NEWARK – A retired Newark police officer brought a gun into the Essex County Courthouse last week, and Sheriff’s investigators are now trying to determine how the weapon made it past security, officials said.
The retired officer carried the handgun into a hearing over a landlord-tenant dispute on Jan. 4, according to Kevin Lynch, a spokesman for Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura. The retired officer told medical personnel he was carrying the weapon after he became sick in the courtroom, Lynch said.
Law enforcement officers are supposed to surrender their weapons to the Sheriff’s Office if they enter the court complex on private business, according to Lynch, who said it was the first time in nearly 20 years that someone managed to ferry a weapon past security.
“We’re taking it very seriously,” said Lynch. “Whoever is at fault here will pay the appropriate penalty.” Lynch said law enforcement officers are allowed to carry weapons in the building if they are visiting the Sheriff’s Office, the prosecutor’s office or the ballistics lab. An internal investigation has been launched to determine exactly how the retired officer managed to get the firearm past security.
“We don’t know how he got in with the gun … whether the security person at the door was lax in their oversight , or whether this guy intentionally did not divulge the purpose of his visit here,” he said. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office declined to comment on the incident.
Sheriff’s officers screen roughly 2.5 million people as they enter the courthouse each year, according to Lynch, who said countless plain clothes and uniformed police officers also enter the complex with firearms each day.