After a tense armed standoff, Nathaniel Lewis, 34, of Pennsylvania, surrendered when a SWAT team negotiator sang him "White Christmas"

By KC Baker
December 28, 2018 01:44 PM
Nathaniel Lewis, 34, of East Vincent Township, Pennsylvania
Chester County Prison

A SWAT negotiator with a do-whatever-it-takes attitude ended a tense, hours-long standoff and dangerous shootout with an armed Pennsylvania man by serenading him with a Christmas carol.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan wrote on his Facebook page about the near-deadly crisis that was averted with the holiday classic “White Christmas.”

At about 9 p.m. on Christmas Day, police responded to a call from a concerned family member who’d asked police to check on Nathaniel Lewis, 34, who “was in the process of separating from his wife and was behaving erratically,” according to a press release from the Chester County District Attorney’s Office obtained by PEOPLE.

When police learned that Lewis, a National Guard member, was armed, they called in a local SWAT team, the release states.

“Over a long and cold night, they kept negotiating with the man, who eventually started shooting at the police and around the neighborhood,” Hogan wrote in his Facebook post.

Armed with a rifle, Lewis shot at officers sitting inside and standing near an armored SWAT vehicle, hitting it, according to the release.

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Lewis fired shots that hit a nearby house and a neighbor’s parked car as police returned fire, the release says.

What ended the 10-hour standoff? 

“A SWAT negotiator finally talked him into surrendering at 6:00 a.m. this morning by singing a Christmas carol for him,” Hogan wrote.

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Lewis, it turns out, had demanded that the SWAT team sing “White Christmas” to him, the release says.

When a negotiator finished the song, Lewis surrendered, according to authorities.

“This was a very different demand,” East Vincent Township Police Chief Matt Williams, who is also the head of the SWAT team, tells PEOPLE.

The team member who sang the iconic Christmas song that ended the standoff might not be the next Bing Crosby, but “he was good enough to accomplish the goal,” says Williams.

That’s not all. When the DA’s office was called to the scene to help in the investigation, “I brought Christmas cookies for some cold and tired SWAT team members,” Hogan said in his post.

“This being SWAT, they ate the cookies, made fun of each other, and went home to their families, quietly satisfied with a job well done,” he wrote. “All of Chester County says thank you. More news on criminal charges tomorrow. #chescojustice#weneversleep.”

Lewis was taken into custody about 7 a.m. Wednesday, the release says.

He faces multiple counts of attempted homicide, aggravated assault and related charges, according to the DA’s office. He remains held at the Chester County Prison, a prison official confirms to PEOPLE.

He is being held without bail, according to multiple outlets, including KYW-TV, CBS’ Philadelphia station.

It is unclear whether he has retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

Williams, who says the investigation is ongoing, praised his team for saving the day. “I can’t be prouder of the way they responded,” he tells PEOPLE. “Incidents like these is why we train so much and are constantly training. Our goal is to save lives.”

Hogan agrees. “This is as close to a Christmas miracle as you’re going to get,” Hogan told KYW-TV. “Everybody got to go home to their families that day. All the SWAT guys got to go home to their families. The defendant got taken into custody but at least he wasn’t killed.”

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