Tonawanda News

The Town

October 9, 2013

Town incident eerily similar to Webster tragedy

Fire call brings back memories of NY tragedy

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — When the 911 call came in of a house fire and possible shots fired, responding fire crews could not help but think back to another tragedy last year that claimed the lives of two of their firefighter brothers.

Crews from Brighton, Sheridan-Park and Ellwood fire departments responded to the incident at 163 Fries Road in the Town of Tonawanda Monday where a man allegedly set fire to his house after reports of gunfire were heard.

When the fire crews arrived on scene, Town of Tonawanda Police Chief Anthony J. Palombo gave the order for them to stand down because of the report of shots fired and the possibility the man was still inside with a weapon, according to Sheridan-Park Chief James Chatham.

Police have identified the home’s owner, Joseph Hollywood, 60, as the person who fired the shots. According to police, Hollywood had threatened a woman at the house with a gun. The unidentified woman called 911 and fled the home.

Hollywood, 60, died in his basement from smoke inhalation, alongside his long gun and oxygen tank, an autopsy revealed Tuesday. The incident led to a tense standoff in the normally quiet residential area. It prompted nearby schools to go on lockdown.

As it turns out, the precautions taken were prudent.

The findings have provided vindication for police officers and first responders, who didn’t approach the burning Fries Road home in fear that Hollywood was inside, armed and ready to attack anyone who approached him. 

“Investigators believe he was positioned where he was so that he could engage any police that came in looking for him,” a statement from police Lt. Nick Bado reads. 

Chatham was not on-site Monday during the incident but said he was glad that the police chief’s first concern was his firefighters.

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