Babs Donaldson was reunited with her dog, Brutus, after Donaldson’s ex-boyfriend barricaded himself in her home in a 23-hour standoff with police last month. Brutus escaped the house and hid in a nearby park until Donaldson and her family found him. Now, family and friends are raising money for Babs and Brutus to get back on their feet. (Provided photo)
The community is coming together to help Babs Donaldson start a new life after a police standoff with her ex-boyfriend left her home uninhabitable.
“She lost everything,” said Jon Roberts, Donaldson’s son.
Roberts and his wife, Erin, started a GoFundMe campaign to help Babs and Brutus, her dog, start over. Now, Donaldson’s friends have partnered with the Red Mill Inn to host “Benefit for Babs,” which takes place Nov. 17. The event will be catered by Tassone’s Wine Garden and will feature raffle prizes from local businesses and a cash bar. Donaldson’s friends also have set up a Gold Canyon candle fundraiser.
After Donaldson’s ex-boyfriend barricaded himself inside her home with a gun last month, an Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office SWAT vehicle rammed the front porch, and officers broke windows to deploy tear gas and broke doors to storm the home to arrest the man, William Lamson.
“Babs has met with some people to assess the damage that has been done to the house. Seventeen windows, several doors, flooring and drywall need to be replaced, not to mention extensive cleanup of the tear gas dust coating everything. Most of her belongings are unsalvageable,” Erin Roberts wrote in an update on the GoFundMe campaign.
The police are not liable for the damage to Donaldson’s home, and her family is still trying to figure out what, if anything, homeowners insurance will cover.
Danielle Lentz of the Red Mill Inn said she offered to host the “Benefit for Babs” after seeing several posts on Facebook asking for donations for Donaldson. The Red Mill Inn, she said, is “such a staple it would be wrong of us to not be involved.”
“One thing I noticed when I started working here [in Baldwinsville] was how close-knit it is,” said Lentz. “When something happens to one person, it happens to everyone.”
Jon Roberts said the community has been “absolutely wonderful” in its support of his mother.
“She needs to know she’s not alone,” Roberts said. “I’m trying to get through to her that it’s not just our family, it’s a whole community.”
Even Brutus is benefiting from the kindness of the community. Second Chance Canine Adoption Shelter in Jamesville, from which Donaldson rescued her furry friend, has donated food and toys. Donaldson feared for Brutus’ safety when he escaped the house during the standoff, but the family found him — scared, but safe — in a nearby park.
While his immediate goal is to get his mother back on her feet, Roberts said the damage from the standoff extends far beyond Donaldson’s home and possessions. Roberts said his mother escaped an abusive relationship with Lamson.
Baldwinsville Police Chief Mike Lefancheck told the Messenger that Lamson has a history of domestic incidents, and the Oct. 13-14 standoff began when the Baldwinsville Police Department tried to arrest Lamson on a warrant relating a previous incident.
“She’s a victim of domestic violence, she’s a victim of alcoholism, she’s a victim of drug addiction.” Roberts said of his mother. “If someone doesn’t get treatment [for those issues], you get this.”
Roberts said Donaldson was trying to help her ex-boyfriend through a time of need, but he added, “You can never fix someone because if they don’t want the help, they’re never going to change.”
Roberts said people “don’t have a clue what it’s like” to survive domestic violence.
“These situations need to be brought to light. People need to be educated about what to do, what not to do,” Roberts said.
According to Vera House’s annual Report to the Community on Domestic and Sexual Violence, which was released in October, the Onondaga County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police and town and village police departments responded to 6,839 domestic calls last year. In 2016, Vera House’s 24-hour crisis and support hotline fielded 6,198 calls. Onondaga County Family Court issued 1,043 temporary orders of protection and 168 permanent orders of protection in 2017.
“Domestic violence is disgusting,” Roberts said. “It’s a monster that will consume you if you don’t take the proper action.”
The first step in taking action, Roberts said, is listening to victims’ experiences and reacting with compassion and understanding.
“Listen, don’t judge, be understanding and love. That’s all you can do for someone in that situation,” he said. “You have to be there for them. You have to be their shoulder to cry on. Once that’s done, you have to come together and move forward in the right direction.”
If a friend or loved one is in an abusive relationship, Vera House says you should let the person know you are concerned about their safety. Assure them they are not alone and that the abuse is not their fault. While the person might not feel ready to leave their abuser right away, offer to help your loved one make a safety plan or access resources in the community.
“It’s awful to take someone’s life and shatter it … but we’ll put her back together,” Roberts said.
Roberts said he is repaying his mother for raising him and supporting him in times when he was lost and “didn’t know any better.” He said he will always be there for his mom.
“This isn’t going to break our family,” Roberts said. “I’m not going to let her fall.”
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.