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Medical examiner says Salem man died of multiple gunshot wounds

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A Salem man shot by a state trooper Tuesday died from gunshot wounds to the torso and left arm, according to a spokeswoman with the Office of the State Medical Examiners in Rhode Island.

Robert Bergeson, 59, of 28 Witter Road was shot by Trooper Patrick Hawes during a confrontation in a wooded area near Bergeson's burning home.

Following reports by firefighters of a man waving a gun, state police said troopers confronted Bergeson, who was acting "very irrationally," and charged police waving a "large blunt object resembling a club in a threatening manner."

Police have not said how many times Hawes, a 7-year state police veteran, fired his weapon, but witnesses reported hearing multiple gunshots. Bergeson was taken by ambulance to The William W. Backus Hospital in Norwich and later transferred to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, where he was pronounced dead.

The shooting occurred about an hour after firefighters from numerous towns were called out at 6:38 p.m. to fight the blaze already well under way at both a detached three-bay garage and the log cabin home. Police said the entrance to the property was blocked by several vehicles, including a farm tractor, which hindered progress of firefighters trying to reach the fire.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, though fire investigators suspect it was intentionally set.


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