SARANAC LAKE - Village police have released the name of a man who claimed he was robbed and shot by two unknown assailants on a railroad trestle off Pine Street last week.
William J. Martin, 55, of Saranac Lake, will be charged today with third-degree falsely reporting an incident and making a punishable false written statement, both misdemeanors, village police Chief Bruce Nason told the Enterprise this morning.
The charges against Martin stem from an incident that took place around 7 p.m. on Nov. 20, when Martin called 911 to report he had been shot in the shoulder with a rifle and robbed on the trestle by two people who then fled the scene on foot. He described his assailants as white males, both 5 feet, 9 inches tall with sturdy builds and wearing dark-colored parkas.
Village Police Chief Bruce Nason, left, and patrolmen Jason Swain and John Gay, right, prepare to bag as evidence a .22 caliber rifle recovered from the Saranac River on Nov. 21, 2012 on Main Street, near the intersection with Pine Street. Police later determined the rifle was owned by William Martin, who allegedly used it shoot himself in the shoulder the night before, although he claimed he had been shot and robbed by two unknown assailants.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
Police and rescue personnel responded. Martin was taken to Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake and later airlifted to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington, Vt. He's since been released from the hospital and has returned to Saranac Lake.
Village and state police launched a search for the two suspects that lasted late into the night, canvassing homes in the area and taking statements from potential witnesses. The search resumed the following morning, when Nason said police started to realize that parts of Martin's story didn't add up.
"At first he was reporting that he didn't own any weapons, and that he was just walking along the tracks and came across two people," Nason said. "We had a witness who came forward who actually saw him in the area, walking across the street, carrying a rifle and using a cane. I don't want to go into a whole lot of detail, but other information he gave us, he would say, 'This is what happened,' and when we went to that source, it was determined that information was not accurate."
Nason said all the evidence police have gathered supports their belief that Martin shot himself with the .22-caliber rifle. Police revisited the scene of the incident the following morning and spotted the gun lying on the bottom of the river. It was later recovered and determined to be Martin's rifle, based on statements from the person who sold him the gun and a close family member or friend who identified it as Martin's rifle, Nason said.
Nason traveled to Fletcher Allen hospital over the weekend, while he was visiting family in the Burlington area for the Thanksgiving holiday, to recover fragments of the bullet that doctors removed from Martin's shoulder.
Nason said he didn't know why Martin shot himself and made up the robbery story.
"He's not providing any more information than what he's already provided," the chief said. "My concern is he receive help for his mental well-being."
Police plan to issue Martin an appearance ticket for village court.
Nason thanked the public for information police received during the investigation. He also thanked state police for its help with the search and the Saranac Lake Volunteer Fire Department Dive Team, which helped recover the gun.