Judge: Man who shot up apartment not competent

  • Michael Burns walks into a Sullivan County Superior Court courtroom on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019 in Newport, N.H. Burns was being arraigned on additional charges from a standoff with police in Claremont this past summer. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/26/2020 8:46:41 PM
Modified: 5/26/2020 8:58:06 PM

NEWPORT — A Claremont man accused of barricading himself in his apartment and firing more than 100 rounds during a standoff with police last year has been found not competent to stand trial, according to court documents.

In a May 11 ruling, Sullivan Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker wrote that while 56-year-old Michael Burns is not currently competent, it’s likely he could be restored to competency within the next 12 months with appropriate treatment. The court plans to hold a hearing next Tuesday to determine what that treatment will look like.

Burns, who is facing charges of assault and reckless conduct related to the August standoff and an altercation several days before, underwent a competency examination after his arrest last year.

During a competency hearing in March, examiner Tiffany Piascik, a forensic psychologist, testified that Burns had an understanding of how the judicial process worked and of the facts surrounding his case, but that he fixated on “delusional thoughts.” She said he has a history of mental illness and may be suffering from schizophrenia or a personality disorder.

Tucker referenced Piascik’s evaluation in his decision this month, acknowledging that Burns understands the facts of the case and how to communicate with his attorney.

“But his delusional thinking about what else is important is likely to interfere with his ability to ‘make informed choices regarding trial strategy,’ ” Tucker wrote, quoting Piascik’s evaluation.

Burns’s charges stem from two incidents in Claremont last summer, beginning with an alleged assault on Sullivan Street.

Burns approached a man sitting in a parked car, yelled at him and punched him several times through the window before leaving the area, according to an affidavit written by Claremont Police Officer Alexander Kelsey.

Three days later, on Aug. 15, police responded to a house on Centennial Street in Claremont around 5:30 a.m. after a report of gunshots.

Burns fired more than 100 rounds from the home over the next seven hours, hitting buildings, trees and cars, but not injuring anyone, according to court documents.

Police negotiated with Burns and issued a “shelter in place” order for nearby residents before taking Burns into custody around 2:30 p.m.

The incidents are not Burns’s first run-ins with the law.

In May 2008, Burns was arrested following a six-hour standoff with police in Waterboro, Maine, according to a report at the time from the Waterboro Reporter. The incident was never prosecuted.

Anna Merriman can be reached at 802-793-5045 or amerriman@vnews.com

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