ORRINGTON, Maine — The usual calm and quiet interrupted only by crickets and bullfrogs was shattered by sirens, strobe lights, fire and gunshots early Sunday morning as police and firefighters responded to reports of a fire around an Orrington residence and business.
Penobscot Regional Communications Center received initial reports at 2:15 a.m. Sunday of a fire and, shortly afterward, gunfire at 312 Johnson Mill Road, a rental property located on a large private land parcel also occupied by Shaw’s Garage and a private residence.
A neighbor who wished not to be identified said she heard four gunshots in quick succession sometime between 1 a.m. when she went to sleep and 2:30 a.m. when police first arrived.
“Around 2:15 a.m., dispatch got call about a house fire and Orrington Fire responded,” said Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross. “We also responded, and based upon observation at the scene, we asked for assistance from the state fire marshal’s office.”
Ross said the gunshots occurred after initial 911 calls about the fire, but before police arrived.
“There were shots fired and all of this is still under active investigation,” Ross said. “There were no injuries and so far, no arrests have been made.”
The property — estimated by neighbors to be at least 10 acres — also includes the commercial garage; a private road named Shaw Lane; a private, four-bay garage; another, nonrental residence, and a few other buildings at 310 Johnson Mill Road. The two-bedroom rental with a blue, metal roof at 312 Johnson Mill Road is the site of the disturbances.
An estimated quarter-mile stretch of the Johnson Mill Road — in front of the property — was closed to traffic in both directions for a few hours early Sunday morning.
Police units from the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office, Maine State Police and Orrington police responded along with units from both the Orrington and Brewer fire departments.
Neighbors said they heard multiple gunshots and that apparently one person at the rented residence spilled gasoline in a circle around the house and lit it on fire with the intention to burn the house down. Witnesses said a man with a garden hose put out most of the fire before firefighters arrived.
Neighbors who were interviewed by police also said both the tactical and mobile crime lab units from Maine State Police were on site.
“I’d say somebody’s in a lot of trouble since they [police] took a lot of stuff out of the house,” said one neighbor, who noted it’s not the first time police have been called to the location, specifically the house that’s being rented.
“We had an incident here about a year ago where SWAT was called,” she said. “It’s not the family that owns the land, the Shaws, it’s the renters that seem to cause the trouble.”
Neighbors said police have been called to the address more than once in the past.
“We have been called to that residence before,” Sheriff Ross confirmed.
There was also an armed standoff at a Johnson Mill Road home in April 2011, according to BDN archives, when police arrested a man after an overnight, armed standoff.
Stephen Nason, 25, was intoxicated and out of control in the residence, and when officers arrived, he fled into the woods.
Officers left the scene but were notified shortly afterward that Nason had returned to the home and had assaulted his mother and sister, although their injuries were minor.
When officers returned shortly after 10:30 p.m., Nason grabbed a knife and barricaded himself in his bedroom, prompting the engagement of the Penobscot County Special Response Team and the Maine State Police Tactical Team. The special forces remained at the home until Nason surrendered at about 6:45 a.m. and was arrested on charges of domestic assault, criminal mischief, violation of terms of release and creating a police standoff.
Nason was fined $300 for assault.
Neighbors said the last name of the current occupants of the rental home is Ireland.