Md. man arrested for allegedly scuffling with firefighters at house fire

Officials say the man put one of the firefighters in a choke hold during an altercation outside his parents' burning home


James Whitlow
The Aegis, Bel Air, Md.

HARFORD COUNTY, Md. — A Harford County man is charged in two separate incidents, allegedly tussling with firefighters during an active fire last week, and then, a few days later, entering into an altercation at his estranged wife’s home while trying to retrieve firearms, police say.

Ian Taylor Robertson, 31, was charged with obstructing firefighters and second-degree assault in the first incident Feb. 23, which occurred during a fire at his parents’ home in Havre de Grace, and charged with another count of second-degree assault related to Saturday’s altercation at his wife’s Bel Air home.

This photo shows firefighters at the scene of a house fire in Havre de Grace, Maryland on Feb. 23. During the fire, the homeowners' son Ian Taylor Robertson, 31, allegedly got into a physical altercation with firefighters leading to a charge of obstructing firefighters and second-degree assault. (Photo/Susquehanna Hose Company Facebook)
This photo shows firefighters at the scene of a house fire in Havre de Grace, Maryland on Feb. 23. During the fire, the homeowners' son Ian Taylor Robertson, 31, allegedly got into a physical altercation with firefighters leading to a charge of obstructing firefighters and second-degree assault. (Photo/Susquehanna Hose Company Facebook)

Initially held without bail related to Saturday’s charges, a judge overseeing a bail review hearing Monday released Robertson on his own recognizance.

According to court documents, Robertson is accused of kicking down two doors in his estranged wife’s house in an attempt to retrieve guns. His wife was granted an interim protective order against him the same day. The two are separated.

Judge David E. Carey released Robertson after a Monday bail review hearing because he has a clean record — excepting the three new charges — steady employment, and a verifiable address, among many factors weighed in granting bail.

But the judge expressed concern at the defendant’s mental state and potential access to guns.

He was ordered to seek mental health treatment and provide reports of his progress to the county’s pretrial services and avoid contact with his wife and children. Failure to do so, Carey said, would be swiftly noted.

“If I find out about it ... you will sit in jail until your trial," Carey said.

Prosecutors asserted Robertson suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Robertson’s attorney Amy Valdivia said her client, a veteran of the U.S. Marines, has been seeking mental health treatment.

The Marine Corps confirmed that Robertson served in its ranks as an infantry assault marine. He is no longer in active service.

Robertson has a clean record in Maryland, Valdivia said, and could stay with his parents, who were present for the proceedings. They told Valdivia that he had been overworked recently, which could have stressed him out and precipitated the incident, the attorney said.

“That has resulted in some [highly] tense situations,” Valdivia said.

Assistant state’s attorney Ethan Clasing argued that, though Robertson is not a flight risk, he is a danger to the public. His mental health, Clasing said, was the state’s primary concern.

“The state is not worried that Mr. Robertson is a flight risk; the state is worried about the defendant’s mental health status,” Clasing said. “We believe this defendant is a danger not only to the community... but himself.”

Robertson’s parents declined to comment after the hearing, as did Clasing and Valdivia. Robertson appeared at the hearing via video and had no comment when reached via text on Tuesday.

Altercation with firefighters

Police were dispatched to the 100 block of Snow Chief Drive to help the Susquehanna Hose Company approximately 12:30 a.m. Feb. 23.

While on the scene, police were called to assist with an “unruly" person, according to charging documents filed in Harford County District Court.

“At that time we responded to the front of the home and observed firefighters and the [man] lying on the pavement in the parking lot area across from the home which was on fire,” the documents state.

Firefighters told police that Robertson had tried to stop them from entering the home, grabbing firefighters who were there to extinguish the blaze.

Robertson was concerned his brother might still be in the home, the documents state. Authorities later confirmed his brother was not in the house.

Robertson was so upset and disruptive that the firefighters had to “remove him” from their path, according to court documents.

Two firefighters approached him and grabbed his arms to move him out of the way of the first responders, but Robertson broke free of their grip and allegedly grabbed a firefighter around the neck, putting him in a choke hold, according to the documents.

Firefighters “took [him] down” to the pavement and held him until police arrived, the documents state. None of the firefighters were hurt, the documents state.

Chief of the Susquehanna Hose Company Scott Hurst was on scene when the scuffle happened. He said that Robertson was visibly agitated — throwing a flashlight or phone and punching his car. Hurst said he had no prior contact with Robertson, nor had Robertson done anything to hinder firefighters before.

“You cannot impede firefighters operations,” Hurst said. “We cannot have anybody putting their hands on us when we are fighting a fire.”

Hurst said the fire began outside the house and spread into the basement. It took approximately 5 minutes to knock down.

Robertson, meanwhile, has posted multiple messages to social media detailing his side of the encounter.

Robertson wrote on LinkedIn that he saw the fire as he was clearing out the house’s basement, so he went to look for his brother, who sleeps in various locations around the house.

While checking the home, Robertson called the fire department, he said in a phone interview last week prior to his most recent arrest. He did not find his brother, so he left the house and spoke with a fireman outside, he said, asking him for a phone to call his parents. He dropped the phone he used to call the fire department in the home, he said.

That firefighter told him to “shut up and go away," Robertson said. Robertson punched his own truck in his frustration, he said. The firefighters then approached him and pulled him away from the scene, he said.

“They said I was trying to run back in the house,” Robertson said. “I did not take a step back toward the house.”

Robertson alleges that the firefighters swore at him and gave him a concussion when they “forced” him to the ground and restrained his arms, smacking his head on the ground. He said last week he was seeing doctors to assess any injuries he may have sustained.

Hurst said that Robertson initiated physical contact, but would not comment further on Robertson’s specific allegations regarding the firefighters.

After his arrest, Robertson was taken to the hospital at his request, the charging documents state. According to those charging documents, Havre de Grace police were able to contact Robertson’s brother, who was with his parents on the way home from the airport. But at Monday’s hearing, Clasing said that Robertson knew his brother was not in the house.

On his LinkedIn post, Robertson said he would be pressing charges against select firefighters “unless all charges are dropped within 96 hours.”

“These are the demands that MUST be met, drop all charges or face both civil and criminal charges in front of a jury trial and waste over $1 million of tax payers money,” Robertson’s post reads. “Please implore [sic] common sense here.”

At Monday’s hearing, Clasing said charges against those firefighters had been referred to his office but were not ultimately pursued.

Domestic dispute

At approximately 5 a.m. on Feb. 29, according to court documents, Harford County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the 600 block of Kilmarnock Trail in Bel Air for a report of a domestic dispute, according to charging documents.

They entered from the basement and found Robertson. He refused to answer questions, citing his fifth amendment rights, and was detained, the documents state.

Robertson’s wife told police he had come to the home an hour earlier and an argument began, according to court documents. After she then locked him out of the house, he began repeatedly ringing the doorbell, the documents state. As she went to open the door, Robertson allegedly kicked it in, showering his wife in shards of glass, according to the documents.

She ran and locked herself in her bedroom to call 911, but he followed her. According to the protective order filed in district court, Robertson said he would kill her. Then he crashed through the bedroom door, according to the order. Over the 911 call, children could be heard crying, charging documents state.

“At that time, the defendant then kicked the bedroom door down and came in with a flashlight in his hand yelling, ‘Give me my guns!' ” charging documents state. “When she refused, he then swung the flashlight towards his wife’s head.”

Robertson hit her in the arm with the flashlight when she covered her head, the documents state. She was able to calm him down, the documents continue, until police arrived.

An AR-15 and another gun were found in the home, Clasing said at the hearing. Both the judge’s order and the protective order bar Robertson from contact with his wife and children and from visiting their home. He also cannot possess guns per the protective order.

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©2020 The Aegis (Bel Air, Md.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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