WESTFIELD — A Westfield resident who barricaded himself inside of his Boulevard home following a domestic disturbance incident on Wednesday evening is facing numerous charges in connection with a 14-hour armed standoff that resulted in minor injuries, road closures and the expenditure of numerous local resources.
At approximately 3:39 p.m. that day, members of the Westfield Police Department responded to a domestic disturbance call along the 1500 block of Boulevard, the second of its kind to stem from that address on the same day.
According to police reports, officers arrived at the residential home, occupied by Michael Ward, 41, and heard an argument coming from within. Ward allegedly met the officers at the front door while brandishing a 12-inch kitchen knife.
“He was holding it above his head with the blade pointed outwards towards the officers,” Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro said in a press release the following day about the incident. “The officers demanded that Ward drop the knife, but he refused to do so and ordered that the officers leave, stating they would have to shoot in order for him to relinquish it. He then retreated back inside the residence, closing and locking the door.”
The door was subsequently opened by Ward’s mother, whose name has not been released. Officers then instructed the mother and several other people to vacate the residence, leaving only Ward inside the home. The press release goes on to note that the responding officers then learned that Ward had grabbed his wife by her throat and had applied enough pressure to it to cut off her breathing. He only agreed to let go, the press release states, once she promised to call the police.
“Ward indicated to officers that it was his intent to draw a police response, and to then die by suicide by cop,” Chief Battiloro said via the release.
Chief Battiloro stated that Westfield Police Department officers secured the area around the residence and the SWAT element of the Union County Emergency Response Team (CERT) was requested to respond. Negotiators were called in and began to initiate communication with Ward, but were unable to convince him to voluntarily exit the residence.
Nearly 14 hours after police first arrived on the scene, members of the SWAT team were able to breach the home and extricate Ward from the property. He was placed under arrest and is being charged with: one count of Aggravated Assault, 2C:12-1B(13), a crime of the second degree; one count of Terroristic Threats, 2C:12-3B, a crime of the third degree; one count of Possession of a Weapon for an Unlawful Purpose, 2C:39-4D, a crime of the third degree; one count of Unlawful Possession of a Weapon, 2C:39-5D, a crime of the third degree; and three counts of Endangering the Welfare of Children, 2C: 24-4A(2), crimes of the second degree.
Ward currently is being detained pending further proceedings.
Neighbors were forced to shelter in place during the incident. “They are safe inside their residences,” Chief Battiloro told The Westfield Leader on scene. He went on to say that there was “no threat to the general public.”
The chief explained that, “We bring negotiators out here to attempt to bring it to a peaceful resolution, without using force; that’s our intent.”
Representatives from the CERT, including SWAT and crisis negotiators, were all on scene along with the Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad, RWJ paramedics, representatives from the Union County Prosecutor’s Office, the Westfield Department of Public Works; Union County Emergency Medical Services; and the New Jersey State Police, Office of Emergency Management.
“I cannot praise enough the professional actions of all responding officers, in particular SWAT and the crisis negotiators, who worked for such a lengthy period of time in extremely hot and humid conditions, to bring this matter to a successful conclusion without any serious injuries to any persons,” Chief Battiloro said.
“No incident of this nature can ever be successfully resolved without the coordination and cooperation of many entities working together.”
Neighbors lined the streets as the standoff dragged on overnight, and police were seen escorting one family to their home during the incident after they returned to find the street roped off.
Neighbors who did not wish to be identified said that the home is a rental property but added that they did not know much about the tenants. Property-tax records show the home has been owned by Kenneth Benedetto, Jr. since 2010.