Catoosa County man facing federal charges in Chattanooga Masonic Center arson

Staff file photo by Ellen Gerst / The Chattanooga Masonic Center's entryway is boarded up after a suspected arsonist damaged the doors in September.

A North Georgia man faces federal charges in connection with an arson attempt at Chattanooga's Masonic Center in September, court records show.

Kadum Harwood, 29, faces federal charges of arson, using a firearm during a violent crime and crossing state lines to commit a crime.

In the days before the arson, Harwood was already on law enforcement's radar, court filings show.

Harwood also faces state-level charges including arson, vandalism, harassment, burglary and reckless endangerment. A judge bound those charges over to a grand jury in late September, court records show, but the jury hasn't made a decision on whether to proceed.

(READ MORE: Man arrested in connection with suspected arson at Chattanooga Masonic Center)

Firefighters found flames inside the center and near its front entrance when they responded to an alarm around 2 a.m. on Sept. 4, according to a news release from the Chattanooga Fire Department.

The building sustained fire and water damage from the sprinkler system, and items inside, including a stained glass piece, grandfather clock and portrait of Tennessee Grand Master Jim Arnhart, were also damaged. A .50-caliber casing was also found in the parking lot, according to court documents.

The damage will cost the center an estimated $250,000 to repair, a Masonic Center representative said Monday. Internal walls and flooring damaged by fire, smoke and water have been replaced, and the center will begin hosting meetings again this week, the representative said.

Harwood has been detained at the Hamilton County Jail since his arrest in Catoosa County following the arson and was given a $150,000 bond, according to jail records. His case is set for a jury trial in federal court on Dec. 19, court records show.

(READ MORE: Police: Masonic Center arson suspect's posts reported week before incident)

On their radar

Police previously responded to the Masonic Center on Aug. 13, about three weeks before the arson. The lodge reported that a Bible, a large knife, ballcap and empty beer can had been placed at the front door.

On Aug. 28, a lodge member reported Harwood's social media posts to police, after seeing posts threatening Masons, or "FMs," for Free Masons.

"The complainant wanted to report it in case the situation escalated," a Chattanooga police spokesperson previously said.

After the arson, federal investigators also looked at Harwood's posts on another social media site, which implicated him in the crime, according to an affidavit. One post, the affidavit said, showed Harwood regretting the center didn't burn to the ground.

Law enforcement also interviewed a former friend and roommate of Harwood's on Aug. 28, according to a federal indictment. The friend said Harwood had "many firearms and explosive-making materials" on his property and said Harwood had a gun that would match the casing later found outside the Masonic Center.


Setting the fire

Security cameras at the Masonic Center captured much of the arson, according to court documents.

A man later identified as Harwood could be seen driving up to the center in a Toyota Land Cruiser, knocking down items by the entrance and chaining the center's doors to the bumper of his vehicle, an affidavit states. He then drove in reverse to pull the doors open, according to court documents, and entered the building.

Once inside, Harwood reportedly used a sledgehammer to destroy furniture and other items inside. He then allegedly got firewood and a container of gasoline or another accelerant from his car and arranged items to be burnt inside, court filings state.

Video also reportedly shows Harwood using a chainsaw on bushes outside the center before setting fire to them as well. Court filings state he then allegedly shot at the center a single time with a .50 caliber revolver, got a can of beer from his car, drank some and set it down at the entrance before driving away.

Contact Ellen Gerst at or 423-757-6319.

  photo  Hamilton County Sheriff's Office / Kadum Harwood