Providence police chief defends use of deadly force in highway shooting

In this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, still image from an officer's body camera video released by the Providence Police Department, officers converge on a truck driven into another vehicle by Joseph Santos on a highway on-ramp in downtown Providence, R.I. Police shot Santos dead, and injured passenger Christine Demers, who was hospitalized. (Providence Police Department via AP)
In this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, still image from an officer's body camera video released by the Providence Police Department, officers converge on a truck driven into another vehicle by Joseph Santos on a highway on-ramp in downtown Providence, R.I. Police shot Santos dead, and injured passenger Christine Demers, who was hospitalized. (Providence Police Department via AP)

PROVIDENCE (AP) — The police chief in Providence on Friday defended his officers' use of deadly force during a morning shooting on Interstate 95 in Rhode Island the previous day.

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.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare told WPRI-TV that some of the officers were wearing body cameras during the shooting, which happened Thursday around 10:45 a.m. on a jam-packed section of road where two highways merge alongside the city's downtown.

Pare said nine or 10 officers fired their weapons. They are all on administrative leave, protocol in any officer-involved shooting, he said.

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.

"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.

Pare said he couldn't say yet why Santos was fleeing or how Santos knew Demers. Santos had two outstanding warrants, Clements added.

State Police on Friday afternoon, more than 24 hours after the shooting, still had not released information about the agency's involvement, including how many troopers had used force and whether any were placed on administrative leave.

The attorney general's office is reviewing the shooting. 

The man killed was not the suspect in the theft of a state police cruiser around 9 a.m., Pare said Thursday. But the police chief in neighboring Cranston told WPRI that state police had alerted area officers that the suspect may have jumped in the back of a white pickup truck.

Cranston Police Col. Michael Winquist said an officer saw a white pickup driving erratically and pulled it over, but the driver took off. The officer followed the truck but lost it, he said. Later, they confirmed that the truck in the shooting was the same one that had fled in Cranston, he told the station.

 

In this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, still image from video posted by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Providence Police Department officers converge on a truck driven into another vehicle by Joseph Santos on a highway on-ramp in downtown Providence, R.I. Police shot Santos dead, and injured passenger Christine Demers, who was hospitalized. (Rhode Island Department of Transportation via AP)
In this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017, still image from video posted by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Providence Police Department officers converge on a truck driven into another vehicle by Joseph Santos on a highway on-ramp in downtown Providence, R.I. Police shot Santos dead, and injured passenger Christine Demers, who was hospitalized. (Rhode Island Department of Transportation via AP)

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