CONCORD, N.Y. (WIVB) – After a 12-hour standoff, a 48-year-old man who allegedly opened fire on Erie County Sheriff’s deputies voluntarily surrendered. He has now been charged with two counts of first degree attempted murder.
The incident began around 9 p.m. on Sunday, when authorities were called to a home on Brown Hill Road where a man, later identified as Matt Eck, was inside and said to be “out of control” and acting in a threatening manner. Eck’s wife fled with their children to a neighbor’s home and called 911. She told dispatchers she heard what she believed was gunfire as she left. Other neighbors also called to report possible gunfire in that area.
As deputies pulled into the driveway of the home, authorities say Eck opened fire with a high-powered rifle, hitting the first two patrol vehicles three times each, with one round going through the windshields of the vehicles. Deputies immediately backed up to safe distance.
A deputy said, “When we pulled up close to the house, he just opened up on us. Lit up both our cars. We had to get out of the sight line before he stopped shooting.”
One of their vehicles was disabled by the gunfire and Deputy Jonathan Hanna was injured when glass fragments hit his eyes. He was taken to ECMC for treatment. He has since been released and both he and Deputy Brad Ballantyne are now at home, resting.
Police would later find at least 60 shell casings outside the home Monday morning, and it is believed 25 of those were aimed at police vehicles. A third patrol vehicle and at least one car belonging to a neighbor were also hit.
Once the deputies were out of harm’s way, they called in backup and established a perimeter around the home. Multiple agencies took part in the operation, including the Erie County Sheriff’s Office, State Police, U.S. Border Patrol, DEC Police, West Seneca Police, Orchard Park Police, and several fire companies and ambulance services.
With SWAT teams on the ground and helicopters in the air, police evacuated nearby homes and directed others to go into their basements for safety. Hours into the standoff, authorities would carefully extract those families and bring them to safety. In all, eight homes were evacuated.
Roads in the area were closed, including both lanes of Rt. 219 Expressway, for hours. Authorities began to work to make contact with Eck and reach a peaceful conclusion. Holly Hubert, Assistant Special Agent in Charge at the FBI’s Buffalo Office, called negotiations with the suspect a “truly a joint effort” between the FBI and Erie County Sheriff hostage negotiators.
“The communications were ongoing all night long, off an on. At times he was talking a lot. At times he was not talking for 90 minutes or more,” she said.
She said the negotiations were slightly more complicated than normal by texting which she called “a new form of negotiating in the hostage negotiating business.” Conversations between negotiators and the suspect continued throughout the entire night, and around 9:30 a.m. on Monday, after around 12 hours, Eck agreed to leave the home without incident.
Hubert said, “When he ultimately came around, I think he was probably tired and just wanted to end it.”
Erie County Sheriff’s Capt. Ron Kenyon added, “Minimal force when he came out. He was simply laid on the ground. He was handcuffed and we put him in a police car. We are extremely pleased to be able to announce the successful and peaceful ending to an incident that occurred over the last 14 hours that could have very easily resulted in a tragic ending, but didn’t.”
Though the situation ended without incident, being fired on can be a traumatic experience. Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard knows what it’s like. He lost his partner, Trooper Gary Kubasiak, 32 years ago when responding to a domestic situation in Dayton.
“The silver lining in every cloud enabled me to talk with both of the officers and maybe predict some of the feelings that they’re going to experience and encourage them to share their thoughts with other people to make sure it doesn’t over burden them,” he said. “You learn from every thing you’re involved in and you try to make something good come from the most evil things that you experience and I do think that enabling me to talk better with both of the deputies this morning.”
Capt. Kenyon said the home was secured and no other occupants were found inside. Authorities believe use of prescription drugs and alcohol may have been a contributing factor in the incident.
Authorities say they have been called to the home three other times, including once for a minor domestic incident in 2012. Capt. Kenyon says none of the previous incidents would have given authorities any indication that a standoff situation could have occurred.
Eck was taken to ECMC for a mental health evaluation. He is now being held in the Erie County Holding Center on two counts of first degree attempted murder.