NT City Hall closed in bomb scare, heavily armed man arrested

Jun 26, 2019

North Tonawanda Police have arrested a North Carolina man after receiving an alert about a possible armed man at City Hall.

North Tonawanda Police say the afternoon started when Niagara and Erie County law enforcement agencies received a bulletin Tuesday from New York State Police about an individual who may be armed with multiple weapons. A vehicle description was also sent out with the alert, which helped police later find the suspect.

"To be on the lookout for a gentleman traveling in a drab, olive-colored van from the State of North Carolina," said North Tonawanda Police Chief Roger Zgolak. "It was indicated that he was a disabled veteran who had some sort of verbal altercation with some relatives in the area and that there was credible information that he may be traveling with firearms in the vehicle."

Zgolak said about 3 p.m., police found the man in City Hall.

"The officers engaged him in conversation. There were no overt threats made, but in talking with him and his admission that he was traveling with firearms, it was decided that we were going to send him for a mental health evaluation, based on some of the things he had said to us," he said, "and in doing that, we gained his permission to enter his vehicle so we could safeguard any of his property in the vehicle."

Police say the van was found parked at the handicap entrance to North Tonawanda City Hall, located on Payne Avenue, and it contained a loaded pistol, two military-style rifles and 400 rounds of ammunition. The Erie County Bomb Squad and Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station Army Bomb Disposal Unit were called to remove an apparent explosive device that was also found in the vehicle.

City Hall was shut down as bomb crews searched for other possible devices. Police say the one found in the vehicle is being analyzed to see if it is actually explosive.

Timothy Payne, 36, was arrested and charged with second degree criminal possession of a weapon. Police say he lives in North Carolina, but has North Tonawanda ties. Payne visited the Mayor's Office Tuesday to talk about veterans' problems.