Man sentenced for firebombing girlfriends apartment

Greenbelt, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm sentenced Richard Butler III, age 36, of Landover, Maryland today to 243 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for being a felon in possession of an explosive; malicious use of explosive materials; and transportation of explosive materials with intent to kill, injure, or intimidate, in connection with the attempted firebombing of his girlfriend’s apartment.

The sentence was announced by United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Robert K. Hur; Special Agent in Charge Rob Cekada of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Baltimore Field Division; Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Chief Benjamin M. Barksdale; and Chief Hank Stawinski of the Prince George’s County Police Department. 

According to his plea agreement, on March 4, 2016, at 3:25 a.m., the Prince George’s County Fire Department (PGFD) were called to an apartment complex in Landover, Maryland for an automated general fire alarm, and located the remnants of a fire in the master bedroom of apartment 102.  The fire had been extinguished by the fire sprinkler system prior to the arrival of the PGFD.  Firefighters discovered that the master bedroom window had been broken and requested fire investigators from the Prince George’s County Fire Investigations Division to examine the apartment.

Fire investigators located a concrete brick inside the master bedroom on the floor between the bed and window and near the brick, an improvised incendiary device—specifically, a clear plastic water bottle containing an unknown liquid, and a paper towel protruding from the mouth of the bottle.  A similar plastic bottle was found melted to the top of the burned bed.  Outside, investigators located a blue plastic one-quart motor oil container.  The ATF Forensic Science Laboratory examined the plastic bottles, which revealed the presence of gasoline.

At the time of the incident, two adults and three minors were in the apartment, which was leased by Butler’s girlfriend.  She was not in the apartment at that time of the fire because she was at the Prince George’s County Police Department in connection with a complaint of sexual abuse involving Butler and her minor daughter.  Butler’s girlfriend reported that she had last seen Butler at 11:28 p.m. and he was a wearing a black coat, blue jeans, and red, white, and blue sneakers.

Investigators reviewed surveillance videos from a nearby gas station which showed an individual wearing the clothing described by Butler’s girlfriend who pumped gas into three containers—two of which appeared to be clear plastic water bottles, and the third, a blue container which he retrieved from a trash can located next to the pump.  The individual then entered the restroom and exited with paper towels in his hand, got a white plastic bag from the cashier and placed the containers in the plastic bag and walked away.  During an interview with investigators on March 7, 2016, Butler’s girlfriend was shown a screen-capture from the gas station’s surveillance footage of the individual standing near the gas pumps, which she identified as Butler.

A subsequent review of the ATF National Firearms Registrations and Transfer Records determined that there were no destructive devices legally registered to Butler.  In addition, Butler was prohibited from possessing destructive devices due to a previous felony conviction.                    

United States Attorney Robert K. Hur praised the ATF, the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, and the Prince George’s County Police Department for their work in the investigation.  Mr. Hur thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer R. Sykes, who prosecuted the case.

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