A Newark man is in custody and facing numerous serious charges after allegedly committing an attempted robbery and carjacking at gunpoint, then breaking into a Linden home and engaging police in a nearly five-hour standoff on Sunday, acting Union County Prosecutor Michael A. Monahan and Linden Police Chief David Hart jointly announced Monday.
Officials say Willie S. Wright, 50, is charged with first-degree robbery, first-degree carjacking, a first-degree weapons offense, second-degree burglary, second-degree eluding police, three second-degree weapons offenses, third-degree burglary, third-degree hindering apprehension, fourth-degree obstruction of justice, and criminal mischief.
According to authorities, just after 9:15 a.m. on Dec. 9th, Linden Police Department patrol units responded to reports of an attempted robbery at the Aviation Plaza shopping center at U.S. Routes 1&9 and West Edgar Road in Linden to discover that Wright had allegedly entered a parked vehicle while the owner was in the driver’s seat and demanded that he surrender his wallet, according to the preliminary investigation.
The victim, a 69-year-old Linden resident, refused, prompting a physical altercation with Wright that ended when he struck the victim in the head with a handgun. Wright then entered another parked vehicle nearby and sped away.
Responding patrol units quickly located the 2013 Hyundai Elantra and pursued it as Wright drove north on U.S. Routes 1&9 until he lost control and struck a curb, utility pole, and guardrail near South Park Avenue before also colliding with a 2017 Ford van.
At this point Wright allegedly approached the driver of the van, produced a handgun, and attempted to carjack the vehicle, but the driver refused to get out, prompting Wright to flee the scene on foot as arriving officers drew near.
Officials say Wright then allegedly broke into the basement of a home on the 600 block of South Park Avenue in Linden, at which time the home’s occupants all immediately managed to escape to safety. The aforementioned standoff ensued, with members of the Union County Emergency Response Team (UCERT) SWAT Unit engaging Wright in lengthy negotiations and ultimately entering the home and taking him into custody without incident at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
A handgun was later recovered from the rear yard of a nearby home.
“I am in complete admiration of the professionalism, dedication, and restraint exhibited by the UCERT SWAT Unit and by all members of law enforcement who responded to Sunday’s events,” Prosecutor Monahan said. “They managed to defuse an extremely dangerous situation created by an armed defendant with no qualms about using violence to achieve his aims.”
“Protecting our community is a team effort, and that is evident during large-scale incidents like this,” Chief Hart said. “Everyone involved, from the initial responding officers to the detectives, the agencies from across the county that assisted, and the victims and neighbors in the area who cooperated with this investigation, should be extremely proud that their efforts helped to bring this conflict to a peaceful resolution.”
In addition to UCERT SWAT and Linden police, responding agencies also included the Union County Police Department, Union County Prosecutor’s Office, Union County Sheriff’s Office, Elizabeth Police Department, and Roselle Police Department.
Wright was lodged in Union County Jail pending a first appearance and detention hearing expected to take place later this week.
Convictions on first-degree offenses are commonly punishable by 10 to 20 years in state prison.
These criminal charges are mere accusations. Each defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.