A Tisbury School crossing guard has been relieved of duty and had his personal firearms confiscated for alleged threats to the Tisbury School overheard by a waitress at Linda Jean’s restaurant in Oak Bluffs.
Stephen Nichols, 84, of Tisbury, who said his career with the Tisbury Police spanned six decades and who served in the United States Army during the Korean War, told The Times he made no threats to the school, but had criticized its school resource officer in a conversation with a friend. He said the conversation was taken out of context.
Dan Larkosh, of the Edgartown firm Larkosh and Jackson, represents Nichols, and said he intends to file an appeal of the decision by Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio to seize guns owned by Nichols, as well as his license to carry.
Saloio declined to comment when approached at the Tisbury Police Station. He later told The Times, “There’s nothing that I can legally discuss about the matter. Period.” The police department has also refused to release the police report from the investigation citing the “personnel” exemption of the public records law.
No criminal charges were filed against Nichols.
Town administrator Jay Grande wrote in an email that a crossing guard was dismissed. “In response to your inquiry, I want to acknowledge that a crossing guard was removed from active status pending a review of personnel related concerns,” he wrote. “I will not have any further comment on this matter.”
Nichols said he was unimpressed with the Tisbury School resource officer’s alleged trips to Xtra Mart to get coffee when children came to school in the morning. While dining at Linda Jean’s a couple of weeks ago, Nichols said he told a friend about this and suggested somebody could “shoot up the school” in that officer’s absence, which he described as “leaving his post.”
Nichols said the waitress made a complaint to Tisbury Police about what she overheard and on the strength of that, Saloio and another officer relieved Nichols of his crossing guard duties while he was in the midst of performing them and subsequently drove to his home and took away his firearms license and guns.
“He came up and told me what I said was a felony but he wasn’t going to charge me,” Nichols said of Saloio.
The confiscated guns were later turned over to Nichols’ son-in-law, Nichols told The Times.
Asked if he was given a letter or any paperwork for the seizure of his license, Nichols said,
“No he just told me to hand it over so I took it out of my wallet and handed it to him.”
Nichols said he has been licensed for firearms since 1958.
He said he didn’t receive any paperwork or receipts for the seizure of his guns, either.
In a lengthy interview with The Times, Nichols explained his concern about Tisbury School.
“When I was in the United States Army, and it wasn’t just me, it’s anybody who’s in the United States service, if you are on guard duty for eight hours, you didn’t leave that position,” Nichols said. “And I’m just so accustomed to that, that when I see someone who’s suppose to be protecting kids…leave the school unguarded — if you’re on guard duty, you stay there.”
Tisbury School Principal John Custer told The Times he was familiar with Nichols as a crossing guard but when asked if he knew of the Nichols’ situation, Custer responded by saying crossing guards are “hired, trained and scheduled, entirely by the police department.”
He identified the school resource officer as Scott Ogden. Asked if anyone had complained about Ogden going on coffee breaks, Custer said, “none whatsoever.”
A message left for Ogden at the Tisbury Police Department was not immediately returned.
Linda Jean’s owner Marc Hanover said he’s known Nichols for decades and vouched for his integrity. He described the situation as “absolutely outrageous.” He said he believes one of his servers “overreacted.” Hanover said he spoke with the restaurant patron who had conversed with Nichols at the time of the alleged threats.
“He assured me there was never a threat made,” Hanover said.
That patron, Edgartown resident Andy Marcus, described the situation as “absurd.” Marcus confirmed Nichols did not threaten the school but pointed out that Nichols thought Ogden was having coffee at Xtra Mart and leaving the students potentially exposed. Marcus said he has known Nichols for years and often talks with him at the counter of Linda Jean’s. He said nobody at that restaurant but one server holds the opinion Nichols possibly posed a threat to the Tisbury School. Marcus said in addition to being a longtime special police officer, Nichols was a court officer and a constable.
“He loves kids,” Marcus said. “It’s almost like of all the people…”
Nichols said he’s never been accused of threatening a school and never had a firearms violation. “I’ve got no record of any violations,” he said.
Nichols said he never carries guns outside the house and would like to have his license and his guns back, but the fate of the guns may be sealed. “My grandson is manager of a gun shop in Worcester, Mass and he’s going to be allowed to come down and take the weapons and sell them for me,” he said.
Nichols said he has 11 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. “I would never, ever, ever, harm a child,” he said.
Nichols lost his wife two years ago and values his crossing guard work as a connection to the outside world. “I just need something to do to get out of the house and I love the kids,” he said.
“We would expect reasonable minds to prevail, and [Nichols] to be reinstated in his job,” Larkosh said.