Ruckus on Tashmoo Beach leads to arrests
A quiet sunny day for families at Tashmoo beach turned nasty Tuesday when Tisbury lifeguards told a group of six teenagers in a rubber dinghy that they had to leave a roped off swimming area.
Rather than comply, the males began shouting obscenities and challenged the female lifeguards and bystanders to fight, according to the Tisbury police report and interviews with lifeguards at the beach that day.
A day at the beach for six men who traveled to the Vineyard on a yacht out of Falmouth ended with their arrest.
Sean Sullivan, 18, of Charlestown, Shawn Powers, 18, of Melrose, and Kevin Duffy Jr., 18, of Lexington, were arraigned on charges of disorderly conduct by Clerk Magistrate Liza Williamson in Edgartown District Court yesterday. Mr. Sullivan was released on $100 cash bail, and Mr. Powers and Mr. Duffy on personal recognizance. They are scheduled for a pre-trial hearing on August 27.
The other three men are juveniles, one from Charlestown, one from Lexington, and one from Brookline. They were charged with disorderly conduct.
Tashmoo Beach is located at the end of Herring Creek Road on the east side of the entrance to Lake Tashmoo. The sandy beach and quiet waters inside the salt pond make it a popular spot for families with young children.
A clearly marked swimmer's-only area is located on the Vineyard Sound side of the barrier beach in front of a lifeguard stand.
Head Tisbury lifeguard Kristen Van de Geer said about 40 or 50 people, many of them children, were enjoying the usually quiet, family beach when the six males ran their dinghy into the swimming area. When she and the other two female lifeguards instructed them to move out of the swimming area, the young men yelled expletives at them, got back in the dinghy, and motored out beyond the buoy markers, circling around wildly with some of them hanging over the side of the boat, Ms. Van de Geer said.
She called Tisbury harbormaster Jay Wilbur to report the boys' behavior in the dinghy, and he instructed her to call back in 20 minutes if they were still doing that, she said.
Mr. Wilbur explained in a phone call yesterday that at first he thought from her description it was just a case of some kids just jumping out of a dinghy, which did not sound very serious.
At that point, the boys ran the dinghy up on the beach nearby and walked to the lifeguard stand to confront the three women. Ms. Van de Geer said she called the police around 4 pm and the harbormaster's office again. Mr. Wilbur said yesterday he still had no indication from her during the second call that the situation had escalated into something serious, but he did head over to the beach.
After Ms. Van de Geer made the phone calls, the boys threatened to start a fight with her, the other two lifeguards, and the boyfriend of one of the lifeguards. She said she remained calm, continuing to insist that they leave, while making sure that the situation did not escalate. "I'm a teacher - I've had a lot of experience in situations like this," she said. "Nobody's life was in danger - it was just a matter of big egos."
The boys jumped back into their dinghy and headed out to the yacht, the "Sandy Said II" of Falmouth, which was idling out past the jetty at the Tashmoo opening.
Officer Kelly Kershaw, Sgt. Rodney Silvia, and Special Officer Joe Ballotte arrived shortly after her call, Ms. Van de Geer said. Officer Ballotte went to the end of the jetty to make contact with an adult couple onboard the boat. The adults were not identified in the police report, but they were said to be parents of two of the boys. The father acted as though he could not hear Officer Ballotte and was letting the boat drift away, according to the report.
After the police officers ordered the boys to leave the yacht and return to the beach, they swam to shore. After taking their statements, the Tisbury police officers placed them under arrest for disorderly conduct. Oak Bluffs and Massachusetts State police officers provided assistance in transporting them to the county jail/house of correction. Officer Kershaw said Mr. Wilbur arrived about the time the arrests had been made, and talked to the couple on the yacht.
Tisbury's Department of Public Works director Fred LaPiana, who oversees Tisbury's lifeguards, commended Ms. Van de Geer for doing a good job. "We're proud of her - she communicated the issues quickly, and our police force reacted quickly," he said.
Ms. Van de Geer, who lives in western Massachusetts, has spent three summers on the Vineyard. Although employed by the town of Tisbury five years ago, this is her first summer as a lifeguard. In the fall, she will start a new job running a youth leadership camp just north of Toronto.
"I was very appreciative of all the support shown by people on the beach," Ms. Van de Geer said. "My job is to make sure everyone is safe, on the beach and in the water, and the public let me do my job."