A 36-year-old West Tisbury man who shot a wounded deer on Barnes Road in Edgartown won’t be charged criminally, according to a ruling by clerk magistrate Liza Williamson.
Edgartown Police sought the charge after Rafael Louback, responding to the scene where his wife had just struck a deer on Feb. 29, pulled out his 9mm Ruger pistol, and shot the “flailing” deer in the head.
“After hearing and review of the pertinent police reports and other documents that have been provided and reviewed, the application for criminal complaint with a date of offense of Feb. 29, 2020, charging the defendant with discharge of a firearm within 150 feet of a highway …” won’t be issued, she wrote. “Although it certainly behooved the Edgartown Police Department to seek criminal charges when there are violations of the Massachusetts General Laws, this incident arose from a unique situation. This was a grievously injured animal, the individual had a legal firearm, and was there before public safety officials.”
Louback’s actions “technically violated” the law, but “it was the most unusual of circumstances and, in my opinion, justified,” Williamson concluded. She issued her decision on Wednesday.
According to the police report, Louback was “forthcoming and cooperative,” and “was apologetic, and seemed as though he was familiar with the firearm laws,” according to the report. Police requested and were granted permission from Louback to retrieve his firearm from the center console of his vehicle.
After seizing Louback’s pistol and license to carry, Edgartown Police contacted West Tisbury Police, who went to Louback’s residence and retrieved other firearms at his home. West Tisbury Police Lt. Jeffrey (“Skipper”) Manter confirmed Louback’s other firearms were taken by the police until the charges are resolved.
On Wednesday, Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee said he’s had a conversation with West Tisbury Chief Matt Mincone. Louback will get his license and his guns returned immediately. McNamee stands behind what his officers did that night in consultation with Massachusetts Environmental Police Sgt. Scott Opie. “They called me from the roadside. You do your best under the circumstances. We’re comfortable with what happened,” he said.
He’s also comfortable with the outcome in court.
“I had a conversation with Mr. Louback, and I think this was educational for him,” McNamee said. “We appreciate the direction from the Environmental Police, but in the future, we’ll let charges like this rest with their agency in the future.”
He added a word of caution for others in this situation. “I don’t want to encourage firing rounds in the road, because of issues with ricochet.” He added that there could be other issues with a police officer coming upon a scene, seeing someone holding a gun, and hearing a shot discharged. “That could go to a bad place,” he said. “We discourage our officers from dispatching deer on the street because of ricochet. We try to pull the deer off the road. [Louback] tried to do that, but couldn’t … I know this was scary for his wife. She was on a dark road, and her instinct was to call him. If we were on our way, none of this would have happened.”