Maplewood authorities search through rubble of home after Monday’s ambush

Tuesday, July 22, 2008 | 9:37 p.m. CDT

MAPLEWOOD, — Authorities on Tuesday recovered what are believed to be charred remains from the rubble of a burned house that was the site of an ambush on emergency workers, Dr. Mary Case, St. Louis County’s medical examiner, said.

Investigators also found a long barrel that came from a rifle or shotgun, St. Louis County police spokeswoman Tracy Panus said.

The barrel and apparent remains were found at the collapsed house where a suspected gunman was believed to have been holed up Monday after shooting at emergency workers responding to a report of a burning pickup truck in the St. Louis suburb of Maplewood. One firefighter was killed and two police officers were wounded in the attack.

Case said the apparent remains will be examined Wednesday. She said she wasn’t sure if enough remains were found for a dental identification. But Panus said the dental features were “intact enough” that an identification could be made.

Lacking that, Case said, hopefully a match could be made through radiology or DNA.

While emphasizing that an identification had not been made yet, Panus noted that some witness statements indicated a person inside the house was seen lighting clothes on fire.

Meanwhile, the family of the man listed on St. Louis County property records as the owner of the house released a statement.

“We are deeply sorry for the loss of Maplewood firefighter Ryan Hummert. His death is a senseless tragedy, and we are praying for his family,” the statement said.

The statement, identified as being from the family of Mark Knobbe, also expressed sorrow for the attack on two police officers, who survived. The statement said Knobbe had been estranged from the family for nearly a decade and had not spoken to them.

The family expressed shock and sadness, adding, “our hearts are truly with the families and friends” of the victims.

They said Knobbe was a 52-year-old Navy veteran whose tour of duty included submarine work. He was not married and had no children. They declined to be interviewed.

The scene at the house where a modest brick bungalow once stood was active all day Tuesday, with backhoes and cadaver dogs helping investigators piece together a narrative to explain an ambush from the home of a man no neighbor knew much about.

Public records list the owner as Knobbe, who bought the home more than 10 years ago for $65,500. Neighbors said the man never spoke to anyone and always had his blinds pulled.

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