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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Man Accused of Vandalising and Setting Fire To Chattanooga Masonic Hall Considers Plea Deal

Kadum Harwood's mugshot from Hamilton County (TN) Sheriff's Dept.

by Christopher Hodapp

Kadum Harwood (age 29) was arrested last September in connection with vandalism and an arson attack on a Masonic Center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Harwood has been federally charged with arson, traveling in interstate commerce to carry on arson, and discharging a firearm during a crime of violence, the indictment shows. 

According to a story in Wednesday's Chattanooga Times Free Press, Federal prosecutors have apparently offered a plea deal to Harwood. Details haven't been disclosed as yet, but his public defender, J. Damon Burk, filed an unopposed motion Tuesday to continue the case shortly before the federal courts closed. 

In an earlier hearing, he pleaded 'not guilty' to all counts.

Harwood's trial was scheduled to begin May 7th at the Joel W. Solomon Federal Building and Courthouse, but Burk has requested the judge grant a 30-day extension so he and his client can more fully study the details.

The affidavit filed at the time of Harwood's arrest provides a few more details in the case (from the WZTV website on September 5th):

The affidavit says the Chattanooga Fire Department responded to a fire alarm at the Chattanooga Masonic Center around 2 a.m. on September 4th.
When crews arrived, the affidavit says they noticed forced entry at the front door as well as 2 separate fires on the property.

The affidavit says one fire was in the shrubs to the left of the front door and the other was in the cafeteria where a podium was set ablaze.

This was all caught on surveillance video, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit says the surveillance footage also shows Harwood using a sledge hammer to vandalize several sections on the Masonic Center.

Harwood 'recklessly' discharged a large caliber firearm into the air before leaving, the affidavit says.

The footage shows a blue Toyota SUV at the center, which the affidavit says was know [sic] by police to be driven by Kadum Harwood based on his social media posts.

The affidavit says officers also found social media posts from Harwood of him threatening to "burn the Free Masons building downtown."

For several months before, he had written Facebook posts threatening to burn down local businesses, a fire station, and a Masonic hall. The night of the attack, when police and firefighters arrived at the scene to respond to an alarm, several walls, windows and interior decorations and furnishings had been smashed with a sledgehammer. There were two small fires smouldering, one inside and the other outside. 

Harwood fled the scene and crossed the border into Georgia to evade police. Local police there located him in a hotel near the border, and arrested him.

The Masonic Center is shared by Temple Lodge 430, Chattanooga Lodge 199, John Bailey Nicklin Chapter RAM 49, and Lookout Commandery 14.

Previous related stories

September 4, 2023: Tennessee: Another Masonic Hall Vandalized

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