An Essex County man who allegedly caused a local Walmart to be evacuated earlier today due to reports of a person inside brandishing a gun is now in custody and has been criminally charged, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo and Union Police Director Daniel Zieser jointly announced Thursday.
Joshua K. Phillips, 20, of Newark is charged with third-degree creating a false public alarm, third-degree possession of a weapon, and shoplifting, a disorderly persons offense.
Shortly after 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, numerous Union Police Department patrol units responded to the Walmart located at Springfield Road and U.S. Route 22 East on a report that a man wearing a mask had been seen with a gun in an aisle, according to the preliminary investigation.
The building was evacuated, and a search of the building revealed that a person later identified as Phillips had removed a large black airsoft gun from its packaging and later discarded it elsewhere in the store.
Phillips turned himself in at Union Police Department headquarters Thursday evening after becoming aware of significant media coverage of the incident. He was subsequently lodged in Union County Jail pending a first appearance and detention hearing to take place in Superior Court.
Convictions on third-degree criminal charges can be punishable by 3 to 5 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.