New charges stem from August standoff in Claremont

  • Michael Burns walks into a Sullivan County Superior Court courtroom in Newport on Thursday. Burns was being arraigned on additional charges from a standoff with police in Claremont this past summer. Jennifer Hauck / Valley News

Valley News
Published: 11/8/2019 7:03:12 PM
Modified: 11/8/2019 7:02:59 PM

A Claremont man pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges he shot at police and neighbors during a nine-hour standoff this summer.

Michael Burns, 55, remains held without bail as he has been since mid-August, when he pleaded not guilty to four initial counts of reckless conduct. Three additional counts were added in his indictment on Oct. 23, and during Thursday’s hearing, he pleaded not guilty to all seven counts. 

Burns has undergone a competency evaluation, which is sealed, and public defender Tony Hutchins declined to discuss the findings after Burns’ arraignment. A competency hearing is scheduled for Dec. 5.

The charges stem from the standoff between Burns and police at Burns’ Hanover Street home in Claremont this summer. Residents in the area called police around 5:20 a.m. on Aug. 15 to report the sound of gunfire, according to a police affidavit. Burns continued firing more than 100 rounds from his home over the next seven hours, hitting buildings, trees and cars, police said in court documents.

The standoff ended with Burns taken into custody around 2:30 p.m., after hours of negotiation and a “shelter in place” order for nearby residents.

Burns wasn’t wearing clothing during the time of his arrest, and police found an “SKS-style rifle, shell casings that matched that type of weapon (and) a revolver,” in his apartment, the affidavit said.

Burns is accused of firing shots at his neighbors’ homes, accounting for five of the reckless conduct charges. The other two counts relate to charges that he fired toward police who responded to the area, and through his ceiling into the apartment above, according to the charges read in court Thursday.

Wearing an orange jumpsuit, with his wrists bound, Burns stood in the Sullivan County Superior Court, listening solemnly as his public defender and Sullivan County State’s Attorney Marc Hathaway discussed the charges.

Each count carries a potential sentence of 3½ to seven years in jail.

In addition to the offenses stemming from the standoff, Burns is also facing other charges of simple assault and criminal threatening for an incident on Aug. 12. According to court documents, Burns came up to a 52-year-old man who was in a parked vehicle in a lot on Sullivan Street in Claremont. Burns threatened to kill the man, punched him through the window, and tried to pull the man out of his car before riding off on a bicycle, the documents indicated.

Burns was also arrested in 2008 following a six-hour standoff with police in Waterboro, Maine, according to report at the time from the Waterboro Reporter. Hathaway has said that case was never prosecuted.

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