Salem — A house fire that called on resources from numerous surrounding towns quickly turned into a crime scene Tuesday night when a state police trooper shot a man who was acting “irrationally” in a field near the fire at 28 Witter Road, state police spokesman Capt. Thomas Garbedian said.
The man, who was not identified, was taken to The William W. Backus Hospital in serious condition, Garbedian said. He would not say whether the man had a weapon on him.
Detectives in the central and eastern districts of the state police Major Crime Unit, the Fire and Explosion Investigation Unit and the state fire marshal’s office, are investigating the shooting and the cause and origin of the fire, Garbedian said.
Garbedian would not say whether or not the fire and the shooting were related.
The fire was reported at 6:36 p.m. When firefighters arrived at the scene, they found two structures on the property — a log cabin and a barn — fully engulfed in flames. The entrance to the property was blocked by several vehicles, Garbedian said.
The shooting occurred more than an hour later.
Witter Road farm owner Saundra Woronik was traveling on Route 354 when she saw the plume of smoke rising from her street. Her first thought was of her fields.
She drove to the scene and met up with Michelle Libby, who said she rents a room at the log cabin.
Woronik said the cabin is owned by a man she knows as Bob.
Libby said Bob was at the scene of the fire, but in tears she declined to comment when asked whether she knew who had been shot.
“All of a sudden police ran up to us and told us to get in the woods,” Woronik said. “We ran as far as we could.”
That’s when Woronik said she heard the shots fired.
Firefighters remained at the scene late Tuesday attending to hot spots. Police said Route 354 (Old Colchester Road) near Witter Road was expected to remain closed while the investigation continued.