By Ted Waddell
TUSTEN February 7, 2006 It was a close call early Friday morning for Deputy Cyrus Barnes.
Almost too close.
As the Sullivan County Sheriffs Deputy responded to a reported domestic dispute in progress at the residence of William C. Morris and his wife Jane, Morris allegedly opened fire on the deputy with a high-powered rifle.
The first bullet from the Springfield .45/70-caliber rifle punched through the driver's side door of the deputy's marked patrol vehicle and slammed into the seat, missing Barnes' leg by about six inches. A second shot went wild.
Barnes, a nine-year veteran of the Sheriff's Department, was able to back out of the driveway, but responding backup Deputy Richard Morgan also came under fire.
The Morris residence, located along Route 97 a few hundreds yards from Lander's Motel at Ten Mile River, was a familiar spot for local law enforcement authorities, as during the past year, William Morris has run afoul of the law several times.
According to the Sheriffs Department, on May 5, Morris surrendered his pistol permit; six days later (May 11), his wife called police fearing he was going to commit suicide, but Cpl. Paul Slavik and Deputy Keith Stephenson talked him into giving up his weapons (Morris was charged with second-degree menacing, a misdemeanor); and on June 11, sheriff's deputies responded to a domestic dispute call, and the situation was resolved without incident.
But at 12:43 a.m. on Friday, things started to go terribly wrong.
Moments before Morris, 50, opened fire on the two deputies, police said, his wife was able to escape the house after she called 911.
(The Morrises moved to the hamlet about two years ago from New Jersey and opened River Lights Bed & Breakfast and Yoga Center.)
In the wake of the shooting, reinforcements soon arrived, and the house was quickly surrounded by members of the Sheriff's Department and New York State Police.
Troopers assigned to the NYSP's highly-trained Mobile Response Team (MRT), dressed in camouflage, wearing heavy-body armor and packing state-of-the-art weapons, surrounded the residence and waited while NYSP negotiators established contact with the armed and barricaded suspect.
"The individual discharged his weapon it was a large caliber," said Detective Edwin Simon of the Sullivan County Sheriff's Department during on-scene comments to the press about five hours before Morris gave himself up.
"We're at the point where we're waiting to see what happens. . . . It's still very tense, very hostile," he added.
Subsequent to tossing a special bag-phone into the house linked to an emergency on-scene command center negotiators began a 12-hour process of talking Morris into surrendering peacefully.
At approximately 11:45 a.m., members of the MRT discharged four or five flashbangs into the vicinity of the residence, as it was believed Morris might have dozed off or taken his own life.
Moments after the loud reports, contact was re-established with the suspect.
According to authorities, during the volatile standoff, Morris made no requests but repeatedly threatened police.
Richard Martinkovic, Sullivan County's public safety commissioner and director of homeland security, responded to the scene with the county's new mobile command post vehicle.
Also responding to the scene was the Tusten Volunteer Ambulance Corps and NYSEG. The Narrowsburg and Lava fire departments were on standby.
After Morris was taken into custody by the NYSP MRT shortly after 1 p.m., the Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant at the Morris residence and recovered several weapons.
William Morris was charged with attempted murder in the first degree and attempted aggravated assault of a police officer.
He was arraigned before Town Justice Thomas Nuttycombe and remanded to the Sullivan County Jail without bail.
"Everybody did a tremendous job," said Sullivan County's newly elected sheriff, Michael Schiff.
"It took a while, but we couldn't ask for a better conclusion with no one being hurt on either side. . . . The negotiators talked to him for hours, and they finally got him to come out," he added at the scene.
"I'm really glad it's over and everybody can stand down."