PROVIDENCE — “Hands where I can see them! Do it now!” a Providence police officer shouted, with his gun pointed out his vehicle’s window, aimed at a smoking convertible.
Officer Mitchel Voyer jumped out of his cruiser and ran with other officers toward the crashed car, where two of the three teenage boys had their hands raised in the air. They grabbed the boys and yanked them out of the vehicle. A boy in the passenger seat who didn’t have his hands raised was dragged onto the pavement, officers shouting at him to “stop resisting” and put his hands behind his back, as he screamed and sobbed and moaned. A BB rifle was in the seat where he’d been sitting.
In videos released by Providence Police on Wednesday, Voyer was holding the boy’s head, when Officer Domingo Diaz starting punching the teen in the face, until Sgt. Andres Perez pulled Diaz away.
“Get a rescue! Get a rescue!” one yelled, and other officers handcuffed the moaning boy and sat him up on the pavement.
As the boy sat up, Diaz leaned down and appeared to look the boy in the eyes. Then Diaz spat at the ground in front of him.
This happened at the end of a five-hour 47-minute search for these the three teenagers — two 15-year-olds and 16-year-old — who had allegedly sped around the city shooting BB rifles at people and buildings, and eluded police in wild pursuits that led in and out of the city in early July.
The boys were charged with multiple felonies. The attorney general’s office is also reviewing possible excessive force by Diaz and Voyer, who are suspended with pay during the investigation. Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré and Mayor Jorge Elorza had called their use of force “appalling.”
On Wednesday, six weeks after the incident and arrests, Attorney General Peter F. Neronha authorized the release of the videos from officers’ body-worn cameras.
The decision came hours after The Boston Globe published a series of radio transmissions between officers and dispatchers, along with 911 calls from victims and surveillance videos illustrating the events leading up to the arrest of the teenagers.
The Providence Police Department released the videos on Wednesday afternoon, in response to multiple requests under the state open-records laws.
The hours of footage — 41 videos in all — show officers speeding to try to catch the teens, with one cruiser even crashing into another as they both tried to box in the fleeing car.
The teens crashed the BMW into a fire hydrant at King and Salmon streets, around the corner from where people had complained about young males in a vehicle shooting at them with BB guns.
The police said the boys shot or pointed their BB rifles at about a dozen or more people. The videos released Wednesday show at least one rifle in the front passenger seat; the police ended up finding two BB rifles in the car, along with a ski mask.
“You can tell that it’s a [expletive] BB gun,” yelled one person, watching the police at the scene of the arrest. “Maybe our police department needs some training. You can’t tell the difference between a BB gun and what you carry every [expletive] day? That’s a [expletive] problem.”
The videos show the chaos at the scene, near the Manton Heights housing projects, where people came outside, drawn by the crash and hearing sirens from cruisers that had responded from Providence, state police, and Pawtucket. Some heckled the officers: “I [saw] how 10 of you jumped on that little passenger boy,” one woman yelled.
“That poor kid. No matter what they did,” one shouted. “They were kids. They beat the [expletive] out of them.”
In the videos, one of the supervisors tells the officers that he wants the EMTs to check all of the teens before they transport them to the station. One of the boys was injured and taken to Hasbro Children’s Hospital; he was later released.
The teen who was punched and picked up from the pavement was carried over to the sidewalk, where some officers sat with him and held him up. “He’s in and out,” one of them told another supervisor. “It’s probably just from the airbag.”
The footage from multiple police body-worn camera does not appear to show airbags deployed in the BMW.
An officer spoke with the 15-year-old driver, who was handcuffed in the back seat of a cruiser. “I kept telling them stop pointing that [expletive] out the window, and they don’t listen,” the boy said.
“Bro, you see the severity of this? You guys were going crazy, man. The whole state was after you guys,” the officer told him. “There’s two to three complaints saying that people in the car are pointing weapons at people. Guns. Not BBs guns. Guns, because nobody can differentiate...”
“Yeah, nobody can,” the boy agreed.
“Imagine you pointed that at a police officer and that police officer got scared and did something with his firearm,” the officer told him. “You gotta be smart, man.”
Black Lives Matter RI PAC called the videos “yet another example of unnecessary violence on the part of Providence Police” and said it will protest Friday at the Providence Public Safety Complex to demand the repeal the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights, the state law known as LEOBOR that governs how officers are disciplined. Gonzalo Cuervo and City Ward 3 Councilwoman Nirva R. Lafortune, who are both running for mayor, Dr. Luis Daniel Muñoz, who is running for governor, Providence Senator Tiara Mack, and NAACP-Providence president Jim Vincent are expected to speak.
Mack had sponsored legislation to repeal LEOBOR in the last session at the General Assembly. That bill died quickly, along with other bills to reform the more than 40-year-old law.
The Providence police union wouldn’t comment directly on the officers’ actions while the investigation was ongoing.
“Unfortunately, what will be lost in all this is the fact that three individuals made the conscious choice to buy weapons and use them to terrorize our city with a complete disregard for life and property, committing a number of serious crimes,” the union said in a statement Wednesday night. “Three offenders with a history of run-ins with police driving recklessly, endangering everyone and everything in their path, and actually shooting innocent civilians with their weapons. This will be lost because the focus was shifted to police actions only.”
“Our officers took the necessary actions to end this reign of terror on our city,” the union added. “The experts in use of force will make that determination based on the facts and not emotions if their actions were within the law and training they received. Let the judicial fact finding process be what decides the outcome.”
Alexa Gagosz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz. Amanda Milkovits can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her @AmandaMilkovits.