The Randolph police officer who was allegedly doused with gasoline while responding to a fire Saturday night said Monday that the incident was unexpected, but not enough to keep him from working the rest of his shift.
When officers arrived at a fire on Turning Mill Lane in Randolph just before midnight, they were met by several people in the street who said someone was inside and had set the fire in his home.
“It was me and another officer in a cruiser, and we were the first ones on the scene,” Officer Marc L’Italien said in a phone interview. “We got there and there were probably about 10 people outside, neighbors and people saying there was still someone inside.”
L’Italien said he went to the front door of the house and when he opened the door, smoke came pouring out.
“There was smoke billowing out of all the crevices,” he said.
L’Italien said he was assessing the situation to see if it was safe for him to enter the house when he was ambushed.
“I put one foot inside and peeked in to see if I could go in to attempt a rescue,” L’Italien said. “Right when I did that, all I saw was a hand come out of the smoke with a bucket and I was doused with gasoline.”
At first, L’Italien said, he did not know what had hit him. As soon as he could tell it was gasoline, he backed away from the house, which was quickly escalating into a three-alarm fire.
“Instantly, I didn’t know what he threw on me,” L’Italien said. “A second later, I could smell gas, so I went back down the stairs and away from the house, because at that point it was fully involved.”
As L’Italien backed away from the door, the man inside retreated back into the smoke-filled house.
“I could see him throw that through the smoke, and then he disappeared,” L’Italien said. “An officer went into the back yard and found him on the porch with a large knife in his hand.”
The man, Raphael Theophile, 54, was arrested, and he was the one who allegedly set fire to his home, Randolph Police Lieutenant Charles Thistle said Sunday.
Theophile is being held without bail while he is evaluated for competency, the Norfolk district attorney’s office said. He will face 13 counts of attempted murder, arson of a dwelling, four counts of possession of an infernal machine, and assault with dangerous weapon (knife), DA’s office said. He is due back in court April 13.
Once Theophile was subdued by officers, L’Italien left the scene to clean up and get a change of clothes. He was not hurt in the incident.
“I went home really quick, took a shower, and came back. It wasn’t really a big deal,” he said. “It was definitely one of a kind, a thing no one would expect, when you’re going in to rescue someone and they attack you like that.”
Colin A. Young can be reached at email@example.com.