Dan Larkosh, attorney for Tisbury crossing guard Stephen Nichols, filed an appeal of Nichols’ gun license revocation. The appeal was filed on Dec.18 in Edgartown District Court, one day before the appeal period ran out.
The appeal calls Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio’s decision to revoke Nichols’ license and confiscate his firearms and ammunition “arbitrary and capricious.” Nichols was relieved from his job on Sept. 20 after a restaurant server alleged he uttered a threat to the Tisbury School. The same day, his Massachusetts Class A license was revoked, and his firearms and ammunition seized. His job was restored on Columbus Day, but the license, guns, and ammo haven’t been. Saloio told The Times the license is working its way through the state system, and he doesn’t anticipate problems with reissuing it.
“We expect the chief is a man of his word,” Larkosh said. That doesn’t translate into absolute faith: “I’m not going to put all my eggs in one basket.”
The appeal states Nichols was a Tisbury special police officer from 1958 to 2004, and a U.S. Army Morse code specialist during the Korean War. The appeal alleges the server overheard “bits and pieces” of a conversation that took place between Nichols and another patron, and construed a threat was made when Nichols’ opinion about a security flaw was being voiced instead.
The appeal calls for the restoration of Nichols’ license, and an order vacating Saloio’s revocation action.
Two people who were at Linda Jean’s restaurant the day Nichols made his comments offer different accounts.
Server Heather McCarthy wrote in a statement to police that Nichols spoke directly to her about shooting up the school. However, Linda Jean’s patron Andy Marcus told The Times Nichols was speaking to him, as opposed to McCarthy or anyone else. Marcus was adamant that Nichols’ intentions weren’t violent, but intended as a critique of school security.
“What he didn’t say is, ‘I’m going to shoot up the school,’” Marcus said.
Saloio issued a revocation letter to Nichols shortly after McCarthy made her allegation, and before questioning Nichols.
“You are alleged to have made comments concerning being able to go in and ‘shoot up’ the elementary school,” the letter stated in part, “while conversing about our school resource officer’s schedule. In accordance with M.G.L. c.140, [s] 129D, you are required to turn in to the police department in the city/town in which you reside, without delay, your firearms license(s) and all firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, large-capacity feeding devices, and ammunition which you have in your possession or which are owned by you. Failure to do so is a criminal offense.”
Saloio told The Times he wrote the letter ahead of speaking to Nichols in order to compel Nichols to cooperate, and for the safety of his officers, essentially using the possibility of arrest as leverage to make sure guns were peacefully relinquished.
Saloio learned of Nichols’ alleged threat on Sept. 20 outside Tisbury Town Hall, when McCarthy’s husband, Joe, told the chief about Nichols’ comments to his wife. Joe McCarthy manages Xtra Mart in Tisbury, where Nichols claimed school resource officer Scott Odgen spent time in the morning.
Marcus, who was never interviewed by police, said he believes McCarthy was eavesdropping on a conversation between Nichols and him: “Heather was right there when he was saying ‘Xtra Mart.’ I saw her turn her head.”
Marcus described the police ordeal Nichols went through and the public spotlight placed on him as “ridiculous.” He said Nichols had “less than no intent” of harming anyone: “He was actually standing up for the kids.”
Heather McCarthy’s statement was made Friday, Sept. 20, two days after the alleged conversation with Nichols occurred.
“While serving [redacted] he told me that Officer Scott Ogden should not have that job [school resource officer],” McCarthy wrote. “He said that after he is done with [redacted] he is down [at] [X]tra Mart drinking coffee. He then went on to say that if he were to ‘go in and shoot up the school,’ he (Scott) wouldn’t be able to stop him. I then said, ‘Don’t do that, Steve,’ and then I walked away.”
Voice messages to Heather and Joe McCarthy have not been returned. Reached in person at Xtra Mart, Joe McCarthy declined to comment.
Marcus said he’s flabbergasted as to why Saloio never interviewed him, especially after he appeared in The Times in the first article about Nichols.
“I’m the only ear-witness to this thing,” he said. “He never reached out to me.”
Saloio said there was no reason to talk to him. “The only reason to talk to this gentleman would be if Mr. Nichols was going to be criminally charged,” Saloio told The Times. “When that became clear, there was no point in talking with these other witnesses in the restaurant.”
Saloio added he also would have had other witnesses interviewed had there been a court summons.
“There was enough there to cause any reasonable person to be concerned,” Saloio said of the allegation made against Nichols.
It was comments Nichols allegedly made about being a danger to himself that caused Nichols to be removed from his post and to have his guns seized, Saloio said.
“I can’t stress that enough,” he said.
Larkosh said the comment made by Nichols while police were at his home was misconstrued, and Nichols never posed a danger to himself.
In the timeline of events, Nichols had already had his license to carry firearms revoked and had already been pulled off crossing guard duty and replaced with a police officer when Saloio and Det. Max Sherman met Nichols at his house.
Marcus said Linda Jean’s has taken an undue hit because people are boycotting the restaurant.
Linda Jean’s owner, Marc Hanover, previously told The Times he had to take the telephone off the hook for a time because so many calls were coming in about the Nichols case. As The Times reported in October, Hanover said one of his servers “overreacted,” and that he saw no merit in the idea Nichols was threatening.