A man Niagara County Sheriff Thomas A. Beilein described as "despondent" over problems pertaining to his workers' compensation claim shot himself to death sometime between 6:30 and 8:25 p.m. Sunday, after keeping lawmen at bay since 4 p.m.
Deputies entered the house at 2645 Akshar Court around 8:25 p.m. after they had not heard from Franklyn E. King, 48, for two hours. Officers said they discovered his body on the floor of the first-story family room. He had shot himself in the head.
The scene of the armed standoff was a sprawling two-story house with a wrap-around porch and three gables at the corner of Akshar Court and Brian Lane in Settlers Run, a pricey cul-de-sac subdivision off Witmer Road.
King's house had been used as a model home when the development was first opened about three years ago, neighbors said.
Beilein said there were several weapons in the house. Deputies later said a 20-gauge shotgun was used in the fatal shooting. First reports from the scene said the man had a shotgun, a rifle, and a supply of gasoline, which he apparently threatened to use.
Several homes close to the King house were evacuated, but other residents of the subdivision were merely ordered to remain indoors.
Because of the threat of fire, volunteers from the St. Johnsburg Fire Company stood by at the scene, along with the Tri-Community Ambulance Service. Fire police blocked traffic on Witmer Road leading to the subdivision, but not until the standoff had been going on for for more than two hours.
King's wife, Terri, called the Sheriff's
Department shortly before 4 p.m. to report her husband was armed, "despondent and acting unstable," said Beilein, who arrived on the scene about three hours into the standoff. He said King was apparently on disability from his job; he did not offer further details.
Neighbors, who watched with reporters from about half a mile away at the corner of Witmer Road and Patel Drive, said the couple had recently been married, the second marriage for each.
They had three children between them. Two girls, ages 3 and 11, were home at the time of King's outburst. Both escaped from the house prior to the arrival of police. Mrs. King called 911 from a cordless telephone, according to State Trooper Milton Hudson.
State troopers and sheriff's deputies sped to the scene, arriving almost simultaneously. Hudson said the couple were in the garage attached to their house when the first lawmen arrived.
"She came out, and the garage door came down," Hudson said.
Beilein said deputies telephoned King several times, first from department headquarters in Lockport and later from outside his home via cellular phone. Beilein described the conversations as "erratic and highly unstable."
It was after the calls were no longer answered that deputies decided to enter and discovered the suicide. No shot had been heard.
Relatives of King were brought to the scene in an effort to negotiate with him, but state troopers said King refused to speak with them.
The Sheriff's Department's Emergency Response Team, in full combat regalia, was joined after about three hours by a similar team from the North Tonawanda Police Department, and they surrounded the house with men armed with high-powered rifles. However, they never fired a shot.
As darkness fell, there was no sign of activity from the siege area. At 8:25 p.m., lights flashed on in the house and reporters saw figures on the back porch of the home.
Almost immediately, the volunteer ambulance and fire trucks left the scene, with crews saying they had been told their services were no longer required. Minutes later, Beilein began briefing reporters.