Answers elusive in fatal standoff Shooting, cause of fire investigated

February 20, 1997|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

State police and fire investigators were reviewing physical evidence yesterday -- seeking answers to a standoff that resulted in the fatal shooting Tuesday morning of a Woodbine man.

Daniel E. James, 33, was shot by state troopers about 9 1/2 hours after four teen-agers reported seeing an armed man walking around a blazing fire at his parents' home in the 6500 block of Day View Drive.

State police and fire marshals are investigating the shooting and the cause of the fire. An internal-affairs review of troopers' actions also is under way.

Authorities said the incident began about 11 p.m. Monday. After refusing to communicate throughout the night, police said, James suddenly and wordlessly fired a shotgun at 8: 30 a.m. toward four troopers who were stationed at the perimeter of the burning house.

Two of them returned fire, striking James in the chest. He died about an hour after being taken by helicopter to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

James, dressed in camouflage gear, also was carrying a rifle, a 24-inch machete, a large survival knife and dozens of rounds of ammunition, said Capt. Greg Shipley, a state police spokesman.

A graduate of South Carroll High School, James entered the military after high school and returned to live at his parents' home. He had a history of medical problems and was under a doctor's care, according to sources familiar with the family.

His parents were in Florida when the fire occurred, and his father returned to Maryland as the incident ended.

Police and neighbors said yesterday there was no indication that James had said or done anything to explain his actions.

Deputy State Fire Marshal W. Faron Taylor said that finding out what caused the fire might shed light on the incident.

"Once we make a determination of the official cause of the fire -- that is what precipitated the entire incident, so that perhaps could bring some closure to it," he said.

Fire marshals were at the scene during the standoff, he said, but weren't able to begin sifting through rubble until Tuesday afternoon -- in deference to the police investigation of the shooting.

Fire marshals also were hampered Tuesday by continued smoldering rubble. Only a brick chimney and the masonry foundation remained.

Taylor said the cause of the fire probably won't be known before today, if ever, because "with that type of destruction and the delay in initiating that phase of the investigation, it is only going to make the cause determination more difficult."

"Tragic circumstances surround the entire incident," he said, "and we owe it not only to the people involved but to the public interest to separate ourselves from the incident and give it [the fire] our full attention."

Taylor and Shipley emphasized that their investigators have no proof that James set his parents' house on fire.

Because James was seen carrying the rifle and a shotgun, Taylor said, firefighters had to watch as the house burned.

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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