Local News

Autopsy Shows Man In Standoff Died From Gunshot, Not Fire

Posted June 24, 1996 7:00 a.m. EDT

— June 25, 1996 - 8:20 a.m. EDT

A Northampton County man who kept police at bay for 20 hours died from a gunshot wound to the face, according to an autopsy.

But investigators are still trying to determine what started the fire that swept through Charles Spruill's house soon after police fired a stun grenade into his house. During the standoff, Spruill fired shots at police, hitting four officers and wounding two.

The medical examiner's report said the fatal gunshot did not appear to be self-inflicted.

A domestic disturbance that escalated about 8 p.m. Friday led to the standoff with authorities. It ended Saturday at about 5 p.m. when police fired tear gas, then a flash-and-burn device, into the house.

Those devices are supposed to be non-flammable. It is not known if the device caught fire or if it, or a bullet, struck something flammable inside the house.

Northampton County Sheriff John Wood (pictured above, left) says his deputies exhausted all efforts to get Spruill out of the house, including having Spruill's family try to talk him out.

Firefighters were unable to enter the house as it burned. Investigators said Spruill had at least two shotguns and a .22-caliber rifle inside, and the roar of the fire sounded like gunfire.

Spruill, during one of two conversations he had with police, said he would die in his bed before he would come out of the house.

After calling for help Friday night, Spruill's wife Virginia was able to escape unharmed when she heard her husband reloading his shotgun. She had been hiding in a closet inside.

Law officers had cut off electricity and water to the house.

Wood says negotiators and family members had been on the scene, trying to convince Spruill to give himself up peacefully.

The State Bureau of Investigation has been contacted, but has not yet been called in to assist