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Tonawanda stand-off case from 2015 concludes with 15-year sentence

An ex-boyfriend who set fire to a woman’s apartment and instigated a stand-off with Town of Tonawanda police two and a half years ago was sentenced Thursday to prison.

Damario James, 27, was indicted in June 2015 on charges of arson in the second and third degree, two counts of assault with intent to injure an officer, and criminal contempt of a court order for violating an order of protection obtained by his ex girlfriend. He pled guilty in April 2016.

The case then was put on hold while James received treatment for mental disorders that experts said interfered with his ability to understand the charges against him, but in September he was deemed competent.

State Supreme Court Justice Deborah Haendiges sentenced James to 15 years on the arson charge, 7 years on the assault charges and 1 1/2 to 4 years for violating the order of protection.

On Feb. 22, 2015, James reportedly went to his ex-girlfriend’s apartment at 11 Saint Johns Ave., Town of Tonawanda, and forced the woman and her infant child out of the flat. He then smashed every window in the apartment and began setting fires. When police, fire and SWAT personnel arrived, James threw pots and pans at them from the second floor window.

The responders tried to wait James out, but when smoke began billowing from the window they fired in gas canisters to subdue James and prevent the fire from spreading.

The apartment was heavily damaged but no injuries were reported to James, other civilians or responders.
James reportedly had lived in the apartment at one time before he and the girlfriend broke up. The woman, who had a baby from another relationship, had obtained an order of protection against James a few weeks before the incident.

Assistant District Attorney Rachel Newton, who prosecuted the case, said that, in addition to the prison time, the judge also ordered that James have no contact with his ex-girlfriend or her child before the year 2038.

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