NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WKBW) — Three loaded guns, including two military-style rifles. Nearly 400 rounds of ammunition. That's what police say they pulled from a vehicle outside North Tonawanda City Hall on Tuesday.
Now, the alleged driver of that vehicle is facing charges.
North Tonawanda police said the man, Timothy Payne, 36, of North Carolina first came up on their radar thanks to the New York State Police. It warned multiple agencies in Erie and Niagara County police agencies that Payne may be armed and in the area. The message described his vehicle, and that vehicle was located at the handicap entrance to city hall around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Officers located Payne, who they said has ties to North Tonawanda, inside City Hall. There, he admitted that he had firearms in his car. Upon the initial search, officers said they found not only guns and ammunition, but what appeared to be an explosive device.
The Erie County Bomb Squad cleared the vehicle, along with the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station Army Bomb Disposal Unit, and took the device away to be analyzed. Nothing suspicious was found in a search of City Hall either.
By Wednesday evening, in a carefully crafted statement, police clarified that it was not an explosive device, but rather a hitch lock, which resembled what could be construed as a pipe bomb.
"There was nothing found that would indicate that he was in the planning stages of any type of event," Captain Thomas Krantz said in the statement.
Payne is a Western New York native who was wounded in Afghanistan while serving in the Army. He is the CEO of Chosen Leadership, an organization created by Payne which offers motivational speaking and consulting based out of North Carolina.
Police said Payne was taken in for evaluation by medical personnel. He was then arraigned on a second-degree charge of criminal possession of a weapon. Overnight, officers told us he was being held on $75,000 bail.
"The North Tonawanda Police Department will be working closely with the Niagara County District Attorney’s office to resolve this case in the most appropriate manner that takes into consideration the needs of Mr. Payne who served his country honorably and was severely injured during his service, both physically and emotionally," Krantz said.
Timothy's father, Doglas Payne, says his son has been suffering from PTSD and other mental issues since he lost his legs in combat.
"Whatever triggered him to go off the end is a mystery to me," said Doglas. "His behaviors were getting a little...difficult."
"He needs help" he said. "I'm glad he's getting it."
According to the Niagara County Board of Elections, the incident caused the closure of North Tonawanda City Hall. The BOE says that polling site has been closed and moved. Anyone that was meant to vote there (Districts 2-2, 2-5, 2-7) was directed to go to Our Lady of Czestochowa Church school at 64 Center Avenue.