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Dope Burn: Brian Swope Jr. cops to heroin-addled arson of Pizza City

October 3, 2013
Pizza City photo

Photo by Noah Scialom

Now we know: a heroin binge made him do it.

In July, after Brian Keith Swope, Jr., was charged in Maryland federal court with torching the Pizza City (pictured, after the fire) in Pumphrey, near Brooklyn Park, The Nose was bemused by the “veritable litany of inexplicable stupidity” the 32-year-old displayed while committing the alleged arson, and bemoaned it as an embarrassment to Baltimore’s famous criminal culture. Now that Swope pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, newly filed court documents explain his conduct: he and an alleged accomplice named “Joey Muse” were chasing after successive fixes of dope, and in the resulting haze, made a series of very poor decisions.

“On May 22, 2013, federal agents arrested Mohammed Khan,” the factual statement in Swope’s plea agreement begins. Khan, Pizza City’s owner, had been charged in a bribery conspiracy, and after Swope learned of Khan’s arrest, he and Muse allegedly “used heroin together and broke into a house in Brooklyn Park.” Apparently unsatisfied with their booty, “shortly after midnight on May 23, Swope and Muse borrowed a tire iron from a person in the neighborhood,” using it “to pry open the front door of Pizza City.” They then “took money from the cash register and certain other items from the store” and “used the money to purchase heroin.”

Having scored more dope, they used it “with another person” and then returned to Pizza City and “stole numerous items,” including “food, sodas, computers, and telephones,” the document states. Some of these they sold for cash and “used the money to purchase more drugs.” Importantly, while “Swope had been using a mask and gloves” during the burglaries, Muse hadn’t taken such precautions.

Swope used to work at Pizza City, and noted that it now had a surveillance system, so the two “were worried about being caught,” the document continues. So “Muse piled up napkins, boxes, and other paper products in the back” of the pizzeria “where the surveillance system was located,” and “Swope and Muse lit the fire to cover up their burglary” by “destroying the video surveillance system and any fingerprints they had left behind.” Then the two hopped a cab to take “many of the food items” they’d taken to Swope’s house on Southerly Rd. in Brooklyn Park.

Meanwhile, the fire response included an investigation that pointed to arson, and during the probe, “law enforcement officers discovered parts of a cash register as well as coins on a nearby road,” the court document states. Later on May 23, agents went to Swope’s house and found the Pizza City food items that Swope and Muse had taken. The next day, Swope was arrested – and when he was in jail, he sent a letter to a person who knew about the arson, and suggested that person tell investigators that he or she “had no relevant information about the fire and burglary, falsely allege misconduct by law enforcement when they originally questioned” the person, and “that if ‘worst comes to worst, … tell them I broke into the store 2 days before the fire.’”

There is no indication in federal or state courts that “Joey Muse,” Swope’s alleged accomplice, has been charged in connection with the series of events that Swope now admits are true.

  • William Bond

    So, The Nose, Knows…