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Dominick J. Arena (1929–2019), police chief arrested Senator Ted Kennedy after Chappaquiddick

by Linnea Crowther

He was the police chief of Edgartown, Massachusetts.

Dominick J. Arena was the police chief who arrested Senator Edward M. Kennedy after the 1969 Chappaquiddick incident in which Kennedy accidentally drove a car off a bridge, resulting in the death of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne. As chief of police in Edgartown, Massachusetts, with jurisdiction over Chappaquiddick Island, Arena was the first officer at the scene after the infamous accident was reported. He became the lead investigator in the case, making Chappaquiddick a defining moment of a long career in law enforcement in Edgartown and elsewhere.

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Died: March 4, 2019 (Who else died on March 4?)

Details of death: Died at Whittier Rehabilitation Hospital in Westborough, Massachusetts at the age of 89.

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Arena’s take on Chappaquiddick: The Chappaquiddick incident was dissected at great length by the courts, the media, and the American public. For Arena’s part, he believed it was “a true accident caused by natural conditions,” followed by criminally poor judgement on Kennedy’s part when he left the scene. He told reporters at the time, “I am firmly convinced that there’s no negligence involved, but the matter of the time period after the accident — there is in my eyes a violation concerning going from the scene, leaving the scene.”

Arena on his inevitable legacy: “There are people who say to me, ‘What effect did Chappaquiddick have on you?’ I say that I could become the police chief of New York City and when I die, they’ll say, ‘He’s the Chappaquiddick police chief.’” —from a 1991 interview with the Boston Globe

Arena, in his daughter’s words: “First and foremost, he was a family man. He loved his job, but he definitely was wonderful about separating the two. He had a real knack for loving what he did and leaving it at the door when he came home. Such a lesson in life: When you come home, it’s family time.” —Julie Locke in an interview with the Boston Globe

Full obituary: Boston Globe

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