Tonawanda neighborhood locked down after armed man sets fire to home

Oct 7, 2013

A Town of Tonawanda man, well known to local police, apparently set fire to his home Monday morning, causing an emergency situation on Fries Road near Eggert Road.

The remains of the suspect, 60-year-old Joseph Hollywood, was found in the house's debris late Monday afternoon. His home, at 163 Fries, was burned to the ground.

An emergency call came in around 9:15 a.m. Monday from a woman who is believed to be Hollywood's wife. She said Hollywood was threatening to kill her with a gun and had set the house on fire.

Tonawanda Police Lt. Nick Bado says fearing Hollywood would fire shots, firefighters were not able to fight the blaze quickly.

"We have to consider all possibilities. This guy could be drawing us into the home and not be there. He could have escaped lying low somewhere nearby to set us up. There are a lot of considerations," Bado told WBFO News.

Bado says authorities set up a perimeter to ensure the safety of nearby residents. He says the woman "barely" made it out alive.  

Ken-Ton schools went into lockdown mode, with no one allowed in or out of any buildings. Nearby residents were told to shelter in their basements and National Grid power was cut to the neighborhood.

Tonawanda Police issued a warning to residents who live within a quarter-mile of the address to take shelter in their basement. Sheridan Park Firefighters had reported gun shots coming from the home.

With last year's murder of firefighters in suburban Rochester, Bado says a perimeter was set up and the house was allowed to burn for several hours until a SWAT team searched the property and determined it was safe

"Obviously everyone thinks about Webster, New York when firefighters were killed responding to a similar incident," Bado said.

Though the Ken-Ton lockdown was discontinued at 1:13 p.m. Monday, dismissal at Kenmore East, Edison Elementary and Franklin Middle School was delayed until 4 p.m. as the search of Hollywood or his body continued. A SWAT team was searching two nearby houses late Monday.

Hollywood was no stranger to town police. Officers have had 18 encounters with him in the past decade, including incidents of harassment, disorderly conduct and domestic disputes. Fire scanner reports indicated Hollywood had an arsenal inside his basement with possible grenades.

Neighbors tell WBFO  Hollywood was a "fun-loving guy" who was known as "Drunken Santa" from the time he ran onto the field at Ralph Wilson Stadium dressed as Santa Clause during a Buffalo Bills game.