Off duty West Tisbury police officer accused of OUI after rolling car

Off duty West Tisbury police officer accused of OUI after rolling car

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The 2006 Honda CRV rolled at least once and sustained massive damage, police said. — File photo courtesy of Edgartown Poli

Updated 5:30 pm, January 22

Edgartown Police will summons Russell Ventura of West Tisbury to Edgartown District Court to face charges of operating under the influence of alcohol, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, and marked lanes violations, following a single-car accident Thursday night that sent the off-duty West Tisbury police officer to the hospital and left his vehicle a complete wreck.

In a telephone conversation Friday, West Tisbury Police Chief Daniel Rossi told The Times that Mr. Ventura, an officer for the past four years, had been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation by Edgartown police and the disposition of the case.

Edgartown police and emergency rescue personnel responded to a report of a vehicle that had struck a tree on West Tisbury Road near Metcalf Drive just before the State Forest at 7:41 pm, Thursday. When police arrived, they found Mr. Ventura, 39, standing outside his badly damaged car, with blood on his mouth and ear.

“The vehicle had damage to all four sides, the roof, the undercarriage, and the rear driver’s side wheel was no longer attached,” officer William Bishop wrote in his report.

Mr. Ventura told police he was driving outbound from Edgartown when he swerved, and the car “just dug in on the side of the road.” Officer Bishop said that while speaking to Mr. Ventura, he could “detect an odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his mouth.”

Mr. Ventura said he did not need medical attention. Officer Bishop and Sergeant Ken Johnson advised Mr. Ventura that, due to the severity of the accident, it was possible he had sustained internal injuries and needed to be examined by a doctor. Mr. Ventura agreed to be transported to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

As a result, officer Bishop said, he was was not able to conduct field sobriety tests.

Following an inspection of the accident scene, Officer Bishop said it appeared that Mr. Ventura crossed over the center dividing line into the opposite lane of travel, left the roadway, struck a tree and traveled about 200 more feet along the dirt area between the roadway and the bike path. “It appeared Russell [Ventura] attempted to correct his operation while being off the roadway by turning his wheel,” he said. “This caused the vehicle to roll over at least one time, but possibly more.”

Officer Bishop went to the hospital emergency room accompanied by State Police Trooper David Parent and Sergeant Joseph Pimental, who also responded to the report of a serious crash and have Island-wide jurisdiction. Officer Bishop read Mr. Ventura his Miranda rights and told him that police would seek criminal charges in connection with the accident.

Mr. Ventura refused a police request to submit to a chemical test and give a blood sample, according to the police report. Officer Bishop placed a criminal citation on a side table in the treatment room, explained the charges, and left.

Because Mr. Ventura was under medical care, Edgartown Sergeant Craig Edwards said police decided to summons him.

Mr. Ventura had four court business days from the time he received the citation to request a show cause hearing when a clerk magistrate can decide if there is probable cause to move forward with an arraignment on the charges. The court may also decide to hold a hearing, or proceed directly to a summons and arraignment on the charges. In all likelihood, those familiar with the process said, Mr. Ventura will be called to appear at a show cause hearing.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story reported that Mr. Ventura lives in Oak Bluffs, as noted in the police report. His residence is in West Tisbury.



  2. A police officer “was not able to conduct field sobriety tests” and my favorite “refused a police request to submit to a chemical test, and submit his blood” Where is the safety in this? The police on the island could get away with murder, as far as I’m concerned. Nice work Edgartown Police, you’ve truely outdone yourself this time, I can’t wait to be paying for his leave.

    1. Oh, I get it, you’re supposed to make somebody who is apparently injured and make them hop one one foot and walk a line. You also do have the right to refuse a breathalyzer, there’s just a serious legal consequence for doing so. Personally, I would actually wait until it goes to court, a verdict reached, and a sentence actually read before assuming he’s getting away with anything, but, hey, that’s just me.

        1. Sorry to disappoint you, but, I don’t have The Shining, so, Tony wasn’t telling me an off-duty cop would roll his SUV.

      1. He was conscious and breathing.. And sure, he had the right to deny it. The consequence for denial is nothing to a DUI, this guy will get away clean and paid because guess what, he knows his rights.

        1. hey may have refused the chemical test, however he was transported to the hospital where they take blood. The medical records can be subpoenaed and used in court

      2. “Mr. Ventura refused a police request to submit to a chemical test, and submit his blood, according to the police report.”…

      3. Refusing a breathalyzer is an automatic loss of license for 1 year. I doubt he can be a cop with no license

        1. he did not refuse the breathalyzer, he circumvented it by going to the hospital. Then he refused the blood draw. Note to self: if ever in a similar situation, immediately state that I felt ill and needed medical attention to avoid any field testing

          1. You can’t do a breathalyzer in the hospital. He refused a blood sample which is an automatic 180 day loss of license. If the hospital or Paramedics drew blood (which they routinely do) those results can be subpoenaed for court.

    2. What are you talking about? Field sobriety tests are not conducted when someone is injured and everyone has the right to refuse a blood test. If this were really a case of the police trying to protect their own, then Officer Bishop would not have mentioned the smell of alcohol and the Edgartown PD would not be summoning him to court.

    3. You have no obligation to perform field sobriety tests if asked by the Police.
      And there is no penalty for declining the ‘opportunity to give the police the rope to hang you with’.
      You DO have ‘implied consent’ to take a breathalyzer, and refusing to do so has penalties which include license suspensions (whether or not you’re found guilty of OUI)
      Officer Bishop did the right thing and charged him with operating under the influence, neg op, and marked lanes violations.. You should be thankful that the professionals of the Edgartown PD did not give any special treatment to Mr Ventura. (or the article would have read ‘lucky island driver avoids injuries after rolling over car while swerving to avoid deer”)
      And the accused (Mr Ventura) has the same right as every other accused boozer on the island to ask for a jury of his peers, in which case he will ‘plead out’ and get ‘continued without a finding’ like the rest of the accused boozers on the island.

      1. I don’t think anyone is understanding my post but regardless of rights, laws, police enforcement…. He is an officer of the law, he was standing by the scene requesting not to be taken to the hospital. If he was fine then why would he need to deny the request, twice? He knew his way around it. Plain and simple.

  3. “made the decision to summons Mr. Ventura because he was under medical care.” PLEASE!

  4. I know some people think Copland is a documentary, but, I see things a little differently. I see a Police Chief having to call his counterpart in a neighboring town that one of his officers just rolled his car and he’s not badly injured at the emergency room with one of his officers and a couple of Staties who are pressing charges that include an OUI. He also refused to take a breathalyzer or a blood test. It’s in both local papers and the citizens are not happy. The Chief dreads going to the office in the morning because there will l be phone calls and voicemails from selectmen and others he’ll have to deal with. Do you really want to be the officer at the bottom of that hill? Even if he does manage to save his career, he’ll be under such a high power microscope, it might not be worth it.

  5. You have to be pretty drunk to hit a tree at 7:41 in the evening. Glad he didnt kill someone.

  6. The last line is not completely accurate. The case will only go to a magistrate’s hearing if so requested by Mr. Ventura within four court business days of being served his citation. If not it will go to arraignment.

  7. Amazing that another drinkers life is saved by the great design of our cars. That someone could walk away from this shows how far the safety equipment has come. Well done auto makers protecting people from themselves.

  8. I believe that all involved used appropriate actions for the circumstances. I trust police chief Rossi to do the right thing. Have faith in the system people.

  9. What a strikingly different reaction from within the community when 2 different, one male, one female, police officers are caught being very inappropriate while off-duty. One (allegedly) gets drunk and drives and the other gets drunk and dances provocatively in public. Both local papers recount the female’s actions and whereabouts before and after the drunk incident, but not the male’s. Where was Ventura coming from and what was he doing before he rolled his car and was charged with drunk driving? Clearly, a drunk driver, no matter his job, is a danger to the community and deserves outrage. On the other hand, a drunk dancer who calls a cab to go home is pilloried in the paper. Pretending that this remarkable difference isn’t the first thing that the community should comment on is sexist.

    1. The female officer in question is also a total piece of work and in addition to dancing like a stripper in a crowded bar, ALSO crashed and totaled a cruiser while on duty.

  10. He will get off because this island is full of two way streets and if you know someone or belong to a dept like fire or police even tho you break the law they always back you up and people get away with crimes but if it were me a regular 25 year old kid I would be in jail with high bail and would not revive the backing to get off Scott free. He should be fired lose his license and get community service like the rest of the normal functioning society here no favors own up to being stupid and Drunk and take the consequences like a man not a 18 year old who’s parents know the capt on the police dept

  11. Unless someone has been seriously injured, they ALWAYS wait around for the hospital to release you and then take yo to jail. Always. Except for cops.

  12. Edgartown Sergeant Craig Edwards said police made the decision to summons Mr. Ventura because he was under medical care . Is this the same treatment as others that crash there vehicles ? Nothing stated if he was treated and released. Or where he had his last drink ? I don’t feel it was at the Chiefs house because he holds his booze parties on Sundays all through the summer . If he was placed under arrest then the police could order a blood test from the Doctor without his consent . By not being arrested I believe he will NOT receive an immediate license suspension as others do when arrested and forrefusing the breathalyzer . Also by not being arrested he can still state that he has never been arrested on any applications or forms . A plus on his part. It seems that this case will fall into – the not enough evidence to prosecute . With no blood or chemical breath test there is no evidence to prosecute for OUI. As to negligent operation of a motor vehicle and marked lanes violations which seems obvious . Well lets see if that get swept under the rug. I wonder if the Chief agrees with the OFC to not make an arrest . I also hope that the MV Times follows this case . And to keep us up to date .