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Explosion Destroys Barn, Injures 9 During Police Standoff In Connecticut

An hours-long police standoff with a man suspected of having held his wife against her will ended in an explosion that injured nine police officers Wednesday in a suburban Connecticut neighborhood.

The large blast destroyed a barn in the backyard of a house in North Haven and shook nearby homes. Other structures on the property burned but were "mostly extinguished" by Thursday morning, police said at a news conference.

The woman who allegedly was held captive escaped and alerted police before the standoff and explosion. The suspect's fate is uncertain. Police searched for him overnight, and on Thursday, officials said they had found human remains at the site of the explosion — but that a positive identification has not yet been made.

State police are investigating the incident including the source and cause ofthe powerful explosion and large fire.

Police said many details, such as the victim's name and condition and the suspect's name, are being withheld as authorities wait to learn whether the man died in the blast.

At the news conference, North Haven Deputy Police Chief Jonathan Mulhern addressed conflicting news reports about whether the incident began as a hostage situation. Mulhern clarified that the woman who reported the domestic violence "was not in the home at the time of this incident."

Mulhern added that the police involvement began on Wednesday afternoon. That's when, according to local TV news WFSB, the woman told police that she had been held captive for several days, saying she'd managed to escape from her home in North Haven, a suburb that's a few miles northeast of downtown New Haven.

Police then sent a tactical team to the house. There, they found the suspect had barricaded himself inside.

"For a few hours, the police department and SWAT team were trying to coax, in very gentle fashion, the individual out of the home," North Haven First Selectman Michael Freda told local media last night. "And then, as our other police officers were checking some of the surrounding areas in back of the house, they entered into a barn, and that set off, apparently, some explosions. We don't know if it was a booby trap bomb back there."

Referring to the injured officers, Mulhern was quoted by member station WNPR as saying, "As you can imagine most of the injuries they're experiencing are from the blast in and of itself and the injuries you would normally see with that."

Nearby residents said the large explosion rattled their community.

"I felt my house shake," David DiMartino told the New Haven Register. "It felt like a bomb went off in my attic."

"North Haven shook. I mean everyone heard it," Nancy Sundwall told the paper. "The whole sky turned pitch black with smoke."

On Thursday morning, Yale New Haven Hospital said it had received a total of nine patients related to "last night's event in North Haven." All of those patients were in fair condition, the hospital added.

Freda said it was very fortunate that the officers had not suffered more serious injuries.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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