ELIZABETH, NJ – A Delaware man accused of waiting on the grounds of an elementary school in Westfield with hollow-point bullets and a loaded handgun pleaded not guilty to weapons charges as a state court judge on Wednesday ordered that he remains in jail.
Clad in an orange jumpsuit and standing before state Superior Court Judge William A. Daniel, Thomas J. Wilkie, 46, of Bear, Delaware agreed to the terms of his plea on the weapons charges authorities lodged against him last week. Westfield police arrested him just outside of Tamaques School in Westfield. At the hearing, Wilkie's attorney spoke for him.
“I will be consenting to his detention today,” his attorney, Janice Massasoit, told the judge. “It is my intention to have an evaluation done.”
Wilkie faces charges of second-degree unlawful possession of a weapon, fourth-degree possession of hollow-point bullets and fourth-degree trespassing on school grounds, Daniel said. Prosecutors have also charged Wilkie with third-degree possession of a firearm in or on the grounds of an educational institution, he said.
“The defendant has stipulated probable cause and he has consented to his ongoing detention,” Daniel told the court. “So I hereby order his ongoing detention pending further determination of this court.”
At 3:55 p.m. on June 13, Westfield police had responded to Tamaques Elementary School on a report from the New Castle County Police Department in Delaware that a man, later identified as Wilkie, was en route to the school and may be armed, authorities said.
Authorities then locked down the school while police arrested Wilkie, whose presence at the school has rattled residents in the suburban community. Westfield has not seen a gun fired in the town’s borders since at least 2015, according to the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.
Wilkie's motives and actions leading up to the arrest were not discussed at Wednesday's hearing.
The local incident has sparked a community conversation about school security – something apparent at simultaneous meetings of the Westfield school board and Town Council this week.
Gov. Phil Murphy has also taken note.
Just before the detention hearing Tuesday, Murphy visited Westfield, where he held a news conference on gun legislation where the state’s chief executive sported a Westfield Police Department jacket.
Jackie Lieberman and John Mooney of TAPinto contributed to this story. Email Staff Writer Matt Kadosh at firstname.lastname@example.org; Follow him on Twitter: @MattKadosh
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Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect that Thomas J. Wilkie's attorney at the hearing is Janice Massasoit.