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.