Chilmark standoff ends peacefully


A police standoff Tuesday with an inebriated man holed up in a house off an unplowed snow-covered road in Chilmark, who claimed to have a gun and threatened himself and police officers, ended peacefully with his surrender.

At 4:50 pm, Tuesday, Chilmark police were asked to check on the welfare of William McDevitt Jr. of Hammett Lane. “The reporting person stated that McDevitt was threatening suicide with a firearm, was currently intoxicated, and had been taking pills,” according to the police report.

Police also spoke to a woman who told police that Mr. McDevitt told her in conversation “that he was going to shoot himself and others.”

Police learned that a woman and three small children lived in a garage apartment adjacent to the main house where Mr. McDevitt lives.

Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi contacted Mr. McDevitt’s brother, who assured him there were no firearms in the house “he was aware of,” but said Mr. McDevitt did have “a BB pistol that resembled a 9mm and BB rifle that resembled an M16.”

The Martha’s Vineyard tactical response team and trained negotiators were alerted and placed on standby. Chilmark police, assisted by Aquinnah and West Tisbury officers, arrived at the house and escorted the mother and children from the location. Chief Cioffi then asked Mr. McDevitt to talk and asked him to come out of the house.

He stepped out dressed only a pair of long winter underwear, according to the report, and was handcuffed after a brief struggle with officers.

“McDevitt appeared to be highly intoxicated and unsteady on his feet,” according to the police report. He alternately cursed police and apologized. No weapons were found in the house.

He was transported by cruiser to the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital where he continued to curse and threaten police and exhibit “extreme mood swings.” Chilmark Police plan to seek charges of disorderly conduct against Mr. McDevitt.

Chief Cioffi said he was grateful for the peaceful resolution and the assistance of the responding departments. He said police can never be certain of what they will encounter.

In this case, he said, police learned about the M16 BB gun. Had they not known about it and Mr. McDevitt pointed it out a window he might have been shot. He said although family members assured police he did not have a gun or a rifle, police have to be ready for anything.

“No matter how much intelligence we gather prior to arriving at the location,” Chief Cioffi said, “there is still the unknown. Are there real weapons or is it just posturing by a person who is struggling with emotional issues? The ultimate goal was the safety of the individual and the safety of the responding units.”