Tonawanda News

Local News

December 21, 2013

No. 7: Joe Hollywood perishes in his basement in town

Tonawanda News — In what is perhaps the most bizarre local story in 2013, a man named Joseph Hollywood was found dead by Town of Tonawanda  police following a 911 call placed by his girlfriend who said he was threatening to kill her with a gun inside the home they shared. 

The incident in early October shutdown the normally quiet Fries Road, sent nearby schools into lockdown and caused a volley of police agencies to stakeout Hollywood’s home, which burned as his girlfriend escaped, with Hollywood, 60, still inside holding police at bay with a gun. 

Known as the “Drunk Santa” for wearing a Santa Claus costume and running onto the Buffalo Bills field in the middle of a game, police said Hollywood had a history of violence, which ended with an apparent suicide. 

The woman called 911 at 9 a.m. Oct. 7 and stated he had trapped her inside the house and had weapons, police said, “screaming” and stating that Hollywood was “going to kill” me. 

“He set the house on fire,” recordings of the woman’s call to police showed.  

About an hour after the fire began the home collapsed as nearby residents sheltered indoors. Hollywood’s girlfriend was found unharmed outside the home. Residents also reported hearing shots fired. 

Hollywood had at least 18 run-ins with the police since 2003, largely constituted by harassment and disorderly conduct charges. Many neighbors in the area said after the incident that he was considerate to those living around him, though others described him as mentally unstable. 

Police said he had legally changed his name from Joseph Bryniarski and had been dating that woman for several years. The two had a history of domestic incidents. 

Hollywood was discovered dead from smoke inhalation in the basement of his home, armed with weapons and an oxygen tank. His Santa suit was pulled out of the charred wreckage the next day, largely unscathed. 

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