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SWAT team standoff at Town of Tonawanda apartment ends with arrest of man, 25

A man was arrested early Sunday afternoon after he allegedly violated an order of protection and set a fire in the Town of Tonawanda apartment he formerly shared with a girlfriend.

The man, identified as Demario James, 25, barricaded himself in the second-floor apartment at 11 Saint Johns Ave., causing heavy damage to the apartment, starting a fire, breaking the windows from the inside and hurling pots, pans and insults out the windows at responding police officers, town police said.

Police took James into custody at about 12:30 p.m., after a brief standoff, when the Special Weapons and Tactics Team fired several tear gas canisters into the apartment. Officers said James “then surrendered peacefully, and he was taken into custody without incident.”

Neighbors were shocked by the incident, which brought more than a dozen police vehicles, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles to the normally quiet neighborhood just north of Kenmore Avenue, three blocks east of Starin Avenue.

“This is a quiet neighborhood, and you don’t see things like that in this neighborhood,” said one shaken neighbor. “We stayed inside the house and stayed away from our windows until the police told us everything was OK. I thought the town police handled it very well. Thankfully, nobody was hurt.”

David Schanne, 59, lives across the street from the apartment where the incident took place. He said he does not know the man and woman involved.

“The guy just went nuts. He went off like a bomb,” Schanne said. “He broke out every window, was screaming out the windows and throwing pots and pans outside.”

According to police, James had until recently lived in the apartment with his former girlfriend and a 10-month-old child. Within the last couple of weeks, the woman got a protective order against the man, police said.

Officers responded at about 11 a.m. to a call that James was violating an order of protection in the apartment. The woman and child got out of the apartment safely soon after police arrived, authorities said.

James then barricaded himself inside, heavily damaging the interior of the apartment, breaking windows and tossing items outside, police said. He also allegedly started a fire in the apartment, which was put out by members of the Ellwood Volunteer Fire Company.

After the tear gas was fired inside, James was escorted out of the apartment building by SWAT Team members and strapped to a stretcher before being driven away, neighbors said.

Police were initially concerned that the man might have a weapon, but none was displayed, and , police did not report finding any weapon inside the badly damaged apartment.

James was taken to Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo for evaluation, police said, but he subsequently was discharged from the hospital and was returned to Tonawanda Town Court for arraignment on charges of arson, burglary, criminal contempt, criminal mischief and harassment.

Police Capt. Francis R. McNamara said that no injuries were reported but that there was about $7,500 in damage to the apartment and minor damage to a police vehicle.

email: dherbeck@buffnews.com