Friends of suspect in fatal shopping center fire speak out

(Photo courtesy of Nicholas Siburt)

The people closest to Emond Johnson, the suspect charged in connection with the May fire that killed a local firefighter, say they believed he was victim.

A friend of Johnson and trainer at his gym was there the night his business went up in flames. He arrived to the fire and stood by Johnson and other colleagues to console him.

"We all gathered around him supporting him and had no indication from him that that's the case," said Nicholas Siburt. "It's making me recount everything, kind of going through all of the conversations that we had and all of the things we did to try and rebuild the gym and all the support he got."

Johnson was a groomsman in Siburt's wedding. He believed he knew him well.

"We were all just feeling very sorry for him. I thought I was dealing with a man who lost everything he worked for," said Siburt.

He helped him with recovery efforts after the gym burned down.

"It makes me a little sick to my stomach, honestly. It hurts even more knowing that Scott Deem lost his life because of it. I don't think Emond ever intended on that happening, I don't think he wanted anybody to be hurt."

Siburt says many of their friends are in shock. They feel confused and betrayed.

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