AG Neronha Announces Conclusion of Investigation into October 18 Crash

 

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – At a press conference today, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha, joined by Colonel James Manni of the Rhode Island State Police, Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare and Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements, announced the conclusion of the Office’s investigation into a motor vehicle crash involving Providence police officers that took place at the intersection of Elmwood Avenue and Bissell Street in Providence, shortly before 6:00 p.m. on October 18, 2020. As a result of this crash, Jhamal Gonsalves sustained serious bodily injuries. 

 

After a comprehensive investigation, which was detailed during today’s press conference, the Office concluded that the evidence does not support bringing criminal charges against Providence Police Officer Kyle Endres or any other officer. The Office has released to Mr. Gonsalves’ family and the public an in-depth report regarding its findings and conclusions, as well as materials considered in the course of the investigation. The Rhode Island State Police Collision Reconstruction Report, which details how the crash involving Mr. Gonsalves occurred, is also being released today.

 

“The events of October 18 had enormously tragic consequences. Mr. Gonsalves’ prognosis remains uncertain, and our thoughts are with him and his family. It is this Office’s responsibility to examine all the facts, fairly and objectively, and determine if there is a basis for a criminal charge,” said Attorney General Neronha. “When it comes to driving offenses, the criminal bar is high. Finding fault with one’s driving, as happens hundreds of times a year in Rhode Island, might be sufficient to find civil liability yet, in the words of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, may still fall ‘far short’ of what is required to establish criminal recklessness.”

 

As detailed at the press conference today, the State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit determined, based on video and other physical evidence, that Mr. Gonsalves sustained his injuries as a result of being struck in the head by a stop sign at the Elmwood Avenue/Bissell Street intersection, which had been struck by Officer Endres in his cruiser as he attempted to follow Mr. Gonsalves into a turn from Elmwood Avenue onto Bissell Street.

 

The Office carefully evaluated Officer Endres’ driving, based on the physical and video evidence and information provided by the State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit, to determine whether that driving constituted conduct that amounted to a criminal offense. The Office concluded there was no evidence establishing that Officer Endres intended to inflict harm on Mr. Gonsalves. The Office further analyzed whether the manner of Officer Endres’ driving, even if not intended to inflict harm on Mr. Gonsalves, constituted criminal recklessness. 

 

The Rhode Island Supreme Court has made clear that criminal recklessness requires more than negligent driving that might give rise to a civil case for damages.  Rather, it requires that this Office establish that a defendant displayed “a heedless disregard for the safety of others.”  State v. Arnold, 404 A.2d 490, 492 (R.I. 1979).  The Supreme Court has found this standard satisfied, and this Office charges cases, where there is evidence of such things as highly excessive speed, intoxication, texting, passing on the right, weaving in and out of traffic, known defective equipment, failure to brake, tailgating, or, most often, some combination thereof.

 

“Taking into account the comparatively low and decreasing speeds involved, the following distance between the vehicles, the unexpected path of travel taken by Mr. Gonsalves, the extremely short timeframe within which Officer Endres had to react, the officer’s emergency steering maneuvers, and the fact that Officer Endres was braking, and ultimately exerting so much braking pressure that his cruiser’s anti-lock braking system engaged, we found that Officer Endres’ manner of driving does not meet the standard of criminal recklessness,” said Attorney General Neronha. “A full summary of the facts and the bases for these conclusions are contained in the 46-page report we released today.”

 

As part of its investigation, the Office reviewed hundreds of pages of reports, witness statements and transcripts, photographs and multiple videos. The evidence included:

 

  • Providence Police reports and warrants
  • Providence Police witness statements and interviews
  • Interviews of civilian witnesses 
  • Police body-worn camera videos 
  • Surveillance video footage from nearby buildings
  • Civilian cellphone video footage
  • Rhode Island State Police Collision Reconstruction Report
  • Rhode Island State Crime Lab Report 
  • Providence Police and State Police radio and dispatch communications 
  • Crash Data Retrieval Report from Officer Endres’ cruiser
  • Mr. Gonsalves’ medical records from Rhode Island Hospital
  • Photographs of the crash scene 
  • Photographs of the vehicles involved 
  • Reconstruction photographs taken by the RISP Forensic Services Unit 
  • Providence Police Policies on Vehicular Pursuits (330.02), Traffic Enforcement (350.02) and Vehicular Operations (330.01
  • Discipline Record for Officer Endres  

 

 

“I would like to thank all the civilian witnesses who came forward, provided video evidence, and made themselves available to investigators, in some instances more than once. I would also like to thank Colonel Manni and the outstanding work of the Rhode Island State Police Collision Reconstruction Unit, which led this investigation. I want to acknowledge the assistance and cooperation with the Investigative Team provided by the Providence Police Department Office of Professional Responsibility. Finally, I want to thank the Civil Rights Team in my Office, which led this review and has devoted countless hours to this report,” said Attorney General Neronha. 

 

“My deepest sympathies go out to Mr. Gonsalves’ family, who have been patient throughout this investigation. I recognize the strain this situation has placed on them, particularly in light of the pandemic, which has limited their ability to visit with their son. I know Mr. Gonsalves has a long road ahead, and I join everyone in wishing him a full recovery.”  

 

Evidence and reports are available at http://www.riag.ri.gov/reports/providence.php for public viewing and download.

A recording of today’s press conference is available at https://twitter.com/AGNeronha.

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