Portsmouth man charged after overnight standoff with police

Nine-hour ordeal ends peacefully

EastBayRI.com ·

PORTSMOUTH — An overnight standoff on Boyds Lane ended peacefully this morning with the arrest of a local man on firearms charges.

James Lawrence, 39, of 561 Boyds Lane, was taken into custody at about 6:35 a.m. Monday after Rhode Island State Police negotiators convinced him to leave his home, where he had been holed up since 9 p.m. Sunday after allegedly pointing a gun at a neighbor, according to Portsmouth Police Chief Thomas Lee.

Mr. Lawrence will be charged with felony assault with a dangerous weapon and will be arraigned this morning in Newport County District Court.

“He also made some threats to police. We’re still looking at possibly charging him with additional charges. He endangered his neighbor’s safety, he completely disrupted the neighbors here. We’re glad he did come out, though, and this was resolved peacefully,” the chief said.

The events unfolded at 9:09 p.m. Sunday, when Portsmouth Police responded to 561 Boyds Lane for a report of a man who had threatened two women with a firearm. At the scene, a 46-year-old Portsmouth woman told police she had been contacted by the suspect’s girlfriend, who was attempting to get her keys that were inside the home, police said.

When the woman tried to help the suspect’s girlfriend retrieve her keys, she was confronted by Mr. Lawrence, police said. Mr. Lawrence was upset and intoxicated and allegedly obtained a firearm from his residence, police said. 

He then reportedly loaded the firearm and threatened his girlfriend and the other woman with the gun, according to police, who added Mr. Lawrence reportedly also threatened harm to anyone who messed with him.

Police set up a perimeter around the property in case the man was still inside and armed, said Chief Lee. “We had reason to believe he had several firearms inside the home,” the chief said.

Mr. Lawrence would not answer the door and turned off all of the lights in the home, according to police. After about an hour, police had some contact with the man. 

SWAT Team called

“He refused to come out so we called for additional reinforcements, from Bristol, Middletown and then we got the State Police out here with their SWAT Team,” the chief said.

Mr. Lawrence had “barricaded himself in” and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol, the chief said. 

“We had some on-and-off contact with him through the night to try to negotiate with him. For a period about three hours or so, we hadn’t heard anything from him, so we moved the armored vehicle right up to the front door,” said the chief, who speculated that the man may have dozed off for a while. “We were able to get some contact again with him and convinced him to come out. The State Police negotiators did a great job.”

Mr. Lawrence is known to police. “Portsmouth Police have arrested him in the past — a few years ago,” Chief Lee said.

According to court records, Mr. Lawrence has faced previous charges of assault, obstructing police, disorderly conduct and other counts.

He could possibly face domestic charges as police gather more information. “He had some sort of dispute with perhaps a girlfriend, who had left the house before the second argument happened with the neighbor. We’re still trying to find out all the information,” Chief Lee said.

Traffic re-routed

During the standoff, police blocked traffic on Boyds Lane from the Mt. Hope Bridge to Anthony Road. “We had Boyds Lane shut down from about 9 o’clock last night. But, we had great cooperation from Rhode Island DOT and we got some message boards out on (Route) 24. We did try to get the word out on Facebook that the roads would be closed,” Chief Lee said. Some neighbors near the site of the standoff were moved to a different location for their safety, he said.

“I’d just like to thank all the law enforcement officers involved,” the chief said. “They did a great job — the Portsmouth officers, the Middletown officers, the State Police, the Bristol officers. We all worked together as a team.”


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