Protests roil Providence after moped crash that witnesses say involved police car
Protests erupted in Providence, Rhode Island, on Tuesday night as some residents in the city blamed police for a crash that left a moped rider severely injured.
Jhamal Gonsalves, 24, was taken to Rhode Island Hospital on Sunday night after the crash and is listed in critical condition, a hospital spokesperson said.
His family said that he arrived at the hospital unconscious and is on a breathing tube, according to NBC Boston.
Cellphone video of the incident shows Gonsalves riding a small black moped down a street as a police car follows him. Gonsalves appears to make a right turn before suddenly crashing. The police car comes to a stop.
Some witnesses said his moped was struck by the police car, NBC Boston reports.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare and police Col. Hugh Clements Jr. both said that it is unclear if the car, driven by officer Kyle Endres, hit the moped and that the accident remains under investigation.
“We need to let the accident reconstruction team give us the evidence and then make a determination,” Pare said at a news conference Wednesday.
Endres has been placed on administrative desk duty while the investigation is conducted, authorities said.
The police union that represents Endres, the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, said it is not commenting at this time on the matter because it hasn’t been determined if the moped was hit by the police car.
The crash occurred after the police department received reports beginning about 3:30 pm. Sunday of a large group of riders on mopeds, dirt bikes, and ATVs. Clements said at a news conference Tuesday that roughly 300 such vehicles were being ridden around the city.
Officers were attempting to get the group to leave by following “from a safe distance,” when a small black moped made a right turn down a street, the colonel said.
“That moped took an abrupt right-hand turn up toward the sidewalk … mounting the curb, losing control and it appears came into collision with a house,” Clements said.
Mayor Jorge Elorza called the accident a “terrible incident.” He said at Wednesday’s news conference that police body-camera video will be released as soon as it can be made public.
The protest Tuesday started out peacefully with hundreds of people gathered outside a local library during the day in support of Gonsalves, according to NBC affiliate WJAR in Providence.
Elorza said Wednesday that the protest turned “much more aggressive” as the night went on.
More than 20 people, including a juvenile, were arrested during the demonstrations, Clements said. Charges range from obstruction, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and fireworks, authorities said.
At least one officer was injured during the protests after being struck in the head and a K-9 was also hit, WJAR reports. Both are expected to be OK.
“This is an incident where I know that emotions are running high, there’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of anger and distrust, and what I urge all of our residents here in the city of Providence is to please withhold judgment on exactly what happened and let’s focus on a thorough, complete, transparent investigation,” the mayor said. “We’re going to let the facts lead us to wherever they may.”