Tisbury Police Sgt. Jeff Day arrested a man he thought was wanted on multiple warrants but wound up putting handcuffs on the wrong person. Sgt. Day believed a man who he saw in Tisbury on May 21 was a man named William August Engler, 22. Day arrested the man and sent him off in a Tisbury Police cruiser to the Dukes County Jail in Edgartown. At some point the man appears to have encountered his mother, a Dukes County Sheriff’s Office employee, and the error was revealed.
On Thursday, Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio identified Day as the cop behind the erroneous arrest.
“An officer with TPD mistakenly identified someone with three outstanding arrest warrants,” he told The Times. “One of these arrest warrants was for a violent felony charge. The person was taken into custody and it was then determined that the person was not the individual with the active arrest warrant. This was an unintentional mistake but nonetheless unacceptable. I have spoken with the mother of the individual taken into custody, as well as the individual himself. I apologized for this mistake on behalf of the agency. Both individuals told me that they were satisfied with how this matter was addressed. This matter has been addressed internally with the employee and will not occur again in the future.”
Saloio would not comment on how it was addressed.
Communications obtained by The Times through a public records request reveal a sheriff’s communication office staffer called the arrestee’s mother on the night of the arrest in a routine manner to inform her “William August Engler” was en route to the jail with Tisbury Police. Subsequent communication revealed that jail and communications staff were flabbergasted by the mistake.
In a telephone call between Dukes County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jonathan Cristea and a Dukes County Communications Center dispatcher, Lt. Cristea told the dispatcher,
“That was not Mr. Engler.”
“What do you mean?” the dispatcher asked.
“That wasn’t Mr. Engler,” Cristea said.
“Like the warrants weren’t?” the dispatcher asked.
“No, like the person they had,” Cristea said. “The warrants are still out there but the person that they thought was Mr. Engler was not Mr. Engler.”
“Oh my god, really?” the dispatcher said.
“Yeah, well, you know [expletive] happens,” Cristea said.
“That’s wild,” the dispatcher said. “He didn’t identify himself?”
“You know those are all questions that are not really in my wheelhouse right now,” Cristea said.
“Copy that,” the dispatcher said.
“That’s something they can establish on their end,” Cristea said.
Reached Thursday, Day declined to comment on the incident.
A gun, a turkey, and a tow
This is not the first time that Day has been in trouble. In 2014, then-Police Lt. Eerik Meisner conducted an internal investigation regarding incidents when Day was a member of the Chilmark Police Department in 2012. The incidents involved a handgun, the shooting of a turkey, and the towing of a vehicle.
According to the internal investigation, obtained by The Times through a public records request, the probe was launched because defense attorney Robb Moriarty was poised to challenge Day’s truthfulness. Moriarty’s client had been arrested and charged with operating under the influence by Day.
A 2012 letter written by then-Chilmark Police Chief Brian Cioffi outlines the allegation against Day, according to Meisner’s investigation. “The issue appears to be where Officer Day received the handgun and for what purpose he received it,” Meisner wrote. “The letter indicates Officer Day initially stated he received the handgun while teaching a hunter safety course in Edgartown and the gun was to be used for demonstration purposes only. Chief Cioffi contends the handgun was turned into Officer Day while he was in uniform, on duty, at the Chilmark Police Department and was to be destroyed.”
According to the report, Day had told Meisner the gun could not fire, but a test of the weapon indicated it was in working order.
“The letter concludes with the indication Officer Day resigned from the Chilmark Police Department for being untruthful after being placed on paid administrative leave,” Meisner wrote. “It does not appear as though there was any follow-up investigation by the Chilmark Police Department in regard to these instances. It appears the officer was allowed to resign in lieu of being terminated for being untruthful based on the information provided by Chief Cioffi.”
While that initial investigation found the allegations of untruthfulness against Day were unfounded, a subsequent investigation came to a different conclusion when evidence surfaced, from the gun owner, that she had turned the weapon over to Day to be destroyed.
During an interview with Mesiner and then-Police Chief Daniel Hanavan, Day was confronted with that new evidence and asked for his attorney to be present.
Hanavan told him he was entitled to union representation, but not an attorney for an administrative hearing.
During that hearing, Day admitted he took the gun home rather than destroying it or holding it at the police station — and had it in his possession for “6 or 4 years.”
During the interview, Day was asked if he admitted that he lied about where and when he received the gun. After first saying it was turned over during a hunter safety course he taught in Edgartown, he then acknowledged that wasn’t the case. The woman who owned the gun brought it to him at the Chilmark station. In emails to Chief Hanavan, also obtained by The Times, the woman says she wanted the gun destroyed.
“At this point (Day) stated that he lied and that he did get the gun at the station when Ms. Walker dropped it off,” Hanavan said reading from a Chilmark letter written by Cioffi. “(Day) state[s] he lied initially because Chief Cioffi caught him off guard and that he didn’t want to get in trouble for not logging the gun, filling out the appropriate paperwork for the gun or not making a police report about turned in property.”
Day denied making that statement.
“I left Chilmark because I decided not to work for the chief anymore,” Day is quoted as saying in the report. “That was not the only incident that he was accusing me of that were being blown out of proportion.”
Along with the gun incident, Day made headlines on and off the Island in 2008 when he shot and killed a turkey that he said charged at him. Day and Officer Matt Gebo were responding to a report that the turkey had attacked two individuals.
As The Times reported in 2008, the turkey was dear to a man named Jonathan Haar, who told police he’d fed it since it was a chick. Haar became upset when he saw the bird shot and allegedly assaulted Officer Gebo, according to a police report. Day shot the bird three times with a .40 caliber Glock pistol, a report states. Haar, told the newspaper five shots were fired.
Haar’s wife called the state police after her husband was arrested though after a trooper arrived, the outcome doesn’t appear ot have changed. Haar was taken to the Dukes County Jail, according to a report. Then-Chilmark Police Chief Tim Rich defended Day’s actions.
“Officer Day happens to be fairly proficient with firearms and has been a lead hunter safety instructor on the Vineyard for the last 8 or 9 years,” Chief Rich told The Times in 2008. “He knows the game better than most, he was a tribal ranger for 12 years.”
In another incident while he was a Chilmark officer, Day was accused of having a car towed without permission of the owner after a motor vehicle stop to inventory it for potential drug evidence, according to the report.
Day initially said he didn’t know how to contact the vehicle owner, even though he admitted to previously giving her a ride home, the report indicates.
Ultimately, Day was called before the Tisbury select board for a hearing in 2016. He was suspended, but allowed to remain on the force.
“I know he had a more than five day suspension,” Meisner told The Times.
The Tisbury discipline runs contrary to what the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association recommends for officers found to be untruthful.
On Thursday, Day declined to comment on the internal investigation.
According to a 2016 bulletin issued by the chiefs and obtained by The Times, an officer’s background, particularly disciplinary actions, is exculpatory evidence that must be shared with the defense.
“It is clear that under prevailing case law, and the rules governing criminal procedure before both state and federal courts, the prosecution must disclose exculpatory information, including information which bears upon the credibility of any witness (e.g. police witnesses), to the defendant even if no specific request for that information is made,” the bulletin issued by the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association states. “Failure to do so could result in a new trial.”
“Naturally, any officer engaging in such untruthfulness should be terminated or permanently removed from any possible activity where the officer could be called upon to be a witness to any action,” the bulletin states.