Vigil is call for justice in Mystic man's death

People linger Friday after a vigil held for Ryan O'Loughlin, who died six months ago, at the Westerly World War Memorial on the edge of Wilcox Park. Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office are investigating O'Loughlin's death. The O'Loughlin family attorney says he expects a grand jury to be convened to determine if charges should be filed against the officers who arrested O'Loughlin in June.
People linger Friday after a vigil held for Ryan O'Loughlin, who died six months ago, at the Westerly World War Memorial on the edge of Wilcox Park. Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office are investigating O'Loughlin's death. The O'Loughlin family attorney says he expects a grand jury to be convened to determine if charges should be filed against the officers who arrested O'Loughlin in June. Dana Jensen/The Day Buy Photo

Westerly - Ryan O'Loughlin's family and friends have heavy hearts as they wait for a grand jury they hope will convene, six months after the 34-year-old Mystic man died and almost three months after it was ruled a homicide.

Those emotions - sadness at the loss of a loved one and frustration at the pace of the legal system - permeated the chilly air at a vigil Friday for O'Loughlin, who died in June, 16 hours after his arrest by Westerly police.

Held at the Veterans Memorial in Wilcox Park and attended by 75 people, including O'Loughlin's mother and uncle, the short, somber ceremony featured remembrances, prayers and calls for justice.

"We're here for the right reasons," Diane O'Loughlin said in remarks to the crowd about her son. "These are very hard times.'

Diane O'Loughlin said later that she, too, is frustrated a grand jury has not convened. Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office are investigating O'Loughlin's death.

Mark Dana, the O'Loughlin family attorney, has said he expects a grand jury to be convened to determine if charges should be filed against the three officers who arrested O'Loughlin.

Scott Hannon of Manchester, who grew up in Bristol with O'Loughlin and was a co-organizer of the vigil, called the night "a poignant time."

"We're here to reflect on Ryan," Hannon said. "But we're also frustrated at the pace."

Hannon also said the location of the vigil was significant, as O'Loughlin was a Navy veteran.

Vigil co-organizer Robert Nave, of Waterbury, was O'Loughlin's music teacher at St. Paul Catholic High School in Bristol. He recalled his delight in reconnecting with him in recent years through Facebook.

"There was always that sparkle in his eye," Nave said.

Nave said he has not heard any explanation as to why the process is taking as long as it has.

Nave also passed out sheets of paper with information from the American Civil Liberties Union on how to proceed if individuals are approached by police.

O'Loughlin was arrested on June 9 outside the Perks & Corks wine bar on High Street and charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. According to reports, O'Loughlin was trying to convince a man who had punched a bathroom wall to pay for the damage.

During the incident, a police officer hit O'Loughlin's legs with a baton and other officers struggled with him, according to reports. Police also pepper-sprayed O'Loughlin.

Later, after he pled not guilty at the Fourth Division District Court in Wakefield, R.I., O'Loughlin returned home but did not feel well. He was taken to Pequot Medical Center in Groton, where he died.

At a September news conference in Providence, Dana, the O'Loughlin family attorney, said O'Loughlin sustained 12 separate injuries to his head, chest, abdomen and legs, including a lacerated liver.

The circumstances of O'Loughlin's death drew several people who did not know him to the vigil.

"The community has to stand up against this barbarism," Paul Koblitz, of Newport, R.I., said. "Police excessive force is getting out of control."

When asked what brought him to the vigil, William Maynes of Westerly had one word.

"Outrage," he said.

s.chupaska@theday.com

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