WARREN, R.I. — Longtime assistant fire chief, Brian Remy, was killed and another man was injured when the president of the Italo-American Club opened fire on them at the bar on Thursday afternoon.
After he fled, the gunman, identified by police as 37-year-old Michael Ouellette, also shot at two Bristol police officers who were rushing to help Warren police with calls about an active shooter.
The officers were driving on Water Street when one of them heard a popping noise, and the other noticed Ouellette, who matched the description of the shooter, said Bristol Police Major Brian Burke.
They got out of their unmarked vehicle to confront Ouellette and “immediately came under fire,” Burke said. They took cover, and one of the officers shot back, Burke said.
But Ouellette had disappeared into an alley next to his home at 135 Water St. Other officers arrived, and they approached the house together, believing that the gunman “had intent of harming officers.” They found Ouellette dead in the alley, Burke said.
Neither Burke nor Warren Police Chief Roy Borges could explain at a news conference Thursday night what caused this bizarre and deadly spree. Borges said the police didn’t have any contact with Ouellette, and no one could explain what started the argument at the social club.
They also are investigating whether police bullets or Ouellette’s own handgun caused his death. The Bristol officer who fired the shots was not identified on Thursday. A bystander captured video taken around the time of the shootout seemed to show a man shooting himself in the head after walking through the gate of a light-green home on Water Street.
The shooting at the Italo-American Club wounded Jason Furtado, 41, who was found in the social club’s parking lot on Kelly Street. He was taken to Rhode Island Hospital; his condition was unknown Thursday night.
Remy, 66, who was assistant fire chief on the Warren Fire Department, was found dead inside the club.
Fire Chief James Sousa, who wore a black mourning band over his badge, said Remy was greatly respected as a chief and a person. The department “is like a family,” he said, and they would have grief counselors to help them mourn.
Remy was well-known and well-loved in town, where he’d been born and raised. He began volunteering for the fire department in 1973, rising to assistant fire chief.
Remy was also a Little League coach, owned a plumbing company, served on the town’s charter review commission and was elected in 1988 to the town’s sewer board. Parts of the week, he’d be at the fire station. Other parts, he’d be at the sewer plant.
During a 2000 campaign for the elected sewer commission position, Remy told The Providence Journal he believed “strongly in Warren and its people.” He also served for a time as the Warren Democratic Town Committee chairman. The Journal described him as “like a child at Christmas” at Warren’s 250th anniversary parade. His service as a firefighter followed in the footsteps of his father, Robert L. Remy, who died at 87 in 2018.
The police from Bristol and Warren, as well as the state police and attorney general’s office, are investigating.
The area where the shootings occurred is thick with old Colonial homes and historic buildings that serve as residences, boutiques, and small restaurants, only a block from the Palmer River. Violent crime is rare here, in the smallest town in the smallest county in the smallest state.
“We’re a small community and we’re close-knit,” said Chief Borges. “We wish the families the best.”
The incident began around 3:15 p.m. A bystander who was walking his dog past the Italo American Club shortly after the shooting, started streaming a Facebook live video from the parking lot. Walking toward the club, the bystander approached a man lying on his side next to a red Chevy Tahoe and asked him what happened.
But the man, Furtado, appeared to be in pain and did not respond.
”He’s shot. He got shot,” the bystander said, backing away but continuing to record. In the video he said that he was concerned he would be mistaken for the shooter.
Furtado signaled to an approaching police officer and said, “Someone with a gun, he’s killing people in there. Someone with a gun in there.”
Then Furtado began writhing in pain. Spots of what appeared to be blood were visible on his white sneakers. Two more officers approached the door of the club with guns drawn, and then entered the building. Two more officers positioned themselves on either side of a window to the left of the door.
At least four officers approached Furtado, but the video does not show them immediately providing medical help.
The bystander approached Furtado again and asked, “Where’d you get shot at? In your hip? Are you all right, my boy?” He walked closer and zoomed in on Furtado’s blood-covered right hip.
“You gonna be aight, my boy,” he said, sounding shaken. “You gonna be aight. You gonna be aight. You gonna be aight.”
Brian Correia, 48, a lifelong resident of Warren who lives on Water Street, said he was inside his house watching “Law & Order” when he heard what sounded like seven gunshots. He went outside and saw “four or five cops” crouching down, guns drawn, he told the Globe.
“It was definitely the guy who was shooting at the police officer from Bristol,” he told the Globe.
Jason DeCesare, a retired Providence police officer, said he was walking his dog on Water Street sometime after 3 p.m. when he suddenly heard one gunshot and then seconds later, several more. “I know the sound of gunfire, I recognize the sound of gunfire immediately,” DeCesare said.
He said he headed to the other side of the street and ducked for cover before taking out his phone to record video of the scene. He heard officers shouting, and saw more of them heading toward the area.
“I was on the same side (of the street) as the shooting. I was backing up to get away,” he told the Globe. “I was 30 feet away.”
“I want to commend the officers,” DeCesare said. “While I was backing up for cover, they were charging into the unknown.”
At sunset, the firefighters of Warren lined either side of Kelly Street, leading to the Italo-American Club. At 7:31 PM, the firefighters saluted as a police cruiser with flashing lights led a procession with the medical examiner’s van containing the body of Remy, who was killed at the club only a few hours earlier.
As the procession pulled out of the narrow street, some of the firefighters began to wipe away tears, and hugged each other before getting back into the trucks and engines. And back at the club, forensics investigators continued to examine the bar for clues about the gun violence that’s shaken a town that hasn’t seen a murder in more than a dozen years.
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