Police: Claremont suspect in custody following hours of negotiations


Valley News Staff Writers

Published: 08-15-2019 10:05 PM

CLAREMONT — Police took a 55-year-old Claremont man into custody on Thursday afternoon after a day-long standoff during which the suspect fired “hundreds” of rounds in a residential area.

Michael Burns, of Hanover Street, was taken into custody on outstanding warrants related to two counts of misdemeanor simple assault and one count of felony criminal threatening. Authorities expect forthcoming charges in relation to the Thursday’s incident, which drew a large police presence to the north side neighborhood from the pre-dawn hours to about 2:30 p.m.

Police did not fire weapons during the incident and no one was injured, authorities said.

“Patience is really what we’re looking for in these situations,” New Hampshire State Police Col. Chris Wagner told reporters after the standoff ended. “There were rounds being fired through this residence for the duration of this event, but through all of it, the local officers, the troopers as well as the special unit members displayed a great deal of discretion, a great deal of courage during this period of time and they were very disciplined in their movements.”

Wagner and Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase announced the charges against Burns at a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

Police received reports starting at 5:20 a.m. of shots fired in the area of Centennial and Hanover streets, Chase said. They then determined the shots were coming from a “multi-family” residence, he said.

“The officers took swift action to form a perimeter around the area,” Chase said, adding that officers from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office and New Hampshire State Police soon were called to the scene.

Later, the state police helicopter; tactical response team; and explosives team joined the response. Massachusetts State Police helped coordinate operations and donated a drone team, Wagner said.

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He said there was no indication of explosives inside the Hanover Street residence, but the explosives team provided technology and equipment.

“It’s a tremendous amount of resources,” Wagner said. “With a situation as dangerous as this playing out, where shots were being fired from a residence and the community at large is in danger, we spared no expense.”

Neighbors identified the Hanover Street residence as a boarding house.

Felicia Dauphin, who lives in the same building as Burns, told the Valley News Burns lived in a one-room apartment on the first floor. She said her landlord came to the residence at about 6 a.m. and told everyone they had to leave.

Like Dauphin, Darren Potter lives on the second floor and thought he heard shots as early as 4 a.m.

“I heard a pop, pop, pop, pop, and my landlord knocked on my door. I didn’t know what was going on,” Potter said.

Police began alerting residents in the immediate neighborhood to shelter in place as early as 6:30 a.m., according to Claremont native Tim Smith, who said he lives “two or three doors down” from the rooming house.

“At quarter of 8, they came to evacuate me,” Smith said.

Smith said Burns was mostly seen in the neighborhood walking a small, black Pomeranian dog, which police later confirmed escaped the house.

Officers worked quickly to block off access to the neighborhood, stationing police cars along North and Elm streets and connecting roadways.

Throughout the day, reporters heard gunshots and other loud noises in the area as police negotiated with Burns.

Police negotiators used a bullhorn to attempt to communicate with him.

At about 10:15 a.m., police on a loudspeaker told the suspect, “Come out with your hands up. If you’re not able to, yell out. We’re here for you, Mike.”

Shortly after 10:50 a.m., another voice on the loudspeaker said, “No one’s been hurt today. If you’re hurt, let us help you.”

Some of the early bursts of gunfire were audible from the south side of the Sugar River. While trying to reach a relative “who has five kids” on the other side of one of the North street roadblocks, Rodney Smith, an elderly man in a motorized wheelchair, heard bursts from the Sugar River Mill apartment complex around 5:30 a.m.

“I thought it was firecrackers at first,” Smith said. “I guess not. I heard quite a few shots go off.”

Police opened several roadways to traffic and lifted the shelter in place around 2:30 p.m., after Burns was taken into custody. However, Chase said not everyone will be allowed to go home Thursday night.

Police said they are investigating the circumstances around the gunshots and why Burns allegedly fired a weapon. He is expected to be arraigned on Friday.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223. David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com or 603-727-3304. Valley News photo editor Geoff Hansen contributed to this report.