O.B. Police report missing M-4 rifle

A Bushmaster M-4 rifle like this one has been recovered by the Oak Bluffs Police Department.

Updated Nov. 6

The Oak Bluffs Police Department is missing a Bushmaster M-4 rifle, according to a press release issued late Friday afternoon by select board chair Brian Packish.

The department has launched an independent investigation, and placed a department employee on paid administrative leave, the release states. 

In a brief message to The Times, Oak Bluffs Police Chief Erik Blake wrote that the weapon wasn’t fully automatic, but semiautomatic, like all weapons at the Oak Bluffs Police Department. Chief Blake wrote that the department describes the weapon as a “.223 caliber patrol rifle.” He wrote that the weapon is “commonly referred to” as an assault rifle. 

“I have been informed by Police Chief Erik Blake and town administrator Deborah Potter that a routine inventory revealed that a Police Department weapon, a Bushmaster M-4 rifle, that was checked out nearly three years ago appears to be missing,” Packish wrote. “The chief has taken action to see that a comprehensive search is undertaken. He has also arranged to have an independent investigator provide a thorough review of the matter, to interview anyone that might have information, and to submit a report, which is expected within two weeks.”

The release also states that an “individual” has been placed on leave in light of the situation. That individual isn’t identified.

“Out of an abundance of caution, and following departmental procedure, the individual that last checked out the weapon has been placed on administrative leave with pay during the investigation,” the release states. “By no means does this imply any wrongdoing, and this is in no way disciplinary in nature. It just helps ensure the integrity of the investigatory process and enhances transparency. As this is an ongoing investigation and personnel matter, no further comment is available at this time. I anticipate the select board will receive a report from the chief as soon as possible after the conclusion of the investigation, following which we will take any action that is appropriate.”

Packish could not be immediately reached for comment. 

Reached Saturday, Oak Bluff select board member Emma Green-Beach said, “It was a really unfortunate incident that we are doing our best to handle in the most responsible way possible.”

Also reached Saturday, select board member Gail Barmakian declined comment, and referred inquiry to Packish.

The rifle marks the second missing firearm from a Vineyard police department that has come to light this year. In Tisbury, records uncovered by The Times reveal a Glock handgun went missing from the Tisbury Police Department armory. A former sergeant and a former chief each said the other was last to be in possession of it. While former Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio suggested the town should hire an outside investigator to get to the bottom of the situation, the town didn’t do so. His successor, Tisbury Police Chief Chris Habekost, later told The Times he didn’t think the situation warranted an outside investigation. That gun hasn’t been found. Records requests made by The Times also revealed the Tisbury Police Department hired a Chilmark Police Officer who allegedly stole a gun that had been turned in to the Chilmark Police Station for destruction. An internal investigation found that officer lied to Tisbury Police Chief Dan Hanavan about the incident. The officer was given a suspension, and later promoted to sergeant, after which he falsely arrested a man based largely on the way he walked

Updated with new comments and to correct a caliber typo made by the the O.B. police chief. — Ed.


  1. Well, I don’t know that it’s a good thing to copy the Tisbury police department. This does show that Joke Bluffs PD is no better than those in Tisbury. Time to get control of these seriously unprofessional police departments.

  2. Words fail me to be able to describe the negligence of the Oak Bluffs Police Department. One might think they have taken lessons from those other faithful public servants, the honorable Tisbury Police Dept.
    If it is not allowing Detective Morse in 2018 to violate the law through his rampage of the police computer network, it is again turning a blind eye to required oversight on these weapons we entrusted them with.
    When will it end?

  3. Why did the OBPD have an M-4?
    Obviously, they can can not be trusted to have an M-4
    Who has it now?
    Some kid?
    The same kid who has the TPD Glock?

  4. Serious question: Why goes a police officer “check out” a weapon like this? On the Vineyard? Why?

    • Unless there are unauthorized or nefarious reasons, I would suspect “checking out” that firearm was for practice reasons – which don’t require live fire. Dry firing, changing magazines, clearing jams, and even “firing” with digital rounds are all part of the muscle memory required to use the firearm property when required in a real situation.

      • Failing to return the deadly weapon in a timely manner is nefarious, at best.
        The damn fool cop who signed this weapon out should be immediately fired.
        Same in Tisbury.

  5. “Chief Blake wrote that the department describes the weapon as a “.233 caliber patrol rifle.” If I’m not mistaken, that carbine is chambered for .223 Rem or 5.56 NATO.

  6. I am also concerned that a police chief doesn’t appear to know the correct caliber of their own patrol rifle. They’ll never find a “.233 caliber patrol rifle” because it doesn’t exist in the first place. Alternatively, MV Times could have “fat fingered” it when typing the quotation. Regardless, happy hunting and hopefully the gun doesn’t take the ferry to the mainland or commit any crimes.

    • The rifle pictured also has a binary trigger on it, as you can tell by the red Franklin Arms selector switch label on the left of the lower receiver.

    • I would think the police have this weapon in their arsenal because there are so many of the exact same assault rifles (“patrol weapon” haha) in private hands on Marthas Vineyard. These weapons can be legally purchased in any gun store (except so many have been purchased in the last 2 years that there is a giant waiting list). Pray it doesn’t happen, but I don’t think any law enforcement person wants to show up carrying a “knife to a gunfight”.
      That said, if you or I ever came up missing an M-4, I’d bet the farm the police, ATF, and likely FBI would be knocking on your door in about 5 minutes.
      Don’t fret, those who live in fear of guns, I’d also bet both cases were solved before the press ever got wind of anything missing (not that we will ever know the real story).

  7. I question the rifle claimed missing…. Article read it’s a .233 caliber, NO SUCH CALIBER…… Maybe a .223 or a 5.56 but absolutely not a .233…. This may sound a bit petty to most, but one can not investigate a missing weapon that does not exist….. Mow the officer on paid administrative leave? Sounds like a set up…

  8. It funny how anti- cop this is. It wouldn’t let me say earlier that one can’t investigate a missing .233 caliber rifle….. Caliber doesn’t exist… Maybe a .223 or a 5.56…. Petty to many maybe yet factual. Can’t investigate for missing property that doesn’t exist…. Again .233 caliber doesn’t exist, maybe a .223 or a 5.56

    • There is nothing anti-cop about this article.
      The article merely points out cop incompetence when it comes to handling deadly weapons.

      Petty in the extreme.
      A difference of 4% in bullet diameter
      Big (well you know) Deal.

      You have impressed the Island with you knowledge of guns.
      Now impress them with finding the gun.
      Do you think that the Officer who signed the gun out but failed to return it should be fired?
      Would that be pro or anti Police?

  9. This is not only a problem on Martha’s Vineyard, it is nationwide. Police firearms are sought after because they do not need to comply with civilian rules, and have not fired many rounds, therefore they bring a high resale price. I would question why it took 3 years to discover the weapon was missing. Think about this when you increase the OBPD budget without requiring accountability.

    • Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to lose control of weapon designed to kill people, at long range, rapidly?

  10. Some facts: That is a semi-automatic rifle in the photo but technically not an M4, which is a true select fire weapon. The AR-15 style weapon pictured here has a binary trigger installed on it, which allows it to fire a round when the trigger is pulled and when it’s released while in binary mode. That’s my why the red tag on the selector switch. Also, it’s a .223 caliber weapon, not .233.

  11. Upon a re-reading of this article there are several questions the Times needs to follow up with:
    1- who is the officer?
    2- why is the incompetent chief picking an outside investigator, probably a friend, to do this job of investigation. Should be a third party that has no affiliation personal or professional with Blake or anyone associated with the town.
    3- how is the inventory ‘routine’ if it has missed a rifle for three years? You mean to tell the public you only check your department issued/owned firearms every three years???
    4- The US Navy just relieved command staff of a submarine which hit a undersea mountain, how about some equivalent action from the Bored of Selectmen to address this travesty, in other words hold the captain accountable for his miscreant crew…

  12. Honestly I was not going to comment but here I am cleaning my house and can’t stop thinking about this.
    First of all why would you need this type of gun here and what was it checked out for?
    Second, why is the officers name not mentioned?
    If it were anyone else there name would be front and center.
    Third , why is there not scheduled or unscheduled inventory on weapons and ammunition?

    I also want to add that court reports in the paper should not exist for the simple fact that even know you are presumed innocent until proven guilty, we know this is not the fact!
    You are found guilty in the public’s eye not to mention the police eye who once you are in their radar , you are a target for even the most simple infractions.
    How many people have lost their jobs due to the court report?
    Police are like anyone else , we all have bad days the only difference with them is they have the power to destroy a persons life with a false arrest or a twisted report .
    I have the utmost respect for the police force but I also see it like it is.

    • In a democracy we the people have the right to know what happens in our court rooms.
      Those found guilty and those found innocent.
      No secret courts.
      No secret police.
      The problem is that most people do not differentiate between being arrested and being found guilty of a crime.
      Most people assume that if a person has been arrested they must be guilty of something, even if it can’t proven.
      The cops know this is (mostly?) true because they never falsely arrest or, twist a report.
      They are patriots and for the most part veterans.
      They would not lie.

  13. It will be very interesting to see if OB follows the same path as Tisbury and say case closed on the unsuccessful finding of their missing weapons. I hope they don’t.
    The Tisbury selectmen drops the ball again and again. Hopefully Tisbury voters will send them a message in the next election Tisbury election, a giant investigation of all the things that have been covered up will be investigated and legal punishments will be handed out.
    That is the only way to drain the Swamp, get honest, respectable people in office to serve and maybe then we will have some respect again for those we vote in to represent us.

  14. Cathy Peters—you have a great point on ending the court reports. They hurt a lot of people. (Family and friends future clients etc). Actually some of us are working on a petition to have the papers end this and to not sensationalize. Thankyou. I know many folks think this is needless.

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