WESTFIELD, N.J. – The police chief of a New Jersey town gave a direct message to angry reporters this week: I do not work for the local news media. I work for the residents.
The statement came in a briefing on Tuesday when Chief Christopher Battiloro addressed the media’s concern over lack of details during a situation in which law enforcement was neutralizing a threat of an armed man with a stockpile of ammunition at an elementary school.
“I understand that local news media has been angered by their inability to receive specific information regarding this incident,” Battiloro said. “I understand their job. I ask that they understand mine. My first priority was not responding to their requests for information, but rather ensuring the safety of those 30 children, our officers, detectives and supervisors, and the general public.”
Officers successfully took the Delaware man into custody after discovering he was allegedly armed with a handgun and 130 rounds of ammunition while parked in a Westfield elementary school parking lot. Limited details were provided to local media outlets while the situation was unfolding. The children’s safety was a number one priority, so that’s what was focused on.
Once the man was successfully apprehended, Battiloro praised his officers, saying it was “some of the finest police work I have ever seen”.
“I do not work for the local news media. I work for you – the Mayor and Council of the Town of Westfield – and I work for the residents of the Town of Westfield,” Battiloro said. “I have duty and a responsibility to you, and to them, far greater than just assuring that an arrest is made.”
Some details about the armed suspect have been kept quiet as prosecutors look to ensure a conviction in the upcoming court case. And Battiloro says it will stay that way.
“I will not, in any way, impair, impede, obstruct or otherwise take any action that might negatively impact the successful prosecution of these very serious charges, by releasing certain specific information which is beyond the public’s right to know,” Battiloro said. “That information which is a matter of public record has been released, and it was released in a timely manner, after it was carefully vetted and determined to be factual, and then only with approval of the Union County Prosecutor’s Office.”
Battiloro took over the role of Westfield Police Chief in January.
New Westfield NJ Police Chief Christopher Battiloro talking about his career and his first thoughts of being a Westfield firefighter like his father. pic.twitter.com/x7B0FWwWIU
— John Celock (@JohnCelock) January 3, 2019
He sympathized with parents. “As a parent of three school-aged children, believe me, I fully understand a parent’s need to know. I know you have specific questions. I know you want answers,” he said. “However, while certain specific information cannot be shared at this time, rest assured the Westfield Police Department is working hard to bring this matter to a successful conclusion and to ensure that this subject remains where he is right now – in jail. That is my job. That is what I am doing – and I don’t intend to fail you.”
Battiloro published a letter to his department following their heroic arrest.
“To All Members of the Westfield Police Department,
On Thursday, June 13, 2019, at approximately 1553 hours, the Westfield Police Department responded 10 Tamaques School located at 641 Willow Grove Road, Westfield NJ 07090 in an attempt to locate an individual “in crisis.” He was reportedly in a vehicle and possibly in possession or a firearn.
Officers Jeffrey Johnson and Michael Pollock subsequently located the individual in question. He was seated in a parked vehicle, directly opposite the school’s main entrance, and he was armed with a .45 caliber handgun fully loaded with hollow point bullets.
The subject was disarmed and taken into custody by Officers Johnson and Pollock without incident. Two additional fully loaded magazines were located on his person and on additional 130 rounds of ammunition were later located in the vehicle’s trunk.
While the normal school day had already ended, some 30 children were still present on the school premises in an aftercare program. Each was taken into protective custody while the interior and exterior of the school was searched for additional weapons and/or other possible evidence.
While the explicit purpose of this subject’s presence at Tamaques School may never be known for sure, I think we can all infer the worst was entirely possible.
I wish to commend all of those officers, detectives and supervisors who responded to this incident. I am certain that your brave and courageous actions thwarted any chance of tragedy and ensured the safely and well-being of all those children.
I am extremely proud of each and every one of you. Please know that it is an extreme honor for me to serve as your Chief and to call you my brother and sister officers.
Westfield Police Department”
- READ: 72 OFFICERS REMOVED FROM THE STREET AND PUT ON DESK DUTY AS SOCIAL MEDIA INVESTIGATIONS HEAT UP
Battiloro finished off the briefing with a strong message of hope.
“Please know, as Chief of Police, there is no duty or responsibility that I hold greater than ensuring the safety of your children. Have faith, trust, and confidence in your police officers,” he said. “We were there for you last Thursday. We are here for you today – and I assure you, we will be there for you tomorrow.”
You can view Battiloro’s remarks below. He begins speaking around 15:00.