WILKES-BARRE — City police are conducting an investigation into the death of a 31-year-old man in connection with a fire that broke out at a Prospect Street home on Sunday afternoon, after which they made an arrest in Rice Township following a pursuit to the Mountain Top area.
The Luzerne County Coroner was called to the scene of the fire at a two-story, single-family home at 16 Prospect St. that was reported to Luzerne County 911 at 5:58 p.m.
Police detectives also were observed at the scene of the fire. Wilkes-Barre Fire Department officials on the scene referred comment to city police, who did not release any information prior to press deadline on Sunday.
Wilkes-Barre police later posted on the department Facebook page that the detective division, the Luzerne County Coroner’s Office and a Pennsylvania State Police fire marshal were summoned to the residence and an investigation was initiated.
Subsequent interviews by detectives corroborated that a male suspect left the residence prior to the fire being discovered, police said.
A “be-on-the-lookout” advisory, or BOLO, was issued for the suspect throughout the county, and the suspect was taken into custody without incident some time later after the initial response, police said.
Upon further investigation by the Wilkes Barre Fire Department and the State Police Fire Marshal the fire is suspected to be an arson pending final determination.
The suspect was taken to police headquarters and charges are pending. The investigation is being conducted by the Wilkes-Barre Detective Division, Pennsylvania State Police Wyoming RNI and Fire Marshal, Luzerne County District Attorney’s Office and Wilkes-Barre Fire Department.
Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis would not confirm a homicide investigation on Sunday evening.
“I can only confirm a death investigation. I cannot comment on anything else,” Salavantis had said.
At about 8:30 p.m., police took a man into custody on Burma Road in Rice Township after he allegedly led police on a chase though several municipalities. Rice Township police had said that investigation was taken over by Wilkes-Barre police.
At that time, no police agency, nor Salavantis, would confirm if the arrest was connected to the fire investigation.
After the Luzerne County 911 BOLO call was broadcast reporting an “armed and dangerous” man, police from Rice Township, Wilkes-Barre, Wilkes-Barre Township, Butler Township, Fairview Township, White Haven and Ashley converged on a private driveway off Burma Road.
According to Rice Township police officer Andrew Hashagen, the suspect told police he wanted “suicide by cop.”
Hashagen said police responded to the BOLO advisory around 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Rice Township police were watching a brown sedan, which Hashagen confirmed was the suspect’s car, when the vehicle in the 911 BOLO advisory — a red minivan — passed Hashagen.
When confronted, the suspect allegedly would not yield for a traffic stop, turned into a private driveway and turned his car toward the waiting officers.
Hashagen would not release the suspect’s name, but he said he remembered the name from a previous domestic incident in the township last week.
He said township police had a run-in with the suspect Saturday after responding to a domestic dispute on Burma Road. Some neighbors said they heard shouting Saturday night.
The suspect exited the vehicle “without incident” and was taken into custody, Hashagen said. He would not comment on where police were taking the suspect, but confirmed Rice Township was not conducting an investigation on the incident.
Hashagen said he could not thank the officers enough for their work Sunday evening.
“I cannot express my appreciation,” Hashagen said.