WESTFIELD, NJ — Seven town police officers will be among those recognized by the New Jersey State PBA later this month.
Officers Jeffrey Johnson, Michael Pollock, Joseph Habeiche, Elizabeth Savnik and Tiffany Kenny, along with Detectives Nicholas Bruno and Jason Merritt, will be presented with the state PBA’s Unit Citation Award for their arrest of an armed man on the grounds of Tamaques School June 13, police said.
“I am extremely proud of these officers and detectives and how they worked together in such a flawless manner,” said Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro in a joint statement with Westfield PBA Local 90 President Paul Ferry. “Their courageous actions undoubtedly prevented a loss of life, and are they are worthy of such a prestigious recognition.”
Responding to a report of a man in crisis, officers Johnson and Pollock located the 46-year-old Delaware man seated in a parked vehicle opposite the school’s main entrance, police said. He was seated in a parked vehicle armed with a .45 caliber handgun loaded with hollow point bullets, police said.
Officers quickly disarmed the man, later identified as Thomas J. Wilkie, and found two fully loaded magazines in his pockets and an additional 130 rounds of ammunition in the trunk of the vehicle, police said.
“Although the normal school-day had already ended, some 30 children were still present on the school premises in an aftercare program,” the statement from Battiloro said. “The additional responding officers and detectives placed the school into a lockdown, assumed custody of each and every child and thoroughly searched the interior and exterior of the building and its grounds for additional possible threats.”
According documents filed in the case, Wilkie was at the school to see a woman whom he had a romantic relationship with and entered the building, where he placed a phone call to her.
News of the valor awards follows the announcement Oct. 23 that that the Union County Prosecutor’s Office indicted Wilkie on six charges, including third-degree possession of a firearm in or upon the grounds of an educational institution, and second-degree possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.
The NJ State PBA is New Jersey’s largest law enforcement labor union, representing over 33,000 law enforcement officers. The valor awards banquet will be held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino located on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City Nov. 23.
Ferry, who in addition to leading the Westfield PBA Local 90 is a plainclothes officer with the department, offered praise for the law enforcement personnel who made the arrest.
“These officers are skilled professionals who serve their community with pride and distinction,” Ferry said. “The recognition they are receiving is not only warranted, but well-deserved. I am extremely proud to work alongside these individuals and to serve as their union representative.”