Police used a Taser on a man early Friday morning in Tisbury when he allegedly threatened to kill them with a knife. Backed up by West Tisbury Police Sgt. Matt Gebo, Tisbury Police Sgt. Jeff Day refrained from shooting Robert Long, who allegedly wielded a butcher knife and told a dispatcher he would “kill the first police officer that came through the door.”
Long was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon. He pleaded not guilty in Edgartown District Court Friday, and was held in lieu of $5,000 cash bail and based on a law that deals with criminal responsibility and competency.
At the scene early Friday morning, Day holstered his pistol and used a Taser on the man, as did Gebo, a police report indicates.
Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio praised the work of the officers.
“If officers had used lethal force, everything shows they would have been justified,” Saloio told The Times. “For Sgt. Day and Sgt. Gebo to consciously disengage and use less lethal force is just an outstanding job of their part.”
Day was dispatched to an address on State Road in Tisbury just after 2 am for a mental health check. He knocked on the door to the residence he was dispatched to, but nobody answered and nobody could be seen in windows, the report states. Day then tried to telephone the mother of the person he was checking on, but could not reach her. Day then rang dispatch and requested they ask the caller, who turned out to be Long, to step outside the residence. This is when Long allegedly told the dispatcher he had a knife and would kill the first police officer in the house.
Day moved away from the residence, saw movement on the second floor, then heard a rear door open.
“Robert Long appeared on the exterior stairway,” the report states. “He descended the stairs and made it to the ground. As he turned toward me, he raised his right hand above his shoulder. At this time I saw that he was brandishing a butcher knife. I drew my firearm and pointed it at him. I yelled commands for him to drop the knife and to get on the ground. He said I am going to kill you. I retreated away from the building toward State Road to create space between Robert and myself. I repeated commands for him to stop and drop the knife. He told me I can tell you are scared of me. I am going to kill you and you are scared.”
Backup Day had previously requested from West Tisbury arrived. Gebo joined Day in commanding Long to halt and drop the knife, the report states. However, Long allegedly kept advancing, with the knife raised.
“Long paused and asked if I was going to arrest him or take him to the hospital,” the report states. “I told him I would take him to the hospital. While he was distracted and stopped advancing I transitioned from my firearm to my Taser. I told Long to drop the knife. I then verbalized Taser, Taser, Taser, and then fired the Taser probes at him. The first deployment did not appear to [affect] him. He started to advance toward me again. I fired a second set of probes at him. Sgt. Gebo also deployed his Taser probes. This time he was subdued by the Taser.”
Long fell, still clutching the knife, the report states, and Gebo ordered him to drop it, which he did. Sgt. Day then kicked the knife away.
Long was handcuffed and, according to the report, he told the sergeants he didn’t live at the residence but was homeless. Oak Bluffs and Edgartown officers arrived on the scene, along with Tisbury EMS. Long was taken by Day to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for evaluation.
George Brennan contributed to this report.