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UB professor sheds light on behavior of Tonawanda man

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Town of Tonawanda Police
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The intense stand-off with a Tonawanda man on Monday left many questions of his behavior. Joseph Hollywood was positioned to engage police in a shootout at his home on Fries Road.

Town of Tonwanda Police said Hollywood's body was found in the basement of his burned out home with a supply of oxygen and a long gun. An autopsy shows Hollywood died of smoke inhalation.  In the past decade alone, the man also known as "Drunken Santa," had 18 run-ins with Police.

WBFO's Chris Caya spoke with internationally renowned forensic psychologist and professor of law at the University at Buffalo Charles Ewing who says while he can't comment on the specifics of the Hollywood case, it bares similarities to other incidents.

"Most of the people who start these incidents are suicidal, they're depressed, angry, hostile. Many of them are grandiose and narcissistic. They really want to go out in what they see as a blaze of glory. They're looking to be killed but often times they don't have either the courage to kill themselves or they want to be killed by the authorities in a plea for some king of attention," said Ewing.

The longtime Fries Road resident legally changed his name from Bryniarski to Hollywood several years ago. He liked to dress up as Santa Clause for public events. Ewing says alcohol and drug use sometimes play a part, but he says usually an incident or a loss of some sort pushes people like Hollywood over the top.  

"It can be a loss of a family member. Loss of custody of a child. Loss of a job. Loss of some kind of standing in the community," said Ewing.

And he says there's no doubt the media plays a role.  

"By publicizing these cases, other people hear about the cases and it provides fuel for fantasy. And really these kinds of activities are really sort of the ultimate in violent fantasy for the individuals who perpetrate them. So I think there is a copycat element," said Ewing.

However, Ewing points out despite all the attention, incidents like the one Monday in the Town of Tonawanda are rare.  

"Not only is it not very common, but 99 out of a 100 people who engage in crazy behavior, or what the public sees as kind of crazy behavior, would never do something like this," noted Ewing.

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