WEST GREENWICH, R.I. — The teenage boys were going to pick up a pizza and head home to watch the NBA playoffs. Their lawyer said Friday that they didn’t see the white pickup truck behind them until it roared into the parking lot and pulled up next to them — and then a man jumped out with a gun.
The teenagers had no idea the man was a police officer — off-duty Pawtucket Patrolman Daniel Dolan Jr., who was nearly 30 miles outside of his jurisdiction and dressed casually in a ballcap and regular clothes. All they saw Wednesday evening outside Wicked Good Pizza was a man with a gun pointed at them, striding toward their car.
“The last thing they considered was this could be a police officer,” said lawyer James Howe of South Kingstown.
The 18-year-old driver “panicked,” Howe said, backed up the car and turned to drive back on Nooseneck Hill Road. But Dolan kept coming at them, Howe said, rolling over the hood to the other side of the car and shooting the driver in his left arm.
Howe said the boy told his friends, two brothers 18 and 17 years old, that he was hit. They drove away but surveillance video from the pizza parlor shows Dolan ran back to his pickup truck after the shooting and took off after them.
In pain and bleeding, the teenagers drove a short distance away, pulled over, and got out of their car, Howe said. They saw Dolan drive up in his white pickup truck and get out, too. That time, Howe said, Dolan did not approach them or make any attempt to take any of the teens into custody. He did not acknowledge that the driver had been injured.
“It’s so clear he wasn’t stopping what he thought was a crime. He would have approached the person that he shot ... and either take them into custody and call an ambulance,” Howe said. “I’ve been a lawyer for 40 years. This is an intensely questionable story.”
Howe said that the boys didn’t hear Dolan say anything to them. They never knew he was a police officer. They don’t know who called the ambulance who came to take the injured teen to Rhode Island Hospital, or who called the West Greenwich police and state troopers, who separated the brothers and placed them in cruisers.
The boys had driven for 4 miles on Route 95, leaving a Walmart in Coventry and heading to the pizza parlor in West Greenwich. Authorities initially said that Dolan saw something on Route 95 and followed the car and was attempting to “detain” the teens, though no one has offered information on what the teenagers did or what Dolan saw.
Howe said that he had no evidence that Dolan said anything to the teens or identified himself as a police officer.
“What is incredibly galling about this and shocking is that if [you’re] in plainclothes, the first thing you do is ID yourself verbally or with your badge in your hand. I’ve never known an officer off duty not to have his badge,” Howe said.
Surveillance video from the pizza parlor captured the encounter in the parking lot, though not the shooting itself. The video shows the black car slowly pulling into the lot with its turn signal on, and the white truck quickly pulling up beside it. No one exits the car, which backs out of the lot as Dolan approaches it with his gun drawn. It also clearly shows Dolan returning to his white truck and driving off after the black sedan.
#SURVEILLANCEVIDEO This is the parking lot of Wicked Good Pizza in West Greenwich where police say the off-duty officer involved shooting. It shows a black car pull in followed by a white truck. The driver of the truck then gets out, aims a gun at the car as it pulls away @wpri12 pic.twitter.com/uGtQV192Ub— Brittany Schaefer (@BrittanyTVNews) June 24, 2021
Kyle Bettie, the owner of Wicked Good Pizza, said the incident rattled his young employees, one of whom opened the door as the gunman was walking in the parking lot.
Dolan is part of the Pawtucket Police Department’s community policing unit, according to a Facebook post by the department from May. He is on leave as police and the attorney general’s office also try to figure out what happened. So far, investigators have released few details about the encounter, other than that Dolan had worked a detail in Pawtucket and was driving home.
State and West Greenwich police are leading the investigation, with prosecutors from the attorney general’s office. When there is an officer-involved shooting in Rhode Island, the investigation is conducted by the department where the shooting occurred, the State Police, and the attorney general’s office. The Pawtucket Police Department, where Dolan has been an officer since 2015, is not involved with the investigation.
Pawtucket Police Chief Tina Goncalves did not respond to requests for comment from the Globe. A spokeswoman for Mayor Donald Grebien referred questions to the Police Department’s public information officer.
Pawtucket police have been responsible for half of the 14 fatal officer-involved shootings in Rhode Island since 2006.
In 2010, another off-duty Pawtucket police officer was arrested after he drew a gun on another motorist in a road-rage incident in South Kingstown. The other driver was bringing his children to school and waved his hands in frustration because he thought the off-duty officer was driving too slowly.
On Friday, the teenage driver was at home, Howe said, recovering from the gunshot wound to his arm. He recently graduated high school and has only had his license for a year. He has no traffic infractions.
“He’s never been in trouble a day in his life,” the lawyer added. “All he keeps saying is, ‘Why did this happen? What did I do?’”