Crossing guard relieved of duty, guns seized

Korean War-era veteran and former Tisbury cop says actions were taken over misinterpreted conversation.

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Stephen Nichols, 84, said he was fired from his job as a Tisbury crossing guard for an alleged "threat." He says his comments were misinterpreted. - Rich Saltzberg

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. 

 

  • I mean, the man has a point. So the real story should be… what is the Town of Tisbury doing to protect the students during this vulnerable coffee break? … Now that the MVTimes has publicly exposed the Tisbury School police officer’s morning routine away from his post. Is the police officer’s whereabouts while on duty being looked into?

  • Hey. Too many children are being killed by active shooters in our nation. It’s an epidemic that only a minority of the citizenry are taking it seriously.

    If someone mouths off about shooting up a school, I want to hear about it. I don’t care the age or demographic of the person. We should know.

    The police handled this appropriately.

    • 100% agree that to many children are being killed by active shooters in our nation. Yet your concern is that a concerned citizen who worries about the children was overheard having a conversation that I assume was taken out of context, but someone not involved in the actual conversation. Yet, you have not concerns, or at least have yet to voice them here, that the individual who is suppose to be on the clock working, takes breaks and leaves his post to get coffee…… Seems your letting your emotions lead you. Should Mr. Nichols have been interviewed absolutely, no one is saying or should be saying no to that question. But at the end of the day logic and reason need to be used. One sentence of an entire conversation should not be used to judge someone. Context matters.

    • While I will agree that ANY number of children killed by ANYONE is “too many”, the assumption that there’s some sort of “epidemic” of school shootings is simply anti-rights propaganda. School shootings are RARE, and in states that have right-to-carry laws they are even RARER.

      The kneejerk reaction of “someone said something, omfg he’s going to kill all the children, quick, call the police, call the army, call Batman” is, as you say, nothing but letting your emotions run away with you. Especially when the ENTIRE comment was not overheard, only a fragment. Unless you hear the context of “shoot up the school”, you shouldn’t immediately assume that the person saying it intends to actually DO it.

      If the town’s well-known nutter says it, then you may have a reason to go to red alert. But when it’s the town’s well-known and beloved veteran and crossing guard for DECADES, who has not only never been a threat but has been nothing but an asset, perhaps there may be good reason to take an extra moment or two, take a deep breath, maybe count ten rutabagas, and perhaps listen a little more to see what was actually meant before running around like Henny Penny on crack.

      Again, Gun Facts is your friend: http://www.gunfacts.info/gun-control-myths/children-and-guns/

  • This is disgusting! There is an old adage which says, “What’s done is done”, and that applies here. However – what comes next is so very important, and what comes next should come immediately!

    First, the gentleman’s License to Carry Firearms should be returned to him without any delay at all, and with a public apology. Second, also without any delay at all, his firearms should be returned to him, along with financial restitution in toto for any and all expenses he or his relatives incurred. Third, if he still desires to serve his community as a Crossing Guard, he should be publicly welcomed back. And, finally, if an impartial investigation by competent authority reveals that his statement was correct and precise, the so-called “school resource officer” should be dismissed, again without any delay.

    Compliments to the MV Times for airing this issue.

    • 100%. Well stated and absolutely true. The damage done to his honor and integrity probably hurt him more than anything. Sounds like the community there will be standing with him and hopefully demand immediate resolve.

  • “”I WANT TO HEAR FROM THE SELECTMEN FORTHWITH””!!
    US TISBURY CITIZENS DEMAND THAT!!

  • There is one particular sentence that really jumps out , the one that says that at 84 years old, he loves his crossing guard job, as it is something that gets him out of the house and feels connected to community. People! Is there anyone on the Island that takes note of this? An individual, an honored veteran, longtime serving our nation and community, and 84 years old, Can anyone find him something where he can feel valued? and part of the community? To strip this elder of his job in the manner, without due process, is commiting him to a path of isolation. The winters here are long enough, we need our elders to be out in the community, and our children learning from their heritage, and learning that we honor our elders and all they have given to us. The rest of this story is shameful in the fact that there is no due process attached to this at all? I am hoping laws prevail and judgements, if that’s what they were, are evaluated properly.

  • Scary times we live in. The waitress did right, the failure comes directly from the police chief as I see it then the ball was rolling such that others had to follow suit. A proper investigation would have ended this quietly in short order it seems and at this point should be first priority. Time to make it right. Red flag laws are understandable in these times and are a good defense against terrible things but due process can not and must not be ignored. Give the man his honor back and he is owed an apology. Thank you sir and your family members for their service. ???

    • No, everyone dropped the ball. The waitress would have been right if she’d heard the entire thing, and the context was something like “I tell you, Irving, I can’t stand the creatures, they drive me mad…I’m going to tomorrow morning!”, then by all means, call that in. But when you only hear a portion of what was said, you’re simply engaging in a game of Russian Telephone, not doing anything actually useful.

      Then there was the ball dropped by the police. They hear “shoot” and “school” and go into Rambo-mode. They automatically assume that the person being blythely tattled on is a raging psycho ready to pounce, and jump immediately to proactive — and probably illegal — action, circumventing multiple statutes and Constitutional protections, to leap in and take those ebil, ebil gunzah away from the 84 year old combat veteran and crossing guard who has never before shown any signs of being some sort of slavering maniac.

      Instead, you do an actual investigation, gathering information, such as maybe talking to the person the suspected maniac was discussing this with, or, I don’t know, asking said supposed maniac what he was talking about? Zero tolerance does not have to equal zero THOUGHT, after all.

      From what I gather, the issue at hand is whether or not the school resource officer should be haring off to get coffee off school grounds. Isn’t there a coffee pot he can access IN the school? Maybe a $20 Mr. Coffee and some supplies might be a better solution than leaping to assume a long-beloved asset to the community has somehow snapped his cap?

      You’re right, a proper investigation should have been done, and these red flag laws are dubious at best, given their nature, violative of SEVERAL Constitutional rights as they are.

      Give the man back his guns, his permit, and his job. And maybe buy the resource officer a coffee maker and ask him to stick around the school when the kids are present? After all, when is some nutter going to actually strike? When the resource officer is there, or when he’s off getting coffee somewhere off campus? Seems to me the latter would be the more advantageous time. So maybe provide the resource officer with coffee AT THE SCHOOL?

  • I think the blame lies on the new Tisbury Chief. A simple interview with Mr. Nichols would have validated he was actually trying to provide a safety tip for our kids. I think the Chief should be reviewed, not Mr. Nichols.

  • What are the school children now going to think about this kind man after seeing him removed by 2 police officers while he was performing his crossing duties? Was that really necessary? I mean, stand there and make sure he doesn’t pull an AK47 out of his pocket, but, jeez, don’t take him away in front of the kids. They will never look at him the same way again.

    • This is what I don’t understand. If the Waitress thought she heard a threat to the Tisbury School Children. Why wasn’t the Oak Bluffs police force called to the restaurant immediately? The restaurant is located in oak bluffs, the waitress felt concern when? Right when she heard it or just prior to Mr. Nichols going to his post as crossing guard? There is a piece of this puzzle missing because if a threat was heard wouldn’t that mean an immediate action to stop such a threat and that means that the oak bluffs police would have been at the restaurant to question Mr. Nichols. Why were they not involved? Interviewed? When did this treat report get turned in? Immediately? An hour later letting the person who allegedly making the treat leave? I mean this man got all the way to his post at that school. Doesn’t anyone else find it odd that a terribly concerned citizen reported a school threat and the man was AT THE SCHOOL to work? How long did it take to report this treat?

      • Good point, and I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this one gets spun as ‘mutual aid’, where officers from another town’s police department may respond a request for assistance from the other towns. Go to your town’s PD- They should have the big binder of all the calls, incidents, accidents, responses, responders, & resolutions listed as public record (I’d love to see MV Times publish THAT, even if online-only). Check out some of the addresses. See other island towns?
        They’re ALREADY cooperating, so REMEMBER that when Chicken Little lairds of these very lucrative little po-fiefdoms tell you the CAN’T Regionalize!! It’s time. Improvement through Attrition. Let’s try it.

  • I think the new Chief thought he had a chance to make a heroic name for himself and he totally BLEW it!
    Another mess in the VHPD. The Chief has got to go, the selectmen need to fire him, the selectmen need to get a public scolding and now we have to give Mr Wassernan another call.
    We have the worst leadership on the island within our police department!
    Enough is Enough! I repeat, Enough is Enough!

    • I agree with everything you say, except, the Wassermans have been involved with every chief hiring for the past three decades!!!! Maybe we can agree on someone new, perhaps the group Edgartown used. Cheaper (Wasserman) doesn’t mean better.

  • Just weighing in here….
    Mr. Nichols is a wonderful man, and most assuredly does not deserve this treatment. The actions of the new ‘chief’ and town administrator are reprehensible and idiotic to say the least. This is round two for them in regard to wrongful terminations, one would think the chief had learned something staring down the barrel of a federal lawsuit, alas he seems to be learning slowly. The selectmen would be wise to learn the term ‘negligent retention’ and perhaps return the chief and administrator whence they came!
    Two thumbs up for Mr. Nichols!

  • 84 year old man should have learned years ago not to grouse at a public place like Linda Jean’s. If he was concerned about “leaving a post” he should also have respect for the “chain of command”. Linda Jean’s isn’t in the chain of command. I would have hoped in his 84 years he would have learned to talk to the officer directly with his concerns, or his supervisor, or even the Chief. The faux outrage in VH is silly. You have far more serious issues as a town to take your rages out on.

  • Absolutely appalling behavior from TPD. I can understand the waitresses actions, but the PD couldn’t even afford Mr. Nichols the dignity of an interview? No due process? I had been giving the new chief the benefit of the doubt since he was hired, but given Mr. Nichols lifelong service record and sparkling reputation around town, it seems like he should’ve at least been afforded the courtesy and dignity of a conversation with police instead being degraded, disarmed, and cast aside as a second class citizen. There is absolutely no excuse for how this American hero has been treated.

  • I understand that the resource officer’s hours were posted in his defense, but now everyone knows when he is and isn’t on duty.

  • … Remember this, when the actual TRUTH comes out about the exact actual events which it will shortly you will see what is posted here in the Fake News MV Times is nothing but Fake News again and is full of errors in their reporting again…

    • Not a single fact in the story has been corrected. Today, the police chief reinstated Nichols.

  • Something is very wrong here.Would Mr.Nichols and his eating partner be willing to take a lie detector test?The article leads me to feel that Mr.Nichols needs to be believed.There are none so blind as those who will not see.

  • Not too late to fix the situation. Get Mr. Nicholas back and make sure the school officer stays in the school at all times children are present.

  • Ah, the Communistwealth of Massachusetts strikes again. So glad I don’t live there anymore!
    I’m reading this article and I’m thinking this is like neighbors reporting their neighbors to the Gestapo or the KGB, or maybe this is a chapter out of 1984. Is this really in America?
    Presumably these law enforcement officers and City officials swore an oath to the United States Constitution when they took office, but have they even read the Constitution? How about freedom of speech, or the part about a citizen’s right to unreasonable seizure of property without warrants supported by an oath or affirmation, or not being deprived of private property without the due process of law, or no anonymous witnesses and being informed of the cause of the accusation, and of course the biggest one that Massachusetts has forgotten–the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed! Period.
    God bless our veterans. I hope he sues the crap out of everyone involved and wins.
    You people would lose your frigin’ minds where I live (NC) where people casually walk around town with a gun on their hip or concealed (male & female, black & white…it doesn’t matter). Especially now it’s hunting season with people driving around with rifles in their back windows.

  • This is great that Stevie got reinstated. What’s also great is the turtleboy sports article on this! Check out turtleboy and your head will spin.

    • No thanks. “Turtleboy” is for juveniles and the locker room. I’ll stick with the MV Times.

  • This guy has done more for our country than most of us will do in a lifetime. The biggest failure is from local police. They should have taken a report from the waitress and talked to the two men that were parties to the conversation. Once realizing there was no threat, they could address the lazy resource officer and fix that problem. Instead, they violate the hell out of Stevie’s 2nd Amendment rights and completely disrespect a veteran of the army and THEIR OWN POLICE FORCE???. The Tisbury Police Department should write a formal apology and publish it in the paper. Everyone in town should thank this man for his service every time they see him. These matters require diligent investigations and quick due process.

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