Police: Video shows deadly force justified in I-95 shooting
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Providence Police showed dramatic footage Friday of a deadly shooting involving officers on Interstate 95 in Rhode Island, but many unanswered questions remain.
The police department held a press conference to show highway surveillance footage of the moments leading up the shooting and a video from an officer’s body camera that includes some profanity. Police said they believe the footage shows an imminent danger to the public, justifying use of force.
A driver is shown racing in a white pickup truck down a highway Thursday morning as he tried to elude police cars, then getting caught in traffic where two highways merge alongside the city’s downtown. He repeatedly rams a woman’s car in front of him as officers jump out of the way.
Providence police and state police converged on the truck and fired more than 40 rounds, killing the driver and injuring the passenger, said Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements. Police later found no weapons in the truck.
“This vehicle is being used as a weapon in an attempt to flee, and it is hitting other cars. It is ramming at least one other car and, it is rocking back and forth,” Clements said as the video played.
Clements said the footage shows officers “doing exactly what we would want them to do in stopping an imminent and significant threat.” A Providence officer pulled a woman out of the car that was rammed to get her to safety.
Clements identified the dead man as 32-year-old Joseph Santos and the injured passenger as 37-year-old Christine Demers, who is hospitalized.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said he couldn’t say yet why Santos was fleeing or how Santos knew Demers. Santos had two outstanding warrants, Clements added.
Friday afternoon, more than 24 hours after the shooting, state police would not release information about the agency’s involvement, including how many troopers had used force and whether any were placed on administrative leave.
Spokeswoman Laura Meade Kirk said the agency is working with Providence police and the state attorney general’s office to investigate, and said she would not comment further on an active investigation.
The investigation into whether use of force was justified is being jointly conducted by state police and Providence police and overseen by the state attorney general, Pare said. He said the findings will be presented to a grand jury.
Providence officers recently began wearing body cameras, and only one of the department’s five officers who used their weapons had body camera footage, Pare said. They are all on administrative leave, protocol in any shooting involving an officer.
A witness filmed the shooting from a neighboring on-ramp, which also shows the truck boxed in on the road and slamming into cars.
The shooting happened less than two hours after a suspect who was being taken to court was left in a state police cruiser alone stole the police vehicle, driving it to a Providence neighborhood and abandoning it.
Authorities arrested Donald Morgan, 35, who is wanted for stealing the cruiser, Friday night in Rhode Island.