A San Francisco man wearing a bulletproof vest arrested by Riverside police outside St. Mary School on Nov. 4 made his way into an elementary school and a church in Brookfield several days earlier, the Landmark has learned.
Brookfield police on Friday confirmed that Jeffrey W. Wo, 41, spent about a half hour inside St. Paul Lutheran School, 9035 Grant Ave., on the afternoon of Oct. 30. Wo was unattended when he reportedly took numerous photos inside two classrooms and a bathroom inside the school.
There were no students inside the school at the time and the front door of the school was unlocked, because St. Paul’s was hosting parent-teacher conferences that afternoon, according to the police report. The door is locked when school is in session.
Neither the school’s principal, Rev. Joel Brondos, nor the school secretary noticed anyone unusual enter the building. Brondos was conducting a parent-teacher conference during part of the time Wo was in the building.
Wo, wearing sunglasses and an Oakland A’s baseball cap and carrying a computer bag, was seen on the school’s video surveillance system entering the school through the front door at about 1:10 p.m.
He reportedly walked up to the second floor and then back down to the first floor and into two first-floor classrooms before leaving the building through the front entrance at 1:42 p.m.
An attempt to reach Brondos was unsuccessful Friday afternoon.
Brookfield Police Lt. Edward Petrak said that St. Paul School, like every school in Brookfield, follows strict safety protocols when classes are in session.
“When kids are in the building, the school is a secured fortress. Doors are locked and access is restricted,” Petrak said. “Unfortunately, in this instance the school just happened to be unlocked for parent-teacher conferences. We’ve learned a lesson here, and we will continue to have discussions on how to improve our plans at St. Paul’s and all of our local schools.”
That same day at 2 p.m., Wo turned up at Cornerstone Community Church, 9008 Fairview Ave. in Brookfield.
According to Pastor Gary Karwoski, Wo told the church’s secretary that he was interested in old architecture and asked if he could tour the church and take some photos. While accompanying the secretary on his tour, Wo reportedly told her that he was concerned about children because of harmful lights, saying the lights caused him pain in his right ankle.
During a brief conversation with Wo following his short tour of the church, Karwoski said Wo stated that the harmful lights were controlled by the FBI, which was out to get him.
Karwoski said he did not notice if Wo was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time. In addition, said Karwoski, neither he nor the church’s secretary felt threatened at any time.
“It seemed totally innocent,” Karwoski said. “We never felt any kind of threat.”
Wo apparently also visited St. Barbara School in Brookfield, though it’s unclear whether he entered that building. Police said Wo also admitting trying to visit the downtown Chicago office of U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk to deliver letters to him. However, Wo reportedly was removed from the building because he was wearing his bulletproof vest.
Riverside police on Nov. 4 charged Wo with disorderly conduct after he entered the parking lot of St. Mary School while children were at recess. When police interviewed him at the scene they noticed he was wearing a bulletproof vest, which alarmed them.
He reportedly claimed he wore the vest because the FBI was out to kill him. Wo was carrying $24,000 in cash when he was arrested. Riverside police admitted Wo to MacNeal Hospital in Berwyn where he remained as of Friday morning.
Brookfield police declined to charge Wo and released him to his mother and sister, who came to Chicago to assist him. Wo and his family went to the Riverside police station Friday afternoon to collect the money that had been taken from his upon his arrest. Police did not return the bulletproof vest, which they say is evidence for the court case.
Police said Wo planned to fly back to California with his family members Friday night.