WESTFIELD, NJ — A Delaware man who was found to be in possession of a handgun, numerous rounds of ammunition and a folding knife outside of a Westfield elementary school last year has been sentenced to five years in state prison, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro jointly announced on Feb. 21.
Thomas J. Wilkie, 46, of Bear, Delaware, must serve a minimum of 42 months of that term before the possibility of parole, under the terms set down by Union County Superior Court Judge William A. Daniel.
The case began at approximately 3:55 p.m. on June 13, 2019, when the New Castle County Police Department in Delaware notified the Westfield Police Department that a man, later identified as Wilkie, was en route to Tamaques Elementary School and potentially armed.
Westfield Police Department patrol officers and detectives promptly responded to the school.
They located Wilkie at the school, in the front seat of his vehicle.
On approaching the car, police officers found Wilkie holding a .45-caliber handgun loaded with hollow-point bullets.
Two additional loaded clips of ammunition and a folding knife were recovered from Wilkie’s person, and 130 rounds of ammunition were located in the vehicle’s trunk.
Officers talked Wilkie into custody without incident, and the school was temporarily placed on lockdown as a precautionary measure.
“The bravery and professionalism demonstrated by officers Jeffrey Johnson and Michael Pollack of the Westfield Police Department was exemplary. Their quick thinking and heroism de-escalated a situation that easily could have turned tragic,” said Ruotolo, who commended the Westfield Police Department under Battiloro’s leadership, as well as the work of Assistant Prosecutors Theresa Hilton and Nicole Siano, who prosecuted the case.
Late last year, Ruotolo denied Wilkie’s request for a Graves Act waiver in the case. Such filings are made by defendants seeking to avoid imposition of the state’s mandatory minimum sentence for gun offenses. Wilkie pleaded guilty last month.
During the sentencing hearing, reading from a handwritten five-page note, Wilkie expressed remorse for his actions, describing the incident as “unconscionable, frightening and unacceptable.” Wilkie thanked Westfield Police Department officers by name for their “professionalism, restraint, and mercy” in defusing a tense situation of his own making.
“The defendant went to school with a gun … and there were children present,” said Assistant Prosecutor Siano, adding that “the need [for deterrence from similar conduct] is paramount.”
Judge Daniel agreed. “Thank God [the situation] was defused,” he said. “But the public was exposed to the threat of serious harm.”