In wake of weapons arrest, Morristown mayor calls for mandatory psych evaluations of suspects

Press conference: From left, Police Det. Sgt. Chris Oakley, Police Chief Pete Demnitz, Mayor Tim Dougherty, Councilwoman Alison Deeb, Councilman Michael Elms and town Attorney Vij Pawar. Photo by Kevin Coughlin for MorristownGreen.com
Press conference: From left, Police Det. Sgt. Chris Oakley, Police Chief Pete Demnitz, Mayor Tim Dougherty, Councilwoman Alison Deeb, Councilman Michael Elms and town Attorney Vij Pawar. Photo by Kevin Coughlin for MorristownGreen.com
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Police car sits outside the Hyatt at Headquarters Plaza on Wednesday. Patrols have been stepped up since a man allegedly toting guns was arrested inside the complex on the morning of July 29, 2015. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Police car sits outside the Hyatt at Headquarters Plaza on Wednesday. Patrols have been stepped up since a man allegedly toting guns was arrested inside the complex on the morning of July 29, 2015. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

By Kevin Coughlin

On a day when police  killed a gunman who entered a movie theater near Nashville, TN, Morristown Mayor Tim Dougherty called for New Jersey legislation to mandate psychiatric screenings of suspected gunmen before they are allowed to post bail.

His statement, delivered Wednesday outside town hall with Police Chief Pete Demnitz by his side, was prompted by Monday’s release of Andrew Pfitzenmayer.

The 26-year-old from Peapack-Gladstone was arrested one week ago in the Headquarters Plaza complex with two Glock semi-automatic pistols, hollow-point bullets, a bullet-proof vest, handcuffs, an expandable baton and a fake badge, according to authorities.

Superior Court Judge Stephen Taylor declined to order a psychiatric evaluation of Pfitzenmayer, despite requests from the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office to do so.

“I believe that’s wrong,” Dougherty said of the judge’s decision. “I’m sure he’s going to have a lot of questions asked of him by local moms.”

Headquarters Plaza includes a daycare center, a multi-screen movie theater, a hotel, fitness center, law offices, restaurants and an office of the U.S. Secret Service.

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The mayor said he will ask other mayors to join him in pressing state lawmakers for a bill to remove such discretion from judges.

“If you are arrested for concealed weapons, [it should be] mandatory that a psychiatric evaluation be given prior to bail and release,” Dougherty said.  “It’s not about Second Amendment rights.  It’s about someone arrested for unlawful possession of firearms in a public place.”

Charged with unlawful possession of weapons and possession of prohibited ammunition, Pfitzenmayer was released Monday night from the Morris County Jail on $100,000 bail, the maximum that could be imposed for those charges, according to the Mayor.

Press conference: From left, Police Det. Sgt. Chris Oakley, Police Chief Pete Demnitz, Mayor Tim Dougherty, Councilwoman Alison Deeb, Councilman Michael Elms and town Attorney Vij Pawar. Photo by Kevin Coughlin for MorristownGreen.com
Press conference: From left, Police Det. Sgt. Chris Oakley, Police Chief Pete Demnitz, Mayor Tim Dougherty, Councilwoman Alison Deeb, Councilman Michael Elms and town Attorney Vij Pawar. Photo by Kevin Coughlin for MorristownGreen.com

Pfitzenmayer is CEO of St. Leger Concierge, an event planning company in Somerset County, according to his social media pages. He also lists himself as a volunteer in the Far Hills-Bedminster fire department; he was expelled from a rescue squad, according to a Daily Record report.

Judge Taylor, a former prosecutor, declined to comment to MorristownGreen.com about his bail decision.

In a statement, Prosecutor Fredric Knapp said his office was prohibited from discussing pending cases.

Those same restrictions prevented Morristown police from revealing details about their July 29, 2015, arrest.

INCREASED PATROLS

Police patrols have been stepped up at Headquarters Plaza and other unspecified areas, and a photo of Pfitzenmayer has been circulated among security personnel at HQ Plaza, said Chief Demnitz.

Authorities have not released a photo for the public, however. There was no audio recording of last week’s bail hearing, court employees said, but a stenographer did document the proceeding. No transcript was available as of Wednesday, however.

The judge ordered Pfitzenmayer to surrender his passport and forfeit his weapons.

Additionally, he cannot return to Headquarters Plaza or have contact with its tenants or patrons, or have contact with any federal, state or local law enforcement agency without a legitimate public safety reason, said Denise Arseneault, a deputy chief in the prosecutor’s office and spokesman for Knapp.

Authorities also will conduct “wellness checks” on Pfitzenmayer, said Mayor Dougherty, who met with the prosecutor’s office for 90 minutes on Wednesday. More criminal charges are possible, added town Attorney Vij Pawar.

“I’m sure he’s going to have a lot of questions asked of him by local moms.”  — Mayor Tim Dougherty, on Judge Stephen Taylor declining to order a psychiatric evaluation of man who allegedly brought weapons into complex with a daycare center.

Taylor served as a prosecutor under then-U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in Newark, and was appointed to the bench by Gov. Christie in February 2013. He was director of the state Division of Criminal Justice from 2010 until his judicial appointment.

Before that, Taylor was a partner in the firm Taylor, Colicchio & Silverman LLP. He spent 13 years as an Essex County prosecutor after graduating from Villanova University’s law school in 1985.

No theater-goers were killed in Wednesday’s incident in Tennessee. But two patrons of a Louisiana theater died when a gunman opened fire there last month.

If Morristown’s still-murky story has a hero, Chief Demnitz said it’s the as-yet-unnamed “non-sworn police officer” who “noticed something unusual” and did what citizens have been asked to do ever since 9/11.

“Someone noticed something, someone said something, and called authorities,” the chief said.

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3 COMMENTS

  1. The psychiatric evaluation would have been used to determine whether or not the person under arrest should be held until trial without bail. I agree with the Mayor and hope he has the support of many others.

  2. Mental health is the avenue to gun control..
    It was used to confiscate guns in Eastern Europe prior to WWII..

    American Psychiatric Asso: Half of Americans are mentally ill..
    After crafting by politicians and Media all will be crazy except for them..

    300 million prescriptions for psychiatric drugs were written in 2009 alone..
    Your children on medication for ADHD?
    Single woman with children diagnosed with depression?

    Be careful what you ask for…….

  3. Mr. Mayor, since elected officials can, through their office, enact laws and mandate other far-reaching policy decisions, how about this? Any office holder who propose any infringement of any of the Rights of citizens be subject to mandatory psychiatric evaluation and be disqualified from public office if any instability, paranoia, or megalomania whatsoever is found by the doctors? After all, your actions can have, potentially, far more harm than one person with a firearm.

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