A few days ago, I wrote a piece and shot a video covering the fact that in the first two weeks of New Jersey’s rights-violating so-called “Red Flag” statute, agents of the state used it more than once a day to go after people’s firearms. One video viewer commented that he was from Massachusetts, and worried about such a statute passing there. I told him the Massachusetts “Red Flag” statute had already been passed and signed.
But if I had waited just two days, I could have told him about this new infringement: an 84 year-old retired cop and Korean War vet who is now a crossing guard working for the Tisbury School District recently was confronted by police and told to turn over his firearms “license and guns under the MA “Red Flag” statute – simply because a waitress overheard him worrying about school safety while having lunch with a friend.
This isn’t fiction. And the non-responsive, seemingly evasive, manner in which town officials – from police, to school officials – are responding to requests for information reads like something from a dystopian novel.
According to Rich Saltzberg, in a piece published by MV Times on October 11, the Tisbury, MA, school crossing guard recently was “relieved of duty” and had his “gun license” and firearms taken by police, “for alleged threats to the Tisbury School overheard by a waitress at Linda Jean’s restaurant in Oak Bluffs.”
Stephen Nichols, 84, of Tisbury, who said his career with the Tisbury Police spanned six decades and who served in the United States Army during the Korean War, told The Times he made no threats to the school, but had criticized its school resource officer (Scott Ogden) in a conversation with a friend. He said the conversation was taken out of context.
His friend confirms what Mr. Nichols and his lawyer, Dan Larkosh, have stated, and offers additional insight.
…Edgartown resident Andy Marcus described the situation as “absurd.” Marcus confirmed Nichols did not threaten the school but pointed out that Nichols thought Ogden (the Resource Officer) was having coffee at Xtra Mart and leaving the students potentially exposed. Marcus said he has known Nichols for years and often talks with him at the counter of Linda Jean’s. He said nobody at that restaurant but one server holds the opinion Nichols possibly posed a threat to the Tisbury School. Marcus said in addition to being a longtime special police officer, Nichols was a court officer and a constable.
And the owner of the diner vouches for Nichols, as well.
Linda Jean’s owner Marc Hanover said he’s known Nichols for decades and vouched for his integrity. He described the situation as “absolutely outrageous.” He said he believes one of his servers “overreacted.” Hanover said he spoke with the restaurant patron who had conversed with Nichols at the time of the alleged threats.
That patron would be Mr. Marcus. But the waitress, taking the conversation out of context, and not bothering to investigate, talk to Nichols, or ask for further details, called the cops, and, as many agents of the state do when they have statutes to back them up, even though those statutes are flagrantly unconstitutional and breach most of the bill of rights, the Tisbury police swooped into action, confronting Nichols while he was on his job at a crossing.
(Tisbury Police Chief Mark) Saloio and another officer relieved Nichols of his crossing guard duties while he was in the midst of performing them and subsequently drove to his home and took away his firearms license and guns. ‘He came up and told me what I said was a felony but he wasn’t going to charge me,’ Nichols said of Saloio.
Was there any accusation of criminal threatening? Was there a trial? Any legal representation? A jury of his peers? A warrant?
Nope. Not according to reports.
Was there any sign of a constitutionally sanctioned procedure followed by the police?
Far be it for an American citizen to expect agents of the government to respect the Bill of Rights nowadays, especially the Fourth Amendment requirement of a judge-issued public warrant for a search or seizure, and especially the Fourteenth Amendment’s supposed assurance of “due process”. That “process” is whatever government officials want it to be, apparently, and this seems particularly true when it comes to “Red Flag” statues.
And, get this, the police and town officials (Nichols’ job as a crossing guard was not a school position, but handled by town and the police), are so tight-lipped, legalese-minded, and unaccommodating when it comes to information about the incident, one gets the impression they just don’t want the public to have an easy time getting info at all.
Saloio declined to comment when approached at the Tisbury Police Station. He later told The Times, ‘There’s nothing that I can legally discuss about the matter. Period.’ The police department has also refused to release the police report from the investigation citing the ‘personnel’ exemption of the public records law.
Which is shady on two fronts. First, there is plenty that the head of the police squad legally can discuss about the matter. It’s a matter of public record. Taxpayer cash was spent to pay for him and the unnamed officer to engage in this activity. Taxpayer cash was used to buy the very clothes he wore and the vehicle he drove to swoop down upon Nichols while the man was doing his job. And the “personnel” exemption is cover. Nichols and his lawyer have not brought punitive legal action against the police for an infringement of his rights. They have not filed a suit for damages. They simply have filed an appeal to have the license restored and the guns returned. The names of the officers involved don’t need to be hidden, and even if they did want to hide them, the town could redact the names and release the reports.
The whole thing is incredible, but it is important that it be understood one of the early stories of its type: absolute insults to the Constitution and fundamental right of self-defense posed by all gun statutes, especially “Red Flag” statutes. These are attacks that leave people unsafe.
Nichols said he never carries guns outside the house and would like to have his license and his guns back, but the fate of the guns may be sealed. ‘My grandson is manager of a gun shop in Worcester, Mass and he’s going to be allowed to come down and take the weapons and sell them for me,’ he said.
Which means that an 84 year-old man -- just the kind of person whose age designates him as vulnerable and likely very much in need of a firearm for self-defense – has been made virtually defenseless by armed agents of the state.
That’s the effect of “Red Flag” statutes: People stripped of their rights, attacked by government, and made defenseless.
All in the supposed “land of the free.”
Evidently, one isn’t even free to express worries in a diner nowadays.
Because, in response, the government will send armed people to go after your guns.
It seems clear which side is engaging in threats of gun violence.
(UPDATE: Stephon Nichols was allowed to return to his job as a school crossing guard. His seized guns and license to carry have not been returned.)