Suspect In Maryland Fires Allegedly Made Racist Comments

One of the men accused of setting fires at an upscale housing development in southern Maryland made racist and threatening comments about blacks moving into the homes.


GREENBELT, Md. (AP) -- One of the men accused of setting fires at an upscale housing development in southern Maryland made racist and threatening comments about blacks moving into the homes and was angry that the ''neighborhood is going black,'' according to court documents made public Thursday.

The allegations about Aaron Speed, who worked as a security guard at the Hunters Brooke development in Indian Head, emerged from an interview with another man charged in the fires, Jeremy Parady. The interview was detailed in search warrant affidavits unsealed Thursday in federal court.

Speed and Parady are among six men charged with arson in the Dec. 6 fires that caused $10 million in damage to dozens of homes in various stages of construction. Many of the residents slated to move into the development were black.

Investigators are probing race as a motive, but none of the six men are charged with federal hate crimes. Other possible motives are revenge and a bid for attention by the suspects.

According to Parady, Speed used racial epithets in various conversations before the fires, telling Parady once that he was mad that blacks were moving to Charles County.

Speed, whose infant son died last year, allegedly told Parady the first medical technician to arrive on the scene was black, and that he didn't think the EMT did enough to help his child. Using a racist epithet, he later said all blacks ''have to die'' and that he would do something ''to get everyone,'' according to Parady.

Speed saw homeowners visit the work sites and knew their races, Parady said. Speed allegedly told Parady, ''We know the houses we're looking for,'' referring to the ones owned by blacks, the court records state.

John Chamble, Speed's public defender, would not comment on the alleged statements. Parady is the only person in the documents who alleges Speed made racist comments, and none of the other suspects corroborate his accusations, according to authorities.

The affidavits were filed in December as authorities searched the homes, computers and vehicles of the suspects. Among the items they were looking for was evidence of affiliation with racist groups.

Search warrant returns filed in U.S. District Court list computer equipment and notebooks among the items seized from the suspects but do not specify if any racist paraphernalia was recovered.

Authorities believe the six men bonded around a mutual interest in street racing and Chevy Cavalier cars, referring to themselves as ''the Family.'' The purported ringleader, Patrick Walsh, first plotted the fires last summer, saying he wanted to make the family bigger and more famous.

According to investigators, the group went to the development early Dec. 6, kicked in the doors of the homes under construction, poured liquid accelerant on the floor, and lit it on fire. At least 10 homes were destroyed with several more seriously damaged.

The affidavits state another suspect, Michael Gilbert, told investigators that he had ''southern pride,'' but wasn't a member of a racist group. Asked his opinion on slavery, Gilbert allegedly said ''everything was going O.K.''

Gilbert's attorney, Robert Bonsib, did not return a call Thursday seeking comment.