West Tisbury man won’t be charged in deer shooting

Clerk magistrate makes the call.

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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.”

17 COMMENTS

  1. What was Arlo Guthrie’s Officer Obie and Sgt. Opie of Mayberry thinking? Thanks for the common-sense ruling Judge Williamson.

  2. just a thought— perhaps public comment had some impact on the outcome here.
    Don’t be afraid to speak up.

  3. It seems to me that all parties acted appropriately and justice was served.

    A citizen did what he thought was right, police charged as per the letter of the law, and the court sorted out the situation as a neutral third party.

    • The police warrant no criticism, at all! They were approaching a scene with someone with a firearm, which is potentially life-threatening for them, and should not be making judicial calls on the applicability of a specific law. They handled every step by the book. Mrs. Louback was undoubtedly distraught, seeing an animal in distress. Mr. Louback handled the interaction with the police, by their description, very responsibly, and the Clerk Magistrate, considering all the facts, made the right, common-sense call. Let’s give credit where credit is due and not disparage the responsible actions of the police!

  4. Let’s keep the common sense rolling and an eye out for our neighbors! Can’t count on island police.

    • What a ridiculous statement! Wait until you get yourself in trouble some day-your house is burning down, someone is trying to break in, your relative is being attacked….who are you going to call, first? Who might risk their life on your behalf? Your drinking buddy? No! Someone in a blue, black or green uniform who doesn’t even know you. Sure, there are bad cops out there! Want to know who hates them more then anyone? Good cops! Because they dishonor the uniform. And there are plenty of great cops, great firemen, great emts on this island who are dedicated to serving this community.

  5. I hope Mr. Louback didnt incur any loss of money from lawyers fee or court fees for this. It would be a real shame if he did. TY judge and West Tisbury police chief.

  6. McNamee says, ”I think it was educational for him” What was educational for him? Would he not do the same thing again? I think he would and should.

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