By Michael Regan
Niagara Gazette — NORTH TONAWANDA -- A gunshot shattered the usual calm of Fairmont Avenue in North Tonawanda Friday afternoon, and within moments, police and SWAT team members converged on the quiet neighborhood.
As neighbors flooded outside their homes to observe the incident unfolding before them, police surrounded the man’s house at 600 Fairmont Ave. and blocked off the area to traffic. When things settled, no injuries were reported, but a husband and wife were in custody.
Police said Michael Stafford, 64, fired a single round from a .45-caliber Glock pistol through the kitchen window of his home. The bullet breached the exterior of the house next door, went through a China cabinet in a dining room and fell to the floor, as the neighbor was baking in her kitchen one room over.
Police Chief Randy Szukala said dozens of officers raced to the scene, where they set up a perimeter and urged Stafford to come out of his home, telling residents of the Wurlitzer Park neighborhood to stay inside and away from their windows.
”The neighbor called and said something went through her wall,” Szukala said. “The only place it could have come from was the neighbor’s house directly to the west. The way the yards are so close.”
After 30 minutes and repeated attempts by police to lure the couple outside, Stafford and his wife were taken into custody without incident. Police said they could not confirm whether the gunshot was a result of a domestic incident.
Stafford was charged with reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and violating a city ordinance against discharging a firearm within city limits.
He was held without bail after insisting the discharge was an accident, while his wife was released after questioning and will not be charged with a crime. Police said Stafford refused to answer further questions after requesting an attorney be present.
Stephanie Rowe, who lives across the street, said she and a friend were inside when the weapon was fired at 12:32 p.m. A short while later, as officers surrounded the home, they heard police “yelling to the guy, telling him to come out.”
”There were lots of guys with big guns,” she said.
Another neighbor, who said he lived next door to the couple and was on his way home from work when the incident ensued, said the couple were normally quiet. Stafford was expected to be arraigned in North Tonawanda City Court on Friday evening.Jill Keppeler contributed to this report. Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.