Man accused of shooting at firefighter responding to fire in Bethlehem

Shots fired at responding firefighters

BETHLEHEM, NC (WBTV) - Firefighter Tank Townsend says he was inside a tanker truck, engine running, siren blaring and still heard what he thought was a gunshot.

"It was very very loud," Townsend said.

He was responding to a grass fire along Icard Ridge Road in the Bethlehem Community of Alexander County when it happened. He radioed firefighters that were still heading that way to stay back and told people in the neighborhood to get inside.

Deputies arrived quickly and arrested Michael Porter, who lived across the street from the fire scene. They also seized a .44 caliber black powder 6 shot handgun.

A woman who says she is the fiancee of Townsend told WBTV on Wednesday that Porter had been in an argument with a neighbor about the fire.

"They were shouting at each other," said Rebecca Morris.

That's when she says Porter took out the weapon, aimed it at the neighbor and fired into the ground.

"He was not firing at the fire guy," she said.

Sheriff Chris Bowman says he is not so sure about that but investigators are still looking into the case. However, Bowman says if the weapon was pointed at anyone "It was unlawful."

Porter was first charged with assault with a deadly weapon on emergency personnel. Two more charges were filed late Wednesday afternoon accusing Porter of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill.

There is also a question about his right to possess a firearm. Bowman says Porter has been convicted of felonies in the past including an assault in a domestic violence case. Normally that would mean he could not have a firearm but certain black powder weapons are allowed in some cases.

"We will talk with ATF about this," said Bowman.

No one was hurt in the incident and the fire was put out quickly once Porter was in custody. He remains behind bars under a bond of $100,000.

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