PROVIDENCE, RI (CBS) – The family of Jhamal Gonsalves is calling for a Providence Police officer to be held accountable, for his role in a pursuit that left the 24-year-old Rhode Island man in a coma.
“We have a 24-year-old laying in a coma, in critical condition, fighting for his life. That’s what we’re concerned about, getting justice for Jhamal. And him pulling out of this OK,” said Gonsalves’ stepfather, Bernard Tribble. “He wasn’t even moving that fast. The Providence Police probably could’ve gotten out chased him and caught him.”
The crash happened during a police response Sunday night. Investigators say officers were trying to escort a crowd of hundreds of riders, many of them on illegal vehicles, out of the city. Gonsalves was riding a moped. Many witnesses recorded the pursuit.
“You see the four wheelers, the dirt bikes, the ones they’re having a problem with, racing down,” said Tribble of the video evidence. “You see a couple of Providence Police [officers] pursuing, then you see my stepson on a scooter come from behind the police car that’s stopped. And then they start chasing after him. We want the officer to be held accountable. He hit a 24-year-old on a scooter, [that’s] excessive force.”
The officer is a six-year veteran of the force who’s now on administrative leave. The city’s mayor, and Rhode Island’s Attorney General, are promising transparency in the investigation.
“I urge everyone not to rush to judgment. We have to break it down. This will be broken down frame by frame,” said Providence Police Col. Hugh Clements, during a Monday briefing.
Gonsalves’ family says he suffered critical injuries to his brain. The Newport native works refurbishing boats and aspires to be a professional motocross rider. His stepfather says he’s loving, kind and hardworking.
“You would love him if you meet him,” said Tribble. “He’s just that kid. He has a beautiful smile and [is] so positive about life and everything in it.”
Hundreds of demonstrators are participating in a rally Tuesday night. They’re demanding an independent investigation.