By Rick Pfeiffer
Niagara Gazette — Falls police patrol officers are being hailed for helping to end a potentially deadly hostage situation before it could "get out of hand."
The trouble started around 3 a.m. Saturday when officers responded to a call of a domestic incident in the 3200 block of North Avenue. They were told that a man was holding his wife and young son hostage "with a shotgun."
Officer Marsha Gee and Lt. Mike Corcoran were first on the scene and found the woman's father outside the home. He told them he'd received a call from his daughter and she said she was locked in a bedroom in the home with her son.
The woman said her husband had been out drinking all night and when he got home, he began to argue with her. The victim said she and her son went to a bedoom, but her husband followed her and told her, "You're lucky you're holding (the little boy)."
The suspect then went to a gun cabinet, took out what the woman believed was a shotgun and warned her, "Don't try to walk past me."
Corcoran attempted to contact the suspect, but he would not respond to cell phone calls. As other patrol officers surrounded the house and drew a bead on it with semi-automatic rifles, the woman placed a call to her father and Corcoran spoke to her.
"(The victim) did appear to have genuine fear in her voice while with (me)," Corcoran wrote in his report on the incident. "(She) stated she was by the window in her bedroom."
At that point, Corcoran and the other officers made a bold decision. Even as officers from the department's Emergency Response Team were preparing to head to the scene, the patrol officers and their commander decided they would attempt to rescue the woman and her son from the home.
"Mike Corcoran, he's a new lieutenant and he did just a great job," ERT Commander Capt. Dave LeGault said. "Because of the position of the houses, there was only one way to get to that back (bedroom) window and that was for the officers to put themselves in harm's way. If that guy had been up and seen them, he would have had a shot at them. But they took that risk."
Corcoran told the sharpshooters on the perimeter of the scene that Gee and Officer Rick Fleck would make a "tactical approach" to the home and attempt the rescue. He told the victim that help was on the way.
"(The victim) was told to open the window and when she saw the officers at her window to exit and follow their commands," Corcoran wrote. "Officers Fleck and Gee did tactically approach the residence and did assist the female and her son out. Officers did provide cover and guidance to the two victims until they were taken a safe distance away from the residence."
LeGault said the actions of the patrol officers was a huge help for his ERT team.
"That took our stress level from 100 to 20," LeGault said. "Now, with the hostages out, the only person who might get hurt is (the suspect) and I can wait all day to get him out. If he has hostages, that changes everything."
With the hostages out, ERT negotiators attempted to make contact with the suspect, but their calls were not picked up. After a period of time, ERT officers were able to observe the suspect asleep on a couch, with a rifle by his side.
Despite the danger, ERT officers decided to make an entry into the home.
"We were told (the suspect) was a light sleeper and would wake up if he heard any noise," LeGault said. "And that's exactly what he did."
Officers said the suspect reached for his rifle, but then dropped it and ran. The entry team, made up of Officers Tom Rogers, Paul Warmington, Shaun Bielec and Fleck was able to subdue the suspect and take him into custody.
Inside the house, officers found the man was armed with a sem-automatic AR-15 assault rifle, loaded with a 30 round magazine.
Officers charged Joseph Emilio Casero II, 24, 3207 North Ave., with first-degree criminal contempt, second-degree menacing, first-degree unlawful imprisonment and endangering the welfare of a child.
LeGault said the fast action of the patrol officers helped defuse a very dangerous situation.
"A lot of times, the patrol officers, they just go about doing their thing quietly and no one says what a great job they do," LeGault said. "This time, we're saying that was a great job."