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Rostraver man attacks firefighters trying to help him from burning home

Renatta Signorini
| Friday, July 15, 2016, 11:00 p.m.

A Rostraver man refused to leave his burning home Thursday and fought with firefighters, tossing one of their helmets from a second-floor balcony and pulling the oxygen masks off others, according to police.

A township police officer had to go inside the burning Indian Hill Road home and arrest homeowner Donald Panepinto Jr., 47, according to an affidavit of probable cause.

“This is the first time our department's experienced that,” said police Chief Greg Resetar.

Heavy smoke was billowing from Panepinto's home at 6 p.m. Thursday during a small electrical fire contained to a garage bathroom.

Rostraver Central Fire Department Chief Vincent Campbell told investigators that Panepinto threw a tool at him from the second-floor balcony.

“Firemen then radioed from inside the residence that (Panepinto) would not get out and was now physically fighting with firemen,” Officer Michael Sethman wrote in court documents.

The fire was burning and the room was filled with smoke when Panepinto allegedly pulled the oxygen masks from the faces of three firefighters in a struggle to get him outside, police said.

“(Sethman) entered the still-burning residence and subdued the actor,” according to the complaint. “(Panepinto), while being taken to the ground, advised the firemen who were trying to remove him from the house (that) ‘I will blow your (expletive) brains out.'”

The police officer handcuffed Panepinto and escorted him outside. A scuffle between the pair ensued and Sethman reported that Panepinto got blood on his uniform. Resetar said Sethman wasn't hurt.

No firefighters were injured during the incident.

Panepinto is charged with aggravated assault, obstructing emergency services, resisting arrest, two counts of criminal mischief and five counts of reckless endangerment.

He could not be reached for comment Friday.

He is free on $25,000 unsecured bond. A preliminary hearing is set for July 25.

Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-837-5374 or rsignorini@tribweb.com.

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