Verona Police Department Detective Sergeant Timothy Banta will be honored in May by the law enforcement organization The 200 Club of Essex County for his efforts to subdue an armed and severely distraught suspect in Verona last year. Banta suffered knife wounds while making a forced entry into the suspect’s apartment after she had set fire to it and had threatened to burn down the entire building.
In January 2017, VPD officers responded to a call involving the suspect, who had been placed into an apartment in Verona through a state program that helps people with mental health issues to live independently. She was well known to the VPD because many of the officers had befriended her to help her transition to independent living, and regularly checked on her well-being. Despite this, the woman had previously attempted to harm herself in the presence of the VPD and the department had raised concerns with the state program that the woman was not adapting well to independent living.
On the day of the incident, the suspect had called the VPD in late afternoon and notified it that she had cut through the gas line in her apartment. According to the incident report, she said that she already had a “good fire going and I’m going to level the place.” When Sgt. Banta and Officer Erin McGarrity got on the scene, the suspect was screaming incoherently and the officers could see a fire burning inside the apartment. They evacuated the residents of the surrounding apartments and tried to talk the woman into opening her door.
The woman continued to refuse entry into her apartment and, when Sgt. Banta forced entry, he found her in the kitchen with a large knife in her hand. The stove had been flipped on its side and the fire coming from the cut gas line had already begun to melt the window blinds and kitchen fan. The woman attempted to use the flaming gas line against the officers. The Verona Fire Department and PSE&G were called, and the gas to the building was shut off, extinguishing the fire.
According to the incident report, the woman was told to put down the knife and refused. She lunged at the officers with the knife, but Sgt. Banta was able to get them behind the entry door for safety. Sgt. Banta began negotiating with the woman again to drop the knife. When she eventually did so, the officers were able to enter the apartment and subdue her. The Verona Rescue Squad transported the woman to a hospital, and she was later charged with multiple counts of assault and criminal mischief.
“The actions taken by Detective Sergeant Timothy Banta that day exemplify the best of the Verona Police Department,” says Acting VPD Chief Christopher Kiernan. “He was faced with numerous dangers in tight quarters, from the knife to the flames. Yet with poise and compassion he ended the stand-off with no one being injured.”
“With his words he deescalated the situation convincing her to drop the knife,” Kiernan adds. “With his actions he protected the life of the distraught woman, his officers on the scene, as well as stopping the potential destruction of the building. We are happy to report the woman is receiving the help she needed.”
“This award puts a public light on what I already know,” Kiernan says, “Verona is lucky to have Detective Sergeant Banta serving its people.”
The 200 Club of Essex County was founded in 1966 to assist the families of police officers and firefighters killed in the line of duty. It will hold its 52nd Anniversary Valor Awards luncheon on Thursday, May 10, at Nanina’s In The Park in Belleville. Governor Phil Murphy has been invited as a guest speaker. In addition to Banta, 11 other Essex County law enforcement officers and nine local firefighters will be recognized during the luncheon.
“The job of a police officer or firefighter is tougher today than ever before,” said Essex County Sheriff Armando Fontoura, a member of The 200 Club’s board of trustees, in a statement. “Law enforcement and firefighting are extremely hazardous professions which are performed at tremendous personal risk. The work of The 200 Club of Essex County is greatly appreciated by the entire public safety community and their families.”
Individual tickets for the 52nd Anniversary 200 Club Valor Awards luncheon are available at $75 each. For more information and to purchase tickets contact 973-694-4982.