West Tisbury lauds police officer

Sgt. Gebo commended for using nonlethal force.

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Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio, West Tisbury Sgt. Matt Gebo, and West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone at a ceremony recognizing Gebo for his efforts at a Tisbury standoff. - Rich Saltzberg

In the company of West Tisbury Police Chief Matt Mincone and Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio, Sgt. Matt Gebo came before West Tisbury selectmen Wednesday afternoon as part of a formal commendation for using a Taser instead of a handgun in an encounter with a knife-wielding suspect. Sgt. Gebo answered a nighttime call for backup from Tisbury Acting Sgt. Jeff Day on Aug. 9 after Day found himself face to face with a man who allegedly threatened to kill him with a butcher knife (or large meat cleaver, as it was later described). 

“Sgt. Gebo and Sgt. Day worked seamlessly together, continuing to distance themselves from the subject, all the while directing the subject to drop the knife he was holding,” Selectman Cynthia Mitchell read from a letter penned by Mincone and Saloio. Mitchell further read, 

“After informing the subject officers would take him to the hospital rather than jail, the subject kept advancing forward. Sgt. Gebo and Sgt. Day discharged their departmental Tasers, ultimately striking the subject and immobilizing him…” The man subsequently dropped the knife, was handcuffed, and taken to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for evaluation. He allegedly told the officers he was surprised at their restrained response — “I cannot believe you guys are being so nice to me when I just tried to kill you,” he told them.

In closing, Mitchell read the following: “Sgt. Gebo protected himself, his fellow officer, the community, and the person in the center of this incident suffering from mental illness. Sgt. Gebo’s actions and professionalism in fact saved a life and were in line with the best, most noble aspects of the profession.”

Sgt. Gebo shook hands with the selectmen as the audience applauded him. Sgt. Day was commended the previous evening by Tisbury selectmen.

In other business, the board received a draft host community agreement from marijuana entrepreneur Geoff Rose. Rose, who has a medical dispensary on State Road poised to open and a grow facility on Dr. Fisher Road, hopes to open an adult use outlet in the neighborhood of the medical dispensary. According to the draft document, Rose proposes to pay the town $5,000 for impacts associated with the store by the end of 2019. After that, Rose would pay the town 3 percent of gross sales from the venue — the most allowed under state law. Impact fees are associated with increased police, inspectional services, fire protection, permitting, and other costs that can be attributed to the facility.

The agreement also outlines the terms for terminating the agreement. Training for employees and security are also outlined in the proposed deal. Selectmen took the draft under advisement. 

Vineyard Conservation Society staffer Samantha Look and Project Bread owner Kate Warner gave a presentation on climate challenges facing West Tisbury and the Vineyard as a whole. Given on behalf of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission Task Force for Climate Change and the Island Climate Action Network, the presentation impressed upon selectmen that West Tisbury will encounter problems with the Mill Brook, Mill Pond, and Tiasquam River in coming years as the climate changes. They also said the gravest threat to West Tisbury appears to be from forest fires. Look and Warner stressed that the Vineyard overall needed to be more self-reliant and that planning for how the Vineyard will function in weather emergencies expected in the future was paramount. As an example of possible dilemmas for the Vineyard, Warner said a Category 3 hurricane or greater would completely cut off access to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.