PROVIDENCE, RI (CBS) – A Providence Police officer is on administrative leave after a pursuit left a young man seriously injured. Rhode Island’s Attorney General is now involved in the investigation, surrounding the circumstances that led to the crash.
“We want to assure the public that this will be a thorough and complete investigation,” said Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, during a press briefing Monday.
Providence Col. Hugh Clements said the incident happened Sunday night, during a police response where dozens of officers were trying to escort a large group of riders, many riding illegal vehicles, out of the city. Witness video of the incident shows 24-year-old Jhamal Gonsalves ride by on moped, a police cruiser follow and then a crash is heard off frame.
“The moped took an abrupt right-hand turn, up toward the sidewalk, mounting the curb [and] losing control. And it appears it came into a collision with a house,” said Col. Clements. “I urge everyone not to rush to judgment. We have to break it down; this will be broken down frame by frame.”
Police say Gonsalves was wearing a helmet and riding an unregistered moped without plates. But the focus of the probe will be if the police car hit the moped. Authorities are asking witnesses to turn in video. Meanwhile, activists are calling the incident an excessive use of force. The officer behind the wheel, who’s been on the force six years, has been placed on desk duty.
For years, Providence officials have dealt with large roving bands of riders taking over city streets. Earlier this month, the city destroyed more than 100 dirt bikes and ATVs that had been confiscated by police. Investigators say Sunday’s ride-out was the largest they’d responded to in recent years and that riders typically organize on social media and often come from neighboring states.
“These vehicles operate in a completely unsafe manner, reckless, left of center, maneuvering into oncoming traffic with no regard to others safety,” said Col. Clements.
Activists are calling for an independent investigation and organizing a protest that’s planned for Tuesday at 6 p.m.