Posted Sunday, May 5th, 2019
Morris County Sheriff’s Office Detectives Nicholas Ricciotti and Timothy Palazzolo assisted Morristown Police and the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office in apprehending a 21-year-old Morristown man suspected of hiding an imitation handgun under a bush outside a Morris County government building last week, just minutes before his appointment with a county probation officer.
The investigation began on Wednesday, May 1 when a witness reported seeing what appeared to be a black-colored handgun under a bush on Court Street, by county Administration and Records Building on Court Street in Morristown.
The witness reported to police that the suspected handgun was gone when he checked a short time after he first spotted it. The witness made the observation on April 30 and reported it on May 1.
Entrances to the county building are heavily monitored by surveillance cameras and Morris County Sheriff’s Officers. Detective Ricciotti reviewed surveillance footage of the area and observed a man, later identified Maurice J. Bates of Morristown, remove a black object from his pocket and place it under a bush near the front entrance to the building on April 30.
Bates was observed entering the building and walking to the probation office around 2 p.m. on April 30. At about 2:30 p.m., the videotape shows Mr. Bates allegedly retrieving the black object from under the bush, putting it in his pocket, and walking away.
Detectives Ricciotti and Palazzolo gathered information identifying Bates and his residence. Morristown Police Detectives Scott Pino and Scott Weaver had integral roles in the investigation, including preparing search and arrest warrants that received judicial approval before being executed.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Office, Morristown Police and the Prosecutor’s Office conducted surveillance on Mr. Bates’s home on May 1. Detectives verified that Bates was at home. With the assistance of the Morris County Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT), officers entered Mr. Bates’s apartment and arrested him before conducting a search that revealed a black imitation handgun.
Bates was charged with possession of a weapon, an imitation firearm, for an unlawful purpose. The Morris County Prosecutor’s Office has filed a motion to detain him in the Morris County Correctional Facility while the charge is pending.
Morris County Sheriff James M. Gannon and Morristown Public Safety Director Michael Corcoran commend the detectives for the thorough and timely investigation.
“There are aggressive, proactive security safeguards in and around the Morris County Court Complex and Administration and Records Building. People who bring illegal weapons to the area will be caught,” Sheriff Gannon said.