Hunter altercation that spawned search ends in arrest

The Chilmark School was locked down Tuesday afternoon, as police searched for Stephen Carlson, a hunter who had had an altercation with a fellow hunter and brandished a long rifle. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Updated 5:50 pm Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An argument between two deer hunters in the Chilmark woods that escalated when one of the men threatened the other with a black powder rifle spawned a police search by land and air Tuesday afternoon, which ended with the arrest of Steve Carlson, 49, of Oak Bluffs on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi said in a press release that police received a call via the Island Communication Center about two hunters who had an altercation. “During the altercation it was reported that Mr. Carlson pointed a long gun at the reporting party and threatened him,” Mr. Cioffi said.

Mr. Cioffi said the investigation is still active, and it is possible there could be more charges.

Mr. Carlson, in an interview with The Times on Wednesday, said he acted in self defense and that his hunting rifle was not loaded. He is due for arraignment in Edgartown District Court Thursday.

Police first suspected that Mr. Carlson was hiding in a swamp in Chilmark. Up-Island police departments and a State Police helicopter assisted in the search. Reports of the search prompted school officials to secure the Chilmark School.

The search ended about 7:30 pm, after family and friends convinced Mr. Carlson to go to the police station.

Chilmark School students left for home a few minutes later than usual Tuesday afternoon. School officials locked the school, locked the doors to the classrooms, and pulled down the shades in mid-afternoon. Police stood by at the school, superintendent of schools James Weiss told The Times in a phone conversation at about 2:50 pm.

“We have delayed dismissal, until we know that things are safe, and Chief Cioffi will let the school know when they can be dismissed,” Mr. Weiss said at the time. “And that’s all I know.” Normal dismissal time would have been around 2:30 pm.

Students were all safe and accounted for, and Mr. Carlson had not approached the school and had nothing to do with school personnel or students, a school official told The Times.

Susan Stevens, the school principal, said Wednesday that the mood in the locked down building was calm.

“Everyone stayed really calm. The classes continued with their normal daily routines,” she said. Ms. Stevens said that was true of students, teachers, and parents. She added that there were lessons to be learned from the experience and that she and staff will meet to review the event.