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Martha’s Vineyard residents feeling uneasy in aftermath of armed bank robbery

Arraignment set for Monday in connection with the case

Investigators released an image of one of the robbers involved in a bank theft on Martha's Vineyard Thursday. Each robber was wearing the same kind of Halloween-like mask, officials have said.Cape & Islands DA Office

VINEYARD HAVEN — As investigators’ search for suspects in the violent armed robbery of a local bank branch continued Sunday, residents remained on edge and anxious for an end to the manhunt that has upended normal life and put the island back in the nation’s headlines.

Thursday’s theft at the Rockland Trust bank branch touched off a massive law enforcement response: Three robbers wore Halloween-like masks, tied up the bank workers, and made their getaway in a stolen car, investigators have said.

One arrest in connection with the case was announced Saturday, and an arraignment is expected Monday at Edgartown District Court, according to the Cape and Islands district attorney’s office.


No other details, including the person’s identity, alleged role in the robbery, and the charges they could face, were released Sunday. An FBI spokesperson said the investigation remained very active on Sunday, but declined to comment further.

The case has drawn the combined force of the FBI, State Police, the district attorney’s office, as well as police in Tisbury, Falmouth, and other communities.

And the dramatic theft has left its mark on daily life, even as residents praised police efforts to solve the crime.

“Obviously, people are on edge and upset this happened,” said Molly Coogan, the owner of the Bunch of Grapes bookstore. “I know law enforcement are doing a lot to keep people safe.”

The bank theft impacted hundreds of students and school staff — buildings were locked down Thursday, and classes ended early that day, according to Superintendent Richard Smith, who leads Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools.

Smith said there will be an “added presence” of police at school buildings.

“I am relieved to find there is progress in the case,” he said in an e-mail Sunday referring to the arrest, “but I am also aware there are likely others who were involved in the robbery.”


Some residents have made changes to their daily routines in the days after the robbery.

Stephen Engley, who works at the Mocha Mott’s coffee shop, said Sunday afternoon that he has started locking his doors — his wife is pregnant, and he is concerned for the safety of his growing family.

He hopes investigators will find all of the robbery suspects soon.

“I’d rather not have to worry about it,” he said.

Jane Chandler, the owner of the Beach House home furnishings store, said she no longer feels comfortable walking outside at night.

“It’s difficult not to be mindful that it has changed things a little bit,” Chandler said. “Personally, it makes me pray this is the last time we hear about something like this” happening on the island.

But the incident has also brought out the island’s strength, as people turn to one another for support, Chandler said.

“We are at our best when we need each other,” Chandler said.

The crime has also placed Martha’s Vineyard back into the national spotlight.

The Rev. Janet Newton, with the Unitarian Universalist Society of Martha’s Vineyard, pointed out that the island found itself in the news in September when Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent migrants there with no notice to officials.

The island may serve as a summertime getaway for wealthy visitors, but many year-round residents grapple with soaring housing costs and wages below the state average.

“Given the strangeness of this fall, and [the] way in which our community is often used as either a political punching bag, or as some sort of symbol for either wealth or safety... it’s always frustrating when national news media don’t understand what our community is really all about,” Newton said.


The island’s community, she said, is “about compassion, care, and a recognition that our geographic isolation forces us to turn to one another for support.”

The national attention has also generated jokes playing out on social media, comparing the robbery to Hollywood heist films.

But some residents’ patience is wearing thin over that comparison, given what their fellow islanders experienced in the bank, as well as the families who worried about their children when schools were locked down.

“It was very real,” said Roy Cutrer, the chairperson of Tisbury’s Select Board.. “We all feel it.”

He said the community is strong and is drawing close together in the aftermath of the brazen robbery.

“And when things like this happen, the community pulls together,” he said. “We don’t pull apart, when something happens to one person on Martha’s Vineyard, it happens to all of us.”

John Hilliard can be reached at