ONLY ON CLIFFVIEW PILOT : Warren Saunders, 60, admitted to police that he circled the athletic field at Westwood Regional Middle School in a small plane and dropped three rolls of toilet paper last night, during what he said was a practice run for this Saturday’s high school football game against Mahwah, when he planned to drop streamers, Westwood Police Chief Frank Regino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
It was about 6:40 p.m. when police got calls from parents of soccer players who were practicing on the athletic field at the Third Avenue school (formerly the Ketler School). A small, single-engine Cessna was circling the field, dropping objects, he said.
“Not knowing what this could be, we immediately contacted the Port Authority. We contacted the Bergen County Police Department, and we contacted the Bergen County Sheriff’s Office, which has a Bureau of Criminal Identification to collect evidence,” Regino said. “We also contacted the FAA at Teterboro Airport and the prosecutor’s office.
“So we had everybody on board as quickly as possible, just in case.”
Detectives quickly identified Saunders after a vigiliant parent mentioned that the high schoolers were discussing a prank online involving an aircraft flying over the field during the Cardinals’ game this Saturday.
Investigators then obtained a list of pilots in Westwood and quickly found Saunders, of Westwood Boulevard, who operates his craft out of Caldwell Airport in Fairfield, Regino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
As reported on CLIFFVIEW PILOT last night, police brought Saunders, whose mother-in-law died a little over a month ago, to headquarters for questioning. After he told his story, they let him go — and immediately contacted the FAA to determine what type of criminal statutes could be applied in this case, the chief said.
Before long, they had produced a complaint
“Based on the advice of the advice of the FAA and the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, we drafted a complaint under Title 6, Chapter 2, dash 11 (Title 6:2-11),” Regino said. “It’s basically a fourth-degree crime of dropping things from a plane.”
Although “toilet papering” is perenially a popular prank leading up to Halloween, Saunders’ purpose was to gauge the effect of colored streamers as a rallying gimmick for the Cardinals.
“There were only three rolls dropped. They apparently got wet on the way down,” the chief said. “One fell right on the field. Another one fell on the edge of the field near the bleachers, and the third fell near a wooded area.”
Streams of paper were still clinging to the higher branches this morning.
“When you think of the alternative, it could have been a horror,” Regino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .
“I’m very grateful we have the ability at this point to sit back to make toilet-paper jokes, considering the potential here. This could have been very serious,” the chief said. “Between the kids and the adults, you had 100 people on or around that field.
“It was more than an error in judgment.”
In an ironic twist: During ceremonies in June, Saunders’ son was given the Dwight D. Eisenhower Award for Outstanding Leader of Character.
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