Autopsy completed on Joe Hollywood
BY: Kim Sabshin | October 09, 2013
TONAWANDA - The Town of Tonawanda Police Department confirmed on Tuesday that an autopsy has been performed on Joe Hollywood, the man whose house on Fries Road burned down on Monday in the midst of a tense situation requiring efforts of police and firefighters.
Lieutenant Nicholas Bado said Hollywood, 60, died of smoke inhalation after hiding from police inside his burning home. Police discovered Hollywood’s body in the basement at 4:30 p.m. Monday, after firefighters were able to safely extinguish the blaze. Bado said an oxygen tank and long gun were also found near the body.
“The way he was positioned, between some furniture, [our investigators] believe that he was waiting down there trying to survive long enough to engage any police that might have come in, involve in a shootout,” Bado said.
The situation began at 9:15 a.m. on Monday, when Town of Tonawanda police received a 9-1-1 call from a woman who said, “He’s going to kill me; he has a gun.” The woman then said, “He started the house on fire,” before the call was terminated. Bado said police arrived at the scene to find the caller safely outside and the house in flames.
“Due to the information we had about an armed person inside and what sounded like shots being fired when our officers pulled up, they took a protective stance, setting up perimeters and beginning to address safety of neighboring homes and people and making notifications to the nearby schools,” Bado said.
Bado said fire companies arrived, but, at first, “it was not a safe situation for them to try fighting the fire, so they remained in the background.” While they took measures to keep the fire from spreading to adjacent homes, the fire “burned for quite some time” while police and firefighters “addressed the safety of everybody in the neighborhood and the community.”
Bado said no one could approach more closely until the house had been burned so badly, it was unlikely Hollywood could survive had he been inside. Police “still entertained the possibility that he had gotten out at some point,” Bado said, and Amherst police, state police, and a SWAT team joined Town of Tonawanda officers at the scene.
Once officers had investigated vehicles near the home, Bado said it was safe for firefighters to approach and “put out a lot of the hot spots to gain access to what was left and start looking around,” which occurred at around 3 p.m. He said at this point, there was “still the possibility” that Hollywood could be “out and about.” This continued until officers were able to gain access to the basement where Hollywood’s body was found.
The incident led to two separate lockdowns of Ken-Ton schools, and students were not permitted to leave until 4 p.m. The district issued the following statement that morning: “The Town of Tonawanda Police Department has advised that all school district buildings should not allow anyone to leave or enter at this time. The reason is that there is a possibly deranged individual that may be related to a house fire on the corner of Eggert and Fries Roads. Police informed us that at some point shots may have been fired, and we will remain in lock down mode until they have found him as they are not completely sure he is in the house.”
Neighbors who had been present at the scene early Monday afternoon offered observations, some adding that Hollywood had previously exhibited unusual behavior.
“I knew that he got hurt a long time ago doing construction. I knew he always had an issue with the law here. I know he had a bunch of domestic [problems],” one neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, said.
A recent Kenmore East graduate, Frank Burkhart, said, “I used to walk by that house every day going to school, so we’d always see the guy outside. He had a couple of, like, utility vans that he used to kind of dig around in. He came across as a really weird guy.”
“I came up and saw a bunch of smoke, and I heard that stuff was going down at Kenmore East from friends and stuff that were in there. They were like, ‘we’re on lockdown, because of a shooter or something, a house on fire down the street.’ So, I came up here, stood on the corner, and just could see flames shooting out,” Alex Lisowski, another neighbor, said. “Fire trucks were here, but they could only go from a certain distance because they couldn’t move in until SWAT team came, and then SWAT team came, moved in, went through the truck, went in the house, checked everything, cleared everything.”