Due to what he deemed a “distinctive gait,” Tisbury Police Sgt. Jeff Day misidentified and arrested a man walking in the center of Vineyard Haven for another man wanted on several warrants, police records show. Sgt. Day allegedly failed to check the man’s wallet for identification and according to a letter apparently written by the arrestee’s mother, didn’t ask the man to remove his “sunglasses and a black felt hat.”
Sgt. Day made the May 21 arrest because a man he saw from his cruiser on a sidewalk appeared to be a 22-year-old he’d had “past dealings with,” according to police records obtained by The Times through a public records request.
In his May 22 report, Sgt. Day said he turned his cruiser around and found the individual on Norton Avenue, which is close to the Tisbury Police Department.
“I rolled down my window as [he] was walking by,” the report states. The report states Sgt. Day called to the individual by his middle name. “He looked at me, tipped his hat and saluted me. I told him I needed to talk to him. He asked what it was about. I got out and said … you have a couple of warrants. He said I don’t think so.”
Sgt. Day informed the individual he was about to arrest that he had missed some court dates and then called for additional police. Officer Scott Ogden and Special Officer Anthony Fusaro arrived.
“I removed a knife from his pants pocket,” the report states. “I placed [him] into handcuffs and then moved him towards a police cruiser. Officer Ogden pat frisked him. He was then placed into the rear of Tisbury Police cruiser by Officer Ogden.”
Fusaro and Ogden then transported the individual to the Dukes County jail.
The individual arrested wasn’t who Sgt. Day thought it was. It was the son of a Dukes County Sheriff’s employee who happened to be working at the jail when her son was brought in.
In a letter to Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio, apparently written by the arrestee’s mother, arrest information not found in Sgt. Day’s report was conveyed. The letter is partially redacted. The woman couldn’t immediately be reached to confirm she wrote the letter.
The author said they were “confused to say the least” when the arrestee was brought into the jail for booking. Among other anomalies, the author alleges when the arrestee arrived, “he was wearing sunglasses and a black felt hat”. At the jail, the author alleges, Ogden checked the arrestee’s wallet for identification, found it, and “agreed” the person wasn’t who he was assumed to be. The arrestee was offered a ride back but declined. Day called the letter writer to apologize shortly thereafter. When the author later got home and spoke with the person who was arrested about what had transpired, the following was alleged:
- Police didn’t ask the arrestee to remove his hat or “mirrored” sunglasses
- The arrestee doesn’t walk like the individual wanted on warrants
- Sgt. Day never asked for the arrestee’s name or identification
The author also alleged the arrestee “shared with Sgt. Day that he didn’t know why he was under arrest and stated he never had a court date. I know this is a common ploy but in this case it was the truth.”
The author stated they were “proud” of how the arrestee comported himself during the incident.
“I honestly think he didn’t know what was happening and did what I’ve always told him to do — listen to and obey police officers.”
The author went on to write, “[W]hen I think about all that could have gone wrong, and how easily it all could have been avoided, I am left with an uneasy feeling. A feeling, I can only assume many have felt about the police in their communities.”
The author stressed that police often face “split-second life and death decisions” but the arrest Sgt. Day made wasn’t one of those types of decisions.
“The officer had all day to get this right,” the author stated. “There was no urgency, no emergency — yet something got in the way. I guess that’s your job in all this; to figure out what got in the way and to prevent a reoccurrence.”
In an internal investigation report signed June 2, Chief Saloio wrote that Day described the arrestee as “strongly resembling [a wanted defendant],” however Day’s first communication to Saloio was “chief I [expletive] up.”
Chief Saloio spoke with the arrestee’s mother who told him she didn’t want “anything bad” to happen to Day, according to the report. The report states Chief Saloio told her “regardless of her not wanting anything bad to happen to Jeff, he would need to be held accountable for his mistake.”
The arrestee later came to the Tisbury Police Department where Chief Saloio asked what he could do to set things right. The arrestee, according to the report, “shrugged his shoulders and stated ‘I needed a ride to Edgartown anyway.’” The arrestee described the incident as “no big deal.” When asked if he was addressed by another name by Sgt. Day prior to the arrest, the arrestee said he didn’t hear such a name. Asked if he ever told Sgt. Day that he wasn’t the wanted person, the arrestee said “no,” according to the report. He said there was no discussion of his identity and Sgt. Day never asked him for the identification in his wallet or took the wallet to look at it. The arrestee also said, according to the report, he had no conversations with Fusaro and Ogden.
In a memo to Chief Saloio, Ogden wrote he searched the back of the cruiser for “contraband” after a sheriff’s deputy escorted the arrestee into the jail. Ogden wrote that no contraband was discovered.
“I walked back into the booking area and was told this is not [the wanted defendant]…” Ogden wrote. “The booking deputy produced the detainee’s identification that showed his true name…”
Fusaro wrote that the man was wearing a hat and glasses.
“…I saw Sergeant Day walking towards the cruiser with a male wearing a cowboy style hat and sunglasses handcuffed behind his back,” Fusaro wrote.
Fusaro indicated there was a brief conversation in the cruiser en route to the Dukes County jail.
“At one point during the transport, the male asked us what his warrants were for,” Fusaro wrote, “though it was very difficult for us to hear each other over open windows and the partition. Officer Ogden replied he was not sure for what exactly they were for…”
In his memo, Ogden specified one warrant was for a felony. Ogden stated the arrestee was transported “without incident,” that he was secured with a seatbelt, and that his phone was secured in “the front passenger seat of the cruiser.” Ogden’s memo doesn’t mention any verbal interaction with the arrestee. His memo also doesn’t mention he personally checked the arrestee’s wallet for identification, as the author who appears to be the arrestee’s mother alleged in a letter to Chief Saloio.
In his internal investigation report, Chief Saloio cited preventable mistaken identity “without malice,” violations of policy, job knowledge and competence, and neglect of duty as problems he found in the arrest Day made.
No consequences appear in the version of the report provided to The Times. The lines below the problems Chief Saloio cited in the internal investigation report are redacted.
Chief Saloio couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. Sgt. Day previously declined to comment on this internal investigation. Day was the subject of a previous internal investigation at the Tisbury Police Department. Former Tisbury Police Chief Dan Hanavan found, among other things, that Day allegedly stole a firearm and then lied about it. Day wasn’t a police sergeant at that time. Day received a suspension of at least five days, according former Tisbury Police Lt. Eerik Meisner.
Reached Tuesday, select board chair Jim Rogers told The Times discipline was dispensed for the false arrest that was “acceptable to all parties.” Rogers said a disciplinary hearing was held between town counsel Brian Maser, town administrator Jay Grande, Chief Saloio, Sgt. Day, and union representatives.
“All parties agree it’s not good police policy to be arresting the wrong person,” Rogers said. Rogers declined to specify what type of discipline Sgt. Day received.
“It’s a personnel issue, so I can’t talk about it.”
Asked how Day could have been promoted to sergeant with allegations of firearms theft and lying on his resume, Rogers said the promotion was “in-house” via the police chief.
“He was hired before I was a select person,” Rogers said of Day. “Up until this matter, there have been no real incidents with Mr. Day.”
On June 2, Chief Saloio said he met with individuals whose names are redacted and presented formal letters of apology signed by him. The letters were written to the mother and her son, the arrestee. The letters are nearly identical. Sgt. Day was present when the letters were given to apologize orally.
“On behalf of the Tisbury Police Department, I wish to extend my sincere apologies for the actions of Sgt. Day, toward you, on May 21st, 2021,” the letter to the arrestee reads. “Though the actions were neither ill-intentioned or deliberate, they were nonetheless preventable and inexcusable. As chief of the department, I take full responsibility for his mistake, and I apologize for any distress or embarrassment this incident may have caused for you, [redacted] and your family.”