An 84-year-old Army veteran was fired from his job as a crossing guard at a Massachusetts school after a waitress overheard and apparently misinterpreted a conversation he had with a friend.
Stephen Nichols – who served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War and served on the Tisbury police force for six decades – said the conversation in question consisted of him criticizing school resource officer, Scott Ogden, who works at the same school. According to the MV Times, a waitress at a local Linda Jean’s restaurant overheard Nichols’ comments and reported Nichols to the police.
Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio relieved Nichols of his crossing guard duties in the middle of his work shift and police then reportedly drove to his home and took all of his guns and his firearms license.
Sharing his side of the story, Nichols said the waitress misheard his casual conversation and misinterpreted his comments as a threat.
Nichols told MV Times he was telling his friend about concerns he had with the school’s resource officer going to the store to get coffee each morning when the children started arriving.
During that conversation, Nichols said that someone could come in and “shoot up the school” while the resource officer was away.
“When I was in the United States Army, and it wasn’t just me, it’s anybody who’s in the United States service, if you are on guard duty for eight hours, you didn’t leave that position,” Nichols told MV Times. “And I’m just so accustomed to that, that when I see someone who’s suppose to be protecting kids…leave the school unguarded — if you’re on guard duty, you stay there.”
Nichols was not charged with any crimes, but Saloio did reportedly instigate his removal from crossing guard duties.
“He came up and told me what I said was a felony but he wasn’t going to charge me,” Nichols said of his conversation with Saloio.
Town administrator Jay Grande confirmed Nichol’s removal, pending a review of his case.
Saloio reportedly turned the seized guns and license over to Nichol’s son-in-law for safekeeping.
The confiscation process appears to have been informal and Nichols said he wasn’t given any kind of paperwork.
“He just told me to hand it over, so I took it out of my wallet and handed it to him,” Nichols said.
Nichols has had his firearms license since 1958 but he said he never carries guns outside the house.
Nichol’s attorney, Dan Larkosh, of the Edgartown firm Larkosh and Jackson, plan to appeal the decision on behalf of Nichols.
“We would expect reasonable minds to prevail, and [Nichols] to be reinstated in his job,” Larkosh said.
Marc Hanover, the owner of the Linda Jeans restaurant, said he’s known Nichols for decades and vouched for the man’s integrity.
Nichols said he has 11 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren. “I would never, ever, ever, harm a child,” he said.
Nichols has been a widower for two years and said, “I just need something to do to get out of the house and I love the kids.”
“There’s nothing that I can legally discuss about the matter. Period,” Saloio said when asked for comment on Nichol’s case.
Ogden, the school resource officer in question, also declined to comment though when reporters asked Tisbury School Principal John Custer if there were complaints about Ogden’s performance, Custer said there were “none whatsoever.”