Close Call at North Tonawanda City Hall Sparks Debate on Safety

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By: Brendan McDonough

Reporter for North Tonawanda

Last week employees and visitors at City Hall in North Tonawanda experienced panic after a man believed to be driving a van filled with explosives showed up at the Mayor’s office.

“It could have been a lot worse,” said Donna Braun, 2 Ward Alderman. “I am just thankful that the police department acted as fast as they did.” 

The man was identified as 36-year old Timothy Payne and, after searching his van, law enforcement officials found rifles and a device that was originally believed to be explosive in nature but later turned out not to be. Payne has been charged with 2nd degree criminal possession of a weapon and is being treated at a local mental health facility.

City Hall was evacuated as precaution and no one was injured. Mayor Art Pappas says Payne stopped into his office and, after speaking with him, Pappas notified the police something was wrong.

“After my own conversation with the suspect, the police were right at the door and handled it immediately,” said Mayor Pappas.

It was a close call that is giving City Officials pause for what do in the future and how to prevent these kinds of events from happening again.

“I do think we could be a little better at communicating with fellow council people just to let them know there’s a problem,” said Mayor Pappas.

Some on the Council say perhaps a special task force is needed these kinds of situations or even better security at City Hall. It’s a difficult call because the Mayor often will meet with residents who stop in regardless of whether it was scheduled or unannounced. He meets with just about anyone who has a City issue or problem. 

The one thing all agreed is that they don’t want to see people posting things on social mediawhen information has not been verified.

“I think it was handed very well and when it comes to those things we always rely on the chief,” said Eric Zadzilka, Common Council President. “We don’t like to get anything out too early.”

Payne is from North Carolina and is being treated at the Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

“It is a very sad situation,” said Mayor Pappas. “It is tragic in many ways and I just hope the suspect is getting the help he needs.”

 

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