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Baltimore mom who famously kept her son from rioting loses home in a fire

Baltimore mom Toya Graham became something of a national folk hero last year when she grabbed her teenage son away from the Freddie Gray riots.
Baltimore mom Toya Graham became something of a national folk hero last year when she grabbed her teenage son away from the Freddie Gray riots. YouTube screengrab

People nicknamed Toya Graham “mother of the year” in April 2015 when she snatched her teenage son, Michael, away from the rioting that broke out after Freddie Gray died while in police custody in Baltimore.

The video of Graham smacking him and grabbing him away from the chaos just as he was getting ready to throw rocks at police turned her into a national parenting folk hero.

She told CBS News she “just lost it” when she saw her son standing with rioters wearing a hoodie, his face covered.

“I was shocked, I was angry, because you never want to see your child out there doing that,” she said.

Graham is back in the news this week, again because of her son.

On Saturday afternoon, Michael, 17, was frying chicken tenders in the kitchen of their rental home in Baltimore when a fire broke out, reports WBFF in Baltimore.

Now, the family — Graham, five children and one granddaughter — are homeless and staying at a hotel.

“I’m tired of the struggle, I feel broken,” a frustrated Graham told WBFF in Baltimore. “You try to hold on because you try to do everything, you try to be strong for your children. You try, but this is a lot.

“I’m not blaming Michael. But I’m angry.”

Michael was home alone at the time of the fire.

“I had stepped away to the bathroom real quick,” he told the TV station. “When I got back, there was smoke and fire coming from the pan.”

He called 911 after he poured water on the grease fire but it only got worse. No one was hurt in the fire.

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Graham was working a double shift as a caregiver at an assisted living home when her 18-year-old daughter, Teiyona, called her frantically on FaceTime, hollering that “the house was on fire,” the Baltimore Sun reports.

“When I got there, there were five fire trucks, an ambulance and police,” Graham told the Sun. “I could see them (firemen) through the third-floor window. They were throwing stuff out the back window. It was a mess.”

Graham, who did not have renter’s insurance, said her landlord “was very upset. He built that kitchen from the ground up. He spent a lot of money on the kitchen. There were new appliances and everything. Now it's all gone.”

When people started hearing about the fire, they offered to help, so Graham set up a GoFundMe page for donations. The campaign raised more than $33,000 of a $5,000 goal in one day.

“I should have been more careful when I was cooking,” Michael told WBFF. “Now, it's like, what we’re going to do now?”

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