FORT WAYNE – It was a block-long trail of blood, spilled on yards, streets and sidewalks, that told the story of a man’s agony.
The path of red droplets started at 3526 Lillie St., a rundown house with moss growing on the roof. It then looped around other homes, stretched across an alley and ended at Winter and Oxford streets.
On that corner Thursday afternoon, police encountered a bleeding man who had severe burns, smelled of gasoline and was wearing only underwear, said officer Michael Joyner, a Fort Wayne police spokesman.
We don’t know how it happened. We don’t know why it happened, Joyner said.
Officers were sent to the corner at 2:45 p.m. after police received a report of a person on the ground. When officers arrived, the man was standing up, but because of the severity of his injuries, he was unable to explain how he got them, Joyner said.
The man was taken to a hospital where he was listed in critical condition. His identity was not released.
Police do not know whether the man’s burns were intentional or accidental, and if they were intentional, it’s not known who’s to blame. Detectives hope to interview the man once he recovers, Joyner said.
We don’t have any suspects. We don’t have a motive, he said.
Using dozens of yellow evidence markers, investigators flagged the splotches and splatters of blood the man left behind.
The trail showed him repeatedly staggering forward, falling, rolling and getting up, Joyner said.
A smear of blood could be seen on the side of an auto repair business on Oxford Street.
Police found a pile of clothes, believed to be the man’s, smoldering near the Lillie Street house, Joyner said.
Detectives went door-to-door canvassing the neighborhood looking for witnesses. At a house on Winter Street, a man was overheard telling police that he helped the burned man: I gave him some water. He kept saying he was on fire.
Another resident told The Journal Gazette that he sees lots of foot and vehicle traffic coming and going from the house where the blood trail began.
The man, who declined to give his name for fear of retribution, said he smelled something burning Thursday afternoon.
I thought it was a house that caught fire, he said.