ILION, N.Y. (WKTV) -- James Casey feels lucky to be home safe after a violent standoff next door forced police to evacuate him from his home Monday night.
Police say 57-year-old Gene Wedemeyer barricaded himself in his home Monday, but Casey says the conflict started on Saturday when he spotted Wedemeyer throwing boxes out of his window.
"He was fighting with his mother, but the mother left. She did the right thing. Nice lady," said Casey, who lives next door to where the standoff happened.
On Monday, police responded to Wedemeyer's residence at 60 High Street in Ilion around 7 p.m. As the standoff stretched into the night, police say he became belligerent and armed himself with a machete.
"The male also threw ignited Molotov Cocktails at law enforcement officers," said Timothy Parisi, Ilion police chief.
Police knocked on Casey's door at around 1 a.m.
"The Ilion Police- he says hurry up get your jacket, get your shoes on. He's setting the house on fire. He's in there," said Casey.
He spent the night in a hotel, but when he returned Tuesday morning, a charred shell was all that was left of his neighbor's home. Wedemeyer died inside.
"We presume that the remains of Gene Wedemeyer who was in the residence located on the first floor of the dwelling," said Chief Parisi.
Years ago, Casey tried to befriend Wedemeyer, but says he didn't want to talk to anyone.
"If I seen him six times in the 27 years that I lived here, it was six times too many. He never spoke to me, I never spoke to him," he said.
Other residents say he was a good guy facing many hardships. They believe he sought mental help, but never got any.
"He was a good guy into rock and roll and all that. To hear that he burned his house down is pretty shocking to me I don't know what could've caused him to do it. I don't know I guess people can lose it out of nowhere," said Donald Lander.
But whether they knew him well or barely at all, neighbors are stunned to see such a terrible tragedy on their quiet street.
"Sad, solemn, everybody's wondering how it could happen in such a small town," said Kelly Strong.
The fire damaged the house on the other side of the standoff so badly, the residents are still evacuated. The Red Cross has found them temporary housing.
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