Minong arson suspect kills self during police standoff — (NEWS TRIBUNE)

Original article no longer available


Posted on Wed, Oct. 23, 2002

STANDOFF:The Washburn County sheriff says the man is a suspect in dozens of burglaries and 3 arsons


MINONG – The early-season snowfall Monday morning had an unexpected residual effect: It gave Washburn County authorities their first break in the search for an arsonist and burglar, said Sheriff Terry Dryden.
When deputies responded to the third arson house fire in rural Minong in two months, first neighbors and later fresh ATV tracks in the new snow helped lead authorities to the home of Scott S. Kline.
Unfortunately, Dryden said, sometime after officers cornered the 42-year-old suspect and, during an ensuing 13-hour standoff, Kline fatally shot himself in the head. Kline — an expert marksman — was intoxicated at the time and was on antidepressants and painkillers, Dryden said.
Dryden held a news conference Tuesday to address swirling rumors about Kline’s possible connection to dozens of burglaries in the northwest part of the county in the past few months.
“We have reason to believe that he was involved in several of those,” Dryden said. “But I think the first thing wewant to tell the public is that we don’t want people assigning all of these burglaries to just one individual…. It’s still not beyond the realm of possibility that others were involved.”
Kline was not suspected of any wrongdoing before Monday, Dryden said.
There also is no reason to believe that Kline specifically targeted the latest arson victim, Jerry Paulson, who is a commercial fire safety inspector for Minong. He is not a criminal investigator and had no part in the arson investigations, Dryden said.
“I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me,” Paulson said Tuesday after he and his wife, Charlotte, went through what was left of their home.
All three arson fires were within two miles of Kline’s home at W6454 County Road I, and no one was home during the fires.
Dryden said investigators have no idea why Kline, who had no criminal record and was the son of a former Spooner police chief, would break into lake cabins and homes, occasionally stealing items. Nor can they say why Kline would set a garage and house on fire, while other times he wouldn’t.
A neighbor and friend of Kline, Velma Blaylock, 80, described him as a fun-loving and caring man who regularly checked on her.
According to an arrest warrant filed Monday in Washburn County Circuit Court:
The incident began after midnight Monday when one of Paulson’s neighbors called 911 and reported a fire at W7589 Sleep Eye Road. Paulson is a volunteer firefighter and was at a work-related conference at the time, he said.
The witnesses, though, saw a man leave on an ATV and gave chase.
Sheriff’s Department Investigator Austin Parenteau took over and, with other deputies, tracked the stolen ATV and then footprints to Kline’s house, which he shared with his wife, Sandra.
Sandra Kline left the home and told the assembling police that her husband had been acting strange lately, had just started drinking again, was carrying a handgun and would put up a fight.
Kline shouted to police that he wouldn’t come out and then never spoke with them again, Dryden said. About 11 a.m. Special Response Team officers from Washburn and Sawyer counties shot tear gas inside. They got no response, but they had time on their side, Dryden said.
About 3:30 p.m. police went in and found Kline dead in his bedroom.