Police & Fire

Man Arrested for Bias Crimes at Middle School in Union

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UNION, NJ – More details have emerged surrounding the arrest of Union resident Michael Castiglione, 49, on Sunday.

Castiglione was under investigation in connection with multiple incidents in and around Burnet Middle School in May and early June. According to a police press release, on May 9 officers investigated a report of swastikas sprayed on the sidewalk and sign at Burnet Middle School on Caldwell Avenue. In addition, a derogatory term for African-Americans was spray painted on the front sign of the school.

On May 18, police investigated a swastika drawn onto a utility box at Burnet School and on June 2, police investigated two swastikas drawn on the school grounds with white paint. 

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According to police, the school’s surveillance cameras showed a local man wandering around the school. In the very early hours of June 4, paint was found on the ground near the play area, indicating intent for additional graffiti. At that time, officers in the area observed the same local resident. Upon approach from the officers, the man ran back into his home on Berwyn Street.  A paint container was found on the school grounds. 

Police indicate that throughout the past two months the school staff had found hypodermic needles in the grassy areas of the school playground. School staff and police were especially concerned that a child could become accidentally stuck by one of the needles.

The Union Police began to watch the area of the school. At about 3 a.m. on Saturday, a police officer saw a car travelling at a high rate of speed in the area and recognized the car as belonging to Castiglione. Officers stopped Castiglione at his home on Berwyn Street. 

Under investigation, according to police, it was discovered that Castiglione had drug paraphernalia and a prohibited knife in his possession. Additionally, he was found to have a small amount of cocaine in his vehicle. He was arrested and charged with illegal possession of drugs, paraphernalia and a weapon. At that time, an angry Castiglione made threats the police officers.

Plainclothes police conducted another surveillance on Saturday night, into Sunday, watching the area of Burnet Middle School. At about 4 a.m., an officer in his unmarked vehicle watching the playground area was suddenly struck in the rear of his car. The car pulled along side the officer, who was injured, and yelled and cursed at him before driving off, including “[Expletive] the police.”

According to police, the officer recognized the driver as Michael Castiglione and alerted other officers in the area. Officers arrived at the Castiglione home just as Castiglione arrived, where they witnessed him running into his house and locking the doors. After a brief standoff, officers entered the home and arrested Castiglione, who was hiding in his bedroom closet. He resisted arrest by refusing to be handcuffed. 

Officers found a small amount of heroin, a syringe, and Nazi paraphernalia.  Castiglione’s home on Berwyn Street is directly across the street from the Burnet School playground.  

Castiglione was charged with attempted murder, based upon his actions and the prior threats he had made to the officers. He also was charged with possession of a weapon--the car--, and drug possession--the heroin. His bail is $400,000.

The injured officer, a 13-year veteran of the Police Department was taken to Overlook Hospital for examination and treatment. He was released from the hospital later on Sunday suffering with neck and back injuries

The bias crimes at Burnet Middle School are being investigated by Detective Peter Simon. If anyone has any information, please contact Detective Simon at 908-851- 5080.

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