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Police: Man arrested after 5-hour Gettysburg battlefield search, fire

A man was arrested Friday night after evading police for nearly five hours by walking in and around the Gettysburg battlefield, officials said. They believe he also may have set hundreds of hay bales on fire during that time.

Gettysburg National Military Park Chief Ranger Ryan Levins said police were told the man was involved a reported domestic incident near the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.

"It had been reported that he had a buck knife and an ax on him," Levins said. "They weren't being used as part of the domestic, it was just reported to us."

While police were en route to the memorial, the man left on foot, Levins said.

"We never did find him until he was arrested later," Levins said.

Levins did not name the man, who he described as being in his 40s and from out of state, with a most recent address in Maryland.

A domestic incident was reported around 6 p.m. The man was at the memorial with his girlfriend and her child, who is around 12 or 13 years old, Levins said.

The incident was between the man and his girlfriend, Levins said, but the child did have some scratches as a result.

The man left on foot while police were en route to the Eternal Light Peace Memorial.

Several police departments were called in to assist with the search, and eventually a Maryland State Police helicopter joined in.

A short time after the helicopter arrived, approximately 275 hay bales at a property along Biglerville Road went up in flames, Levins said.

Capt. Chris Folster with Gettysburg Fire Department said police on the scene reported the fire.

When the fire crews arrived, "the entire pile was on fire," Folster said. Crews knocked down the bulk of the fire before they used a bulldozer to clear a fire line around the pile to prevent the fire from spreading to a nearby cornfield and wooded area. Folster said.

The hay was destroyed, Folster said.

Levins said police believe the man they were searching for started the fire, although they did not locate him at the scene.

After the fire, it started to get dark. The search was called off around 9:30 p.m., Levins said.

An hour and 15 minutes later, the man was seen on the Gettysburg College campus, where he was taken into custody, Levins said.

The man was taken to Adams County Prison where he is being held until Monday, when he is transported to Harrisburg and charged. Levins said he didn't know all the charges the man will face. The park service has the ability to file state and federal charges.

"When the assault took place, there were scratches on the child, so assault would be the main charge as of (Saturday) to hold him on," Levins said.

Asked if the man said anything about the fire when he was taken into custody, Levins said "he wasn't talkative."

Levins said the man had a backpack on him when he was taken into custody, but Levins didn't know if the man had a buck knife and an ax in his possession.

Neither the man's girlfriend nor her child needed medical care, Levins said.

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