A Korean War veteran who has served in some capacity with local law enforcement for a span of six decades had his firearms confiscated and was relieved of his duties as an elementary school crossing guard last month, after a waitress overheard what she perceived to be a "threat" in a passing conversation at a coffee shop.
Stephen Nichols, 84, of Tisbury, Massachusetts, was never charged with a crime, and was reinstated to his post at the crosswalk of Tisbury School on Tuesday following public outcry. But his guns are still to be sold.
What are the details?
A waitress at Linda Jean's Restaurant in Oak Bluffs reported Nichols to authorities, after she said she overheard him talking to a friend and believed he was making a threat. Nichols told the Martha's Vineyard Times that he made no threats whatsoever, and that his conversation was taken out of context.
The great-grandfather told The Times, "I would never, ever, ever, harm a child."
The Times reported that "Nichols said he was unimpressed with the Tisbury School resource officer's alleged trips to Xtra Mart to get coffee when children came to school in the morning," and "told a friend about this and suggested somebody could 'shoot up the school' in that officer's absence, which he described as 'leaving his post.'"
Based on the waitress's report, Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio and another officer pulled Nichols off the job while he was working his shift at the school. "He came up to me and told me what I said was a felony, but he wasn't going to charge me," Mr. Nichols recalled.
The officers then went to Nichols' home and took his firearms as well as his license to carry — which the former Morse code specialist had held since 1958.
Nichols believed that he had been fired that day, but officials later disputed that and said his position was just under review until their investigation had been completed. Mr. Nichols was reinstated following public outcry, including a change.org petition where organizers pleaded for officials to put the beloved crossing guard back on the job.
Regardless, Nichols was never charged with a crime, the police have refused to release their report to the press, and Mr. Nichols maintains that he was never given any documentation relating to the seizure of his guns.
Mr. Nichols says he's now happy to be back on the job he took after the passing of his wife two years ago. "I just need something to do to get out of the house and I love the kids," he told his local paper.
As for his firearms, The Times reported, "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."