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 Friday.
Officials say, 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 Thursday, 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, where they located Wilkie in the front seat of his vehicle.
On approaching the car, police 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.
Arriving officers were able to take 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 deescalated a situation that easily could have turned tragic.” said Prosecutor Ruotolo, who commended the Westfield Police Department under Chief Battiloro’s leadership, as well as the incredible work of Assistant Prosecutors Theresa Hilton and Nicole Siano who prosecuted the case.
Late last year, Prosecutor Ruotolo denied Wilkie’s request for a Graves waiver in the case; such filings are made by defendants seeking to avoid imposition of the state’s mandatory minimum sentence for gun offenses. He pleaded guilty last month, resulting in today’s sentence.
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 responding 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, labeling it the single most relevant aggravating or mitigating factor in the case. “Thank God (the situation) was defused,” Daniel said. “But the public was exposed to the threat of serious harm.”