State Troopers are investigating a potential arson that occurred at a Montauk Highway smoke shop on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation last week.
Police and fire officials were called to the scene at about 7:30 a.m. last Thursday, December 19, after the owners of the Shinnecock Smoke Shop noticed fire damage to the outside of their building, as well as a broken window. The damage was minor, but it appeared to be intentionally set sometime during the overnight hours, State Police investigator Mike Stephens said Friday afternoon.
There is at least one “person of interest” in the investigation, a male resident of the reservation, but police have not found enough evidence to formally classify him as a suspect.
Mr. Stephens, who was not at the scene on Thursday morning, said rumors among reservation residents brought up the names of several individuals, but that so far there has been limited hard evidence pointing to any one person, with the person of interest labeled as such purely based on hearsay. There is a surveillance system on the property that will be checked by police, he added.
Although an exact motive is not known, police believe this is an isolated incident that is not related to a fire that destroyed the Shinnecock Indian Nation’s gambling authority trailer in November, which also is being investigated as arson.
“I really believe it’s unrelated,” Mr. Stephens said. “It seems like someone has a direct dispute with the owner of this establishment.”
Three State Troopers were on the scene at the smoke shop for several hours Thursday morning, along with three people from the fire marshal’s office and several tribal members. All declined to comment on the investigation.
The Southampton Town fire marshal’s office turned the investigation over to the State Police, Fire Marshal Chris Hansen said last week.