Armed Man Surrenders After SWAT Team Negotiator Croons Christmas Carol
Nathaniel R. Lewis fired multiple shots at police during the tense nine-hour standoff that ended with what one official called a miracle.
CHESTER COUNTY, PA — What could have been a Christmas night massacre turned into a miracle after a man who shot at 11 SWAT officers decided to surrender to a negotiator crooning a holiday carol at his request.
The tense situation began to unfold as family grew concerned they hadn’t heard from 34-year-old Nathaniel R. Lewis, who is currently going through a separation from his wife.
When Lewis’ sister-in-law went to check on him at his home on Christmas around 7:30 P.M., she discovered he had barricaded the door. According to an affidavit of probable cause, she forced her way inside and discovered Lewis, a member of the National Guard, with a rifle. He shot at her four times, but missed while chasing her from the house.
Fearful of his erratic behavior, Lewis’ estranged wife then asked police to do a wellness check, with the Chester County Regional Emergency Response Team arriving at his home around 10:30 P.M. When a negotiator, using the estranged wife’s phone, made contact with Lewis, he refused to surrender and ranted about “killing police and shooting up the neighborhood,” Philly.com reported.
After midnight, on December 26, Lewis shot off several rounds from a second-floor window, but then fell silent until he took aim at law enforcement and rained down more bullets at 6:05 A.M., 6:11 A.M., and 6:15 A.M.
Finally, around 45 minutes after his last attack, Lewis asked for a favor. “He requested ‘White Christmas,’ the Nat King Cole version," Chester County District Attorney Thomas Hogan said. The SWAT negotiator on the scene began to serenade Lewis, and he responded by leaving the house and surrendering.
"That's a Christmas miracle in our book, all because one negotiator was willing to sing him a Christmas carol," Hogan told WGAL. "[It was a] tremendous job all around.” The negotiator wished to remain anonymous, but, joked Hogan, “If you want a personal detail, I can tell you he does not have a very good voice.”
Thankfully nobody was injured during the tense nine-hour standoff, and officials have charged Lewis with multiple crimes, including at least 11 counts of attempted murder and aggravated assault.
"Incidents like this are why our SWAT team trains constantly,” East Vincent Police Chief and SWAT leader Matt Williams told ABC6. “Despite the extreme danger to the police officers, the team responded calmly and professionally, resulting in the eventual surrender of the defendant.”
Lewis was unable to post bail and is currently being held at Chester County Prison. He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing on January 7.