Police allege paint-fume-huffing man confronted river walkers

A 51-year-old homeless man, who is believed to have been camping the last two weeks on the South Williamsport side of the Susquehanna River walk, is jailed on charges stemming from three incidents along the walk.

In each incident, two this week and another late last month, Kavin Larue Hamilton was found to be huffing paint fumes, according to borough Police Chief Robert Hetner.

When he was taken into custody about 7 p.m. Wednesday near the recycling center in the 1000 block of West Front Street, Hamilton was “very unsteady and lethargic. White paint was covering his hands and face, and he did smell heavily of paint fumes,” borough Patrolman Jacob Summers said in an affidavit.

“While walking in some brush, I saw Hamilton sitting up against a tree spraying a can of aerosol paint,” Summer said.

Summers had responded to the area to investigate a possible “mental patient.” Another man had called police to report that he was being followed by a man while fishing near the river walk. Police believe the man following the fisherman was Hamilton.

This incident occurred just two days after Hamilton allegedly confronted a woman riding her bicycle on the river walk. Hetner said.

“He jumped out in front of her, made her stop and grabbed the handlebars on her bike” about 6:30 p.m. Monday, Hetner said.

“She yelled at him and told him she was going to call 911. He let go of the bike and fled,” Hetner said.

Later that evening, Hamilton was caught allegedly stealing two cans of aerosol spray paint from the Dollar General Store on West Southern Avenue, Summers said.

“His clothes were damp and he had a heavy chemical smell emanating from (his body),” Summers said.

The first incident involving Hamilton occurred about 10 p..m. Aug. 30 when he reportedly “charged” two men who were checking on his welfare after spotting him near the dam, Summers said.

Hamilton was “in a heavily intoxicated state. He has white and black pain on both his hands and about his mouth and nose,” Summers said.

Due to his “intoxicated state,” Hamilton was taken by ambulance to the Williamsport Regional Medical Center to be evaluated, Summer said.

Following the third incident on Wednesday night, Hamilton, whose last known address was 653 Hepburn St., was arraigned before District Judge James H. Sortman on a felony charge of shoplifting, three counts each of illegal possession of noxious substances, illegal use of certain solvents and public drunkenness, two counts of disorderly conduct and one count of harassment. He was committed to the Lycoming County Prison in lieu of $25,000 bail.

Commenting on the safety of the river walk, Hetner said Thursday that he believe the walk is “a safe environment.”

But he encourage those who use the walk to carry a cellphone so they can report to police any problems they encounter.

“Don’t confront anyone. Use common sense,” he said, adding that, if possible, ride or walk with someone.

Police will be conducting “additional patrols” of the river walk following the incidents with Hamilton, Hetner said.