Man Cleared of All Charges in Scuffle with Firefighter

Kenneth Knop thought he was just trying to help firefighters when they arrived at the Alpine Inn as a raging fire was destroying the structure.

Knop, a resident of the inn, grabbed firefighter Neil Houston by his suspender straps and excitedly begged him to get into the building and save it.

But Houston told police Knop attacked him, so Knop was charged with aggravated assault, simple assault and disorderly conduct.

Last week a Monroe County jury found Knop not guilty of the latter two charges. The aggravated assault charge had been dismissed earlier.

“He genuinely thought he was helping,” said Michael Ventrella, assistant Monroe County Public Defender, who represented Knop, the inn’s handyman, who lived on the third floor.

Knop testified he was trying wildly to get Houston to go into the building, and was attempting to show him some crawl spaces on the third floor that could provide access to the building.

The old inn was destroyed, and Knop lost everything in the June 6, 1999 fire.

Houston had told police that Knop swung and hit him in the oxygen mask and had to be subdued with the help of other fireman.

Knop testified that he was just wildly gesticulating.

The firefighters told police Knop appeared to be drunk at the time, and they could smell the alcohol on him even through their masks.

For his part Knop said he was afraid firefighters were not trying hard enough to save the building. At one point he cried out, “You guys don’t care.”

Assistant District Attorney Barney Anderson appeared for the prosecution.

Under questioning by Anderson, Houston said at the preliminary hearing, “It was a physical thing where I’m hollering. ‘Get off me’ and he was swinging me [by the straps] and I’m trying to push him off me.”

More than 30 people were tenants in the 50 rooms on the second and third floors of Inn, but they all got out and no one was injured in the blaze.

Knop moved to New York to live with his parents and was arrested when he moved back to the Pocono two years later. According to Ventrella, Knop did not know there was an outstanding summons for his arrest waiting for him in Monroe County.

Knop apologized at trial for his actions and any misunderstanding. The jury returned a not guilty verdict after deliberating for two hours.

The inn, located on Route 611 in Tannersville, included a restaurant and bar on the first floor and both hotel rooms and apartments on the upper two floors.