5 children killed in arson

October 24, 2002|By Tom Pelton, Laurie Willis and Laura Vozzella | Tom Pelton, Laurie Willis and Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

An East Baltimore man who fought neighborhood drug dealers alongside his wife died yesterday, a week after six other family members perished in a house fire that police say was set to punish them for reporting crime.

Carnell Dawson Sr., 43, leapt from a second-story window to escape the fire Oct. 16 but suffered second- and third-degree burns over half of his body. He also fractured his pelvis and injured his head in the fall. Dawson died of those injuries at Johns Hopkins Bayview Hospital at 2:25 p.m. yesterday, said Police Department spokeswoman Ragina C. Averella.

"It simply adds another name to the list of martyrs in the Dawson family," said state Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden, who lives a short walk from where the Dawson family lived. "It simply makes us work even harder ... to ensure that no other family in this city suffers the same kind of tragedy."

FOR THE RECORD - The original published version of this story incorrectly identified the ages of Keith and Kevin Dawson and of Juan Ortiz. This archived version of the story has been corrected.

Police are likely to seek a seventh murder charge against Darrell L. Brooks, 21, after consulting with the state's attorney's office, Averella said.

Brooks, a former City Council clerk and a probation violator who lived around the corner from the Dawsons' East Preston Street rowhouse, has been charged in the deaths of Dawson's wife and five children. He is being held without bail.

Brooks is accused of pouring gasoline in the family's house and setting it ablaze in retaliation for their reporting of crimes.

Two Molotov cocktails were thrown into the house Oct. 3, but the family was unharmed. Police say the Dawsons declined offers to relocate them, saying they would not be driven from their home by drug dealers.

"The city's future depends on courageous people like the Dawsons, more than anyone who happens to be in government or hold a government job," Mayor Martin O'Malley said. "And so long as the good and decent people of the city -- who far outnumber the bad -- can remember the Dawsons and what they tried to do, then there's hope for a better tomorrow for this city."

Dawson died on a day when more than 2,000 people turned out at a viewing for Angela Maria Dawson, 36; Keith and Kevin Dawson, 9; Carnell Dawson Jr., 10; Juan Ortiz, 12; and LaWanda Ortiz, 14.

Mourners solemnly passed by the six coffins -- all white except for LaWanda's, which was pink -- after waiting in a line that snaked outside March Funeral Home East and onto the sidewalk along East North Avenue. Photos topped each casket. A black lapel pin from the city's anti-drug Baltimore Believe campaign was nestled among flower arrangements, teddy bears and balloons.

Angela Dawson and the children will be buried today in the Fallen Heroes section of Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. Arrangements for Carnell Dawson Sr. are pending.

Today's memorial service will begin with a wake at 10 a.m. at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, 6000 Radecke Ave., followed by the funeral at 11 a.m. Speakers chosen by the family include O'Malley, police Commissioner Edward T. Norris and White House drug policy director John Walters.

The City Council passed a resolution Monday asking all residents to drive with their lights on today to show sympathy for the Dawson family.

"My heart truly goes out to the Dawson family, and I will never forget the sacrifice they made in trying to improve the quality of life of their neighborhood," said City Council member Paula Johnson Branch, who represents the East Baltimore district that includes the Dawsons' home at 1401 E. Preston St.

Relatives remembered Carnell Dawson Sr. yesterday as a hard-working family man.

"He was a loving husband and father," said his father-in-law, John Robert Harrington Sr. "He worked in construction, any kind of job he could find. So long as he could provide for his children and my daughter, he'd do it. I'm talking about in the rain, sleet or snow. He'd be there."

Harrington, 56, said his daughter and Carnell Dawson, a native of Oklahoma, met at a party years ago.

"Their eyes met, and he said, `I'm going to marry you,'" Harrington said. "When I saw him, he made me smile right away. He said, `You're going to be my father-in-law.'"

Detective T. Holt, now with the police arson squad, spent years as a beat officer in the Eastern District and knew Carnell Dawson as a nice man.

"He was a good father, and he loved his kids very much," Holt said. "He would have done just about anything for them."

Dawson funeral

Temporary parking restrictions will be in effect today for the Dawson family funeral procession. Angela Dawson and five children died in an arson fire last week, and are being buried today. Her husband, Carnell Dawson Sr., died yesterday. His funeral arrangements are incomplete.

Parking will be restricted from 6 a.m. to noon along both sides of the 200 block of N. Washington St. Police will escort family members from North Washington Street to funeral services at Mount Pleasant Ministries, 6000 Radecke Ave.

The procession will head west on Radecke Avenue, then south on Cedonia Avenue/Sinclair Lane, east on Moravia Road, north on Interstate 95, west on Interstate 695, north on Interstate 83 and east on Padonia Road to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens.

Motorists in the vicinity are encouraged to use alternative routes.

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