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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

String of Events Culminates in Tragedy

BALTIMORE (CN) - A man died when employees of a music store inadvertently locked him in overnight, and the building exploded due to a previously reported gas leak, his family says in a $2 million wrongful-death complaint.

George Armijo's family says their late father was visiting Your Super Music Store on North Gay Street in Baltimore during the late afternoon or early evening of Feb. 8, 2008 to buy videos and music.

While he browsed, defendant employees Jeff Lawson and Angela Burston closed up, accidentally locking Armijo inside, according to the complaint in City Court.

With that, they sealed his fate, according to the complaint. What took the incident from the merely embarrassing to the tragic was a series of events set in motion two weeks earlier.

On Jan. 26, 2008, the defendants had notified Baltimore Gas and Electric of a strong and unmistakable order of gas leaking into the business. BG&E turned off the gas to the building's furnace, but kept on the building's gas supply through the indoor meter, according to the complaint.

Days later, Lawson and Burston reported that the business had been broken into, and because they had no insurance, they sealed the building with iron gates on all of the windows and a steel front, the complaint states.

From that point on, "The building was effectively hermetically sealed so that no one could break in again and conversely, if someone were locked inside then they had no way to exit the premises," according to the complaint. "Additionally, the defendants had no telephone service to the building, leaving any person trapped inside without an effective means of communicating their plight to anyone on the outside."

That was Armijo's situation at about 5 a.m. on Feb. 9, when the gas leaking into the building exploded and the building burned.

"The report from the fire and police departments revealed that the fire and explosion originated on the first floor in the vicinity of ... the gas meter which still had an active supply of gas coming to it," the complaint states.

Due to the intensity of the fire, the second floor collapsed into the first floor; a "subsequent investigation found the body of the deceased straddling the debris from the collapse," according to the complaint.

After not hearing from Armijo for a week, his family began to suspect that the body found inside the music store was his; but because his body had been so badly burned by the fire and explosion, it took the Baltimore City Coroner 18 months to identify him.

Defendants include Baltimore Gas & Electric, Ernest Music dba Your Super Music Store, its resident agent Ernest Burston, Angela Burston and Jeff Lawson.

The Armijos are represented by Selig Solomon of Baltimore.

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