ORRINGTON, Maine — Drugs have been linked to the arson fire set and the gunshots fired early Sunday at a rented Johnson Mill Road home, law enforcement officials said Monday.
Someone pulled up to 312 Johnson Mill Road about 2:15 a.m. Sunday and poured a flammable liquid almost all the way around the residence and then lit the liquid on fire, Sgt. Ken Grimes of the State Fire Marshal’s Office said Monday.
“It’s an intentionally set fire,” the fire investigator said. “The house was targeted.”
After the fire was started, the arsonist or someone else took out a gun and fired at the residence, Penobscot County Sheriff Glenn Ross said Monday.
“The shots did strike the house” when people were inside, the sheriff said.
The sheriff’s department is handling the firearm portion of the investigation, the fire marshal’s office is handling the arson, and the Maine Drug Enforcement Agency was called in Sunday afternoon, Grimes said.
“The investigation [into the fire and gunshots] did conclude there was some indication of drug use in the house and MDEA was contacted,” he said.
The Johnson Mill Road probe led drug agents to a considerable amount of street drugs at another residence, Darrell Crandall, MDEA division commander for northern Maine, said Monday.
“We executed a search warrant at another residence … and have seized a substantial quantity of drugs,” he said. “We have not charged anybody.”
Crandall said he could not release the type of drugs seized or the exact amount because of the ongoing investigation, but said agents are working hand-in-hand with the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office and the fire marshal’s office.
“We are going to remain involved in this investigation as long as is necessary,” the MDEA commander said.
The owner of neighboring Shaw’s Garage, who asked not to be identified, said Monday that he noticed when the arsonist’s vehicle pulled into the driveway of the home his brother rents to a man who was away at work.
“I saw the headlights and stuff and we saw flames and I called my brother [who lives nearby] and he came out and put out the fire” with a garden hose, the local businessman said. The arsonist and gunman “were gone by the time I got out there. I got dressed. My brother got half dressed” and ran out to put out the fire.
The businessman said that while he was getting dressed, he heard the gunshots. He said he later saw bullet shells in the driveway, marked by safety cones by police or firefighters, that he thought might be .38-caliber bullets.
Another neighbor told the garage owner that they saw two people in the getaway vehicle.
“It looked like they put extra gas on the doors to keep whoever was inside from coming out,” the local businessman said, adding that the doors to the two-bedroom residence have visible fire damage.
About a quarter-mile of Johnson Mill Road was closed to traffic in both directions for a few hours early Sunday morning while police investigated. In addition to Penobscot County sheriff’s deputies, which included local officers, Maine State Police troopers and their mobile crime lab responded along with firefighters from both the Orrington and Brewer.
Two people recently have been visiting the tenant, who has lived at the Johnson Mill Road home for about a year, the local garage owner said.
“They’re gone now,” he said. “They were going to leave Sunday” but were asked to stay by investigating police.
No arrests have been made in the arson, but “we have a person of interest,” Grimes said.
Neighbors said Sunday that police have been to the rented house before, a statement that was confirmed by Ross.
“We had an incident here about a year ago where SWAT was called,” one neighbor said. “It’s not the family that owns the land, the Shaws, it’s the renters that seem to cause the trouble.”
The three partnering agencies met for several hours Monday afternoon to discuss the ongoing investigation, and future charges are in the works, Ross said.
“It’s a very serious matter,” the sheriff said.
BDN reporter Andrew Neff contributed to this story.