‘Distinctive gait’ led to arrest of wrong man

Tisbury Sgt. Jeff Day took the man into custody without checking his ID.

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More details have emerged about how police Sgt. Jeff Day arrested the wrong man.

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.”

Internal investigation

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.”

18 COMMENTS

  1. Good Grief. Could we please move on? Two drawn out mountains out of molehills stories is surely plenty. How about a story about how Coach Day took one of the two semi finalist Vineyard Babe Ruth Baseball teams to win the Battle of the Beaches Tournament in Falmouth a few weeks back? This reader would find Jeff Days positive contributions to our community a far more interesting story. -Baseball Mom

    • So you think just because “Coach” Day had some success as a baseball coach, his inadequacies as a police officer should be overlooked?

    • Amy have you ever been falsely arrested? If you thought that the arresting officer was a good coach, that took kids all the way to Falmouth, would you give him a pass?

  2. Why is officer day still a member of the police department? Keeping him as a member of the department diminishes the credibility of the department

  3. Amy, I am appalled at the position you just took in your response. Maybe the Constitution and it’s protections against false arrest are “no big deal” to you, but I dare suggest that man’s liberty meant something to him.
    You might be inconvenienced by having to read a very thorough bit of reporting by the MV Times, but for the rest of us the Constitution still matters.
    Shame on Day for exposing the taxpayers of Tisbury to yet another potential lawsuit.
    The Swallows may have been returning to San Juan Capistrano for centuries, and now we can count on the Tisbury Police to have established their own traditions, the generation of more lawsuits.

  4. No doubt, Sgt. Jeff Day was able to determine this “distinctive gait”, due to the extensive training the TPD receives from the Ministry of Silly Walks?

  5. How does a person wearing a big hat and reflective sunglasses “strongly resemble” anyone without removing the hat and glasses? That’s like thinking that everyone who wears a hoodie and reflective sunglasses must be the Unibomber. Isn’t there an IQ requirement for being a cop?

    • Ask members of OTHER island police departments about Tisbury’s notoriously low psychological testing standards for their police hires.

      • Spare us the prolonged effort. You obviously have done the work already or have savant like knowledge of our island police departments hiring criteria.
        Indulge us if you will and give us the facts you have found out. Thanks for enlightening all of us.

        • I’m more concerned with the lack of intelligence. Who is walking around with a loaded firearm and a history of making stupid decisions and acting on them? Tisbury isn’t the first town to hire Day, a liar with a record of bad judgment. If you aren’t concerned, you should be.

  6. Every time I see the Tisbury PD in a headline, I feel like I am reading an edition of The Onion. Thanks for keeping us entertained!

    • That is hysterical and the reason why is because it’s true. You cannot make up the nonsense that happens in the town of Tisbury. Obviously Day needs to go and he can go on any day. I have not heard much from the Tisbury waste water department they’re due for some more headlines and I see the dysfunctional rebuilding of the school continues. And this should put the Septic company on the back burner for a while as good things come in threes and it looks like they had their three.

  7. The man who was casually and mistakenly arrested could have died at the hands of Sgt.Day, had he put up a fight. We know that because we have seen it happen, again and again, in the news. You think it couldn’t happen Here? Here’s proof it does. It doesn’t matter if this cop is a good baseball coach, he’s a bad cop. Every mother on this Island has to worry about her son every day that Sgt Day is on the force.

  8. Let’s start with the most disturbing statement made by Select-member Rodgers, discipline was ‘acceptable to all parties’. Who are all the ‘parties’? Why would anything short of termination be construed as ‘acceptable’. Rodgers plays dodge the question in regard to Day’s previous discipline acting as though it isn’t his problem because he wasn’t there. Well discipline is supposed to be cumulative in nature, so it doesn’t matter if you were there then, you are responsible for now and the future. The only proven track record here is that Day is horrific at police work. It is clear he doesn’t understand the boundaries between right and wrong and clearly lacks good judgement in practically every situation. Yet he continues to be supported by a very dubious chain of command from the embattled/short timing chief all the way up to the chairman of the select board. The errors made by Day will only continue to compound until the town eats another lawsuit, this time it will add negligent retention to the offense. Day is an admitted liar to his former chief’s, so how will he be able to testify in court, write a report or statement without his truthfulness being called into question. Anyone who gets a speeding ticket simply has to bring up his past to get a pass. The town will bear this detriment by continuing to pay $100K+ a year to employ someone who can’t perform the most basic of functions.
    As far as his base ball coaching goes, that hasn’t been reported on. If it’s as good as the commentary suggests maybe that would be a good choice of a new career for Day, because he obviously isn’t good at police work and his supervisors are falling flat on their faces when it comes to their obligations to the safety and well-being of Tisbury.

  9. my first thought was Day arrested someone without checking his ID ?
    Then a second officer transported the victim to the jail.
    A second officer involved just followed Day’s instructions.
    Is that the proper protocol ?
    Now let me throw in the race card here.
    Nothing in the article mentions the victims race.
    So I will assure he was white.
    Had he been black, had he complained about being arrested, and was carrying a knife, he may very well have been transported to the hospital.
    I look at Day’s rap sheet, and I wonder what this guy is doing on a police force–
    There are red flags all over this cop.. Tisbury officials seem to be suffering from a very flat learning curve.
    It’s only a matter of time that something is going to happen here, and I will have to fork out more of my hard earned money to pay for the lawsuits.. I’m sick of it.
    I wonder of the Times could do a little investigative reporting and let the townspeople know
    what percentage of our current tax bills are going to pay off past lawsuits ?

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