Providence Police Say Officers Acted Appropriately In Fatal Shooting On I-95

Nov 10, 2017

Chief Clements and Public Safety Commissioner Pare speak with reporters.
Credit Ian Donnis / RIPR

Providence police said the department's officers reacted appropriately in fatally shooting a driver Thursday after a chase that ended on a ramp on Interstate 95, releasing a sequence of video to support their case.

Police Chief Hugh Clements said the driver was using his vehicle as a weapon by ramming into other vehicles after getting caught in traffic near the Providence Place Mall.

Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said officers reacted based on their belief that the driver posed an imminent threat to others. At the same time, Pare offered sympathy to the family of the man shot dead by police, 32-year-old Joseph Santos.

"Unfortunately, those officers that you see on the video believed that there was imminent danger of serious injury or death," Pare said. "They are trained that way and as a result they used deadly force."

State Police were also among those shooting at Santos -- a total of more than 40 rounds, Providence police said -- but they did not take part in the news conference held by the Providence PD.

The case will now be reviewed by the state attorney general's office and a grand jury, as is routine in this kind of case.

Police say it’s unclear why Santos would not stop after a chase began in Cranston, although Santos was wanted on two warrants.

A female passenger in the vehicle driven by Santos, Christine Demers, 37, was hospitalized after being shot. Police said they were unsure of the nature of the relationship between Santos and Demers.

Providence Police posted on the department’s web site Friday afternoon videos showing the sequence of events leading to the shooting. The video -- from state Department of Transportation cameras and body cams worn by police -- shows a white pickup trying to elude police before caught in traffic and trying to ram other vehicles, by moving forward and in reverse.

Clements offered this narration as the video played in an auditorium at the Police Department: “See a Providence police officer coming up in an attempt to get him to open his door. You see him back up there. Rhode Island State Police behind. He’s hitting vehicle behind and in front. This trooper on the right attempting to get in the vehicle. Several loud commands to exit the vehicle. And now you can see he’s ramming this poor woman.”

The woman whose car was struck by Santos was treated and released.

State Police have remained mum about the shooting. Spokeswoman Laura Meade Kirk offered this explanation: "All I can say is that the Rhode Island State Police are continuing to work with the Providence Police Department and the Office of the Attorney General to fully investigate the events of the past 24 hours. This investigation is ongoing and we will provide further details when they become available."

Meanwhile, the man initially sought by police after briefly stealing a State Police cruiser, Don Morgan, was caught in Cumberland Friday evening, State Police said.

Pare said it will be up to the AG's office to assess whether Morgan should face additional charges for playing a role in the fatal turns of events. Police were looking for Morgan when they aimed their focus at the vehicle driven by Santos.

This post has been updated.