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Englewood hostage ‘standoff': What really happened


YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A woman held against her will by a drunken Englewood man told police he had just raped her when he got sick and vomited, giving her the chance to get away. As she did, he fired a shot from a handgun, bringing city police and a tactical squad that surrounded the house and tried calling him for a few hours before tossing in cannisters of gas. Then the front door opened.

James McDowell

The chemical agent awoke 49-year-old James McDowell, who apparently had passed out sometime after his 45-year-old acquaintance fled and called police on her cellphone, Englewood Deputy Police Chief Lawrence Suffern told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

Specially trained Bergen County Police officers ordered McDowell to the ground, put his hands behind his back and handcuffed him, Suffern told the website.

So what appeared at first to be a standoff really wasn’t.

“That’s the best part,” Suffern told CLIFFVIEW PILOT. “It ended peacefully… without incident.”

A neighborhood that had been rattled for more than four hours returned to normal — save for a sole police cruiser parked outside the cordoned-off red brick house, its lights flashing on the dark block, and an uniformed officer who stood sentinel in the middle of Tryon Avenue, protecting the crime scene. 

The lockdown was over.

A rape test was administered at Englewood Hospital, and McDowell was subsequently charged with aggravated sexual assault — the legal term for rape — in addition to kidnapping, making terroristic threats and illegal handgun possession.

The victim, who lists a Bushkill, Pa., address, was released from the hospital after being tested and treated, Suffern said.

“We’re still trying to determine whether she was a friend or an associate,” the deputy chief told CLIFFVIEW PILOT.

She had gone to the house and found McDowell drunk and despondent over something, Suffern said.

“At some point he refused to allow her to leave the residence,” the deputy chief told the website. “Then, she said, she was sexually assaulted.”

Around 7:45 p.m., McDowell became sick and she ran out the side door, Suffern told CVP.

Englewood Police and the Bergen County SWAT team spent more than a few hours trying to roust McDowell on his cell phone, which Suffern said went straight to voicemail. The home phone wasn’t working, he said.

Finally, around midnight, the tactical officers fired the chemical agent through the front window, the deputy chief said.

Detectives haven’t officially determined whether McDowell fired the shot at his fleeing companion. It’s an important conclusion that could lead to an attempted murder charge.

The investigators have obtained a search warrant and were combing the house in search of the gun, Suffern said.

In doing so, they had to determine how to deal with three dogs McDowell kept in the house. The trio could be heard barking during the night.

McDowell was taken to Bergen Regional Medical Center pending transfer to the Bergen County Jail. His bail: $500,000.

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