A Salem man died in a police-involved shooting Tuesday night outside his burning home on Witter Road. Police say he was acting irrationally and brandishing a blunt object that looked like a club.
The Salem man who was killed in a police shooting after his house caught on fire apparently had a troubled past.
Robert Bergeson, 59, of 28 Witter Road, was recently divorced and was also recently convicted of assaulting ex-wife Gale Bergeson, according to court records.
Bergeson was shot by State Police Trooper Patrick Hawes after acting in a threatening way when officials responded to the flames engulfing his garage and home. Hawes has been assigned to administrative duty for the time being, police said.
Firefighters arrived at Bergeson's Witter Road home in Salem Tuesday night to find the house and detached garage engulfed in flames. The driveway was blocked with vehicles, including a farm tractor, according to state police.
Police said firefighters "discovered evidence to suggest that the fire may have been intentionally set" and proceeded with caution.
"We denied entry to anybody going into the structure last night because we didn't know if there were any booby traps or anything like that," said Savalle.
As they fought the flames, Bergeson was shot and killed by state police, according to Savalle. Police have said the man was acting irrationally, charging them and waving a large blunt object that looked like a club.
Court records show Bergeson had a rocky past with his ex-wife Gale Bergeson.
Their divorce was finalized in May, and Gale was entitled to 60 percent of the value of the home that is now charred, according to court records.
Earlier this month, Bergeson was convicted of kicking and beating Gale with a lamp in September 2012, leaving her with head injuries and broken ribs, according to court records.
She told police he threatened to kill her.
Robert Bergeson received a suspended sentence and was ordered to stay away from Gale through 2018, according to court records.
Bergeson was also convicted of threatening to kill a man he suspected of having an affair with Gale. That man told police an affair never took place, according to court records.
Relatives who stopped by the charred home declined to comment.
Robert Bergeson was a customer at Salem Auto, which is just up the street from his home.
"Never seen it coming," said Anthony Lewis, the owner of Salem Auto. "He stopped down a couple of times, asked more questions than anything. We helped him pick his bike up one day when he dropped it in the yard. He seemed like a nice guy."
Authorities say their investigation into Tuesday's incident is ongoing.