Rockland Trust in Vineyard Haven was robbed at gunpoint Thursday morning, Tisbury and State Police told The Times.
Three people robbed the bank, Tisbury Police Chief Chris Habekost said. They were carrying handguns and wore hooded sweatshirts and “Halloween masks,” he said. Massachusetts State Police Trooper Dustin Shaw, who is assigned to the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office, said the suspects are considered “armed and dangerous.” A car stolen from one of the bank employees was dumped near the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest in a small parking lot off Barnes Road. The lot had been cordoned off with yellow caution tape and a State Police police dog could be seen working to find a trail at about 10:40 am.
A source with knowledge of the investigation told The Times trail cameras in the woods picked up images of the suspects fleeing through the woods.
According to Habekost, two employees of the bank were tied up during the armed robbery, but nobody was injured. The FBI has come to the Vineyard along with additional State Police personnel to aid the active investigation.
Late in the day Thursday, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O’Keefe issued a statement on the robbery saying it occurred at 8:15 am. “Three unknown individuals rushed into the bank as employees entered to open the bank for business. These subjects were masked, gloved and armed with handguns,” according to the statement. “The District Attorney and Chief Habekost want to stress that Island residents should remain vigilant, however, they should not be overly alarmed. This was a targeted crime and there is no additional information that should cause undue fear.”
According to the DA’s statement, all three subjects wore masks like the ones shown in their press release from a photo taken at the scene. “Anyone with information is asked to please contact Tisbury PD @ 508-696-4240 or Trooper Dustin Shaw @ 508-693- 0545,” the release states.
Also on Thursday night, there was a lot of helicopter activity on the Island, as well as an apparent meeting of law enforcement officials at State Police headquarters in Oak Bluffs.
For a time on Thursday, the focus of the investigation shifted to the Holiday Inn on Jones Road in Falmouth. Dozens of police officers and emergency personnel swarmed the scene and students at the nearby Morse Pond and Lawrence schools were first put on a stay in place order and then bused to Falmouth High School out of an abundance of caution, Falmouth Police Chief Ed Dunne said, as state police wearing tactical gear arrived along with armored vehicles.
Dunne told reporters at 3:30 pm that after a search of the hotel, the suspects were not there. He said the focus shifts back to Tisbury and the Island.
“Some information that was developed led us here to this hotel today. With the assistance of the FBI, the State Police, the Falmouth Police we conducted an investigation here and have concluded that the suspects are not here and the investigation will continue on the Island,” Dunne told reporters.
A source with knowledge of the investigation said that the people turned out to be construction workers.
Dunne declined to give specifics on what led the police to the hotel and what was found. “The hotel is safe and no one at the hotel is in any danger,” he said.
Dunne said it’s possible the suspects are still on the Island. “It was part of the investigation that led us here. Information that the State Police, FBI and Tisbury got and followed up by Falmouth and we worked together as a team,” he said.
As for robbing a bank on an Island, Dunne said, “To rob a bank on an Island? I don’t think it was well thought out.”
Dunne said he didn’t know anything about the suspects.
MV Bank shut down their lobbies on the Vineyard and in Falmouth out of an abundance of caution. The Falmouth Holiday Inn was on lockdown during the investigation. Until Jones Road was closed by police, a steady stream of cars passed by slowly, some putting down their windows to ask reporters what was going on.
Back on the Island, former MV Times editor and owner Doug Cabral said he was at the bank at 8:30 am waiting for service at the drive-up window and “shortly found out that [he] was in the middle of a crime scene.”
He said police and forensics personnel kindly advised him to stay put until the scene was safe. Cabral was able to leave the bank around noon.
Lt. William Brigham, who was wearing body armor, told The Times the suspects had white masks and black hoodies on. He added the police are looking at the cameras now, but it’s hard to tell identities. The getaway car belonged to one of the tellers. “The most important thing is that nobody got hurt,” Brigham said.
Habekost said the suspects were also wearing dark pants and one of them may have been wearing white sneakers. He urged the public to use caution and not to approach the suspects.
“The most important thing we want to let the public to know is they are considered armed and dangerous at this point,” Trooper Dustin Shaw said.
Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee was at the scene, as was Shaw.
Tisbury Police issued an alert on social media of an “active police scene at Rockland Trust in Vineyard Haven – confirmed armed robbery with firearms.”
The Rockland Trust is located on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Emily McDonald, Rockland Trust spokesperson, released a statement on Thursday afternoon. “A robbery was committed at our Vineyard Haven branch at approximately 8:15 AM this morning. The matter is under investigation and we are working with the authorities. There were no injuries and everyone is safe. The branch is temporarily closed. All other questions regarding the incident can be directed to the Tisbury Police Department. Our relationship with our customers, employees, and communities is our top priority and their safety is critically important to us. We will continue to apply stringent security measures to safeguard their well-being,” the statement read.
As a result of the investigation Thursday morning, Vineyard Montessori School is on lockdown as a result of the situation. Other schools in the vicinity were also locked down, including Oak Bluffs, Tisbury, and West Tisbury schools. The Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club in Edgartown announced on Facebook that it will be suspending programming Thursday “to ensure club members’ and staff safety and security.”
There were more than a half-dozen of cruisers and police vehicles at the scene and some officers were seen going into the building. The bank parking lot was blocked off with vehicles and caution tape.
At one point, two civilians — a man and a woman — could be seen talking with police. As of 9:30 am, some cruisers have left the scene.
As vehicles drove past the scene on the busy street, they slow to see what’s going on at the bank.
SSA spokesman Sean Driscoll said there’s been no request by police to stop ferry service to and from the Island.
Habekost said police officers are monitoring the ferry terminal. State Police cruisers were monitoring the SSA Vineyard Haven terminal Thursday afternoon. The U.S. Coast Guard isn’t involved in the search for the suspects, according to Petty Officer Briana Carter.