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RI CRIME

Rhode Island crime news: July 2022

Providence Police investigate a shooting on Carolina Avenue, late Thursday, May 13, 2021, in Providence, R.I.Stew Milne/Associated Press

Aug. 9, 2022

Jamestown Police: Teens forged signatures on 18-year-old’s nomination papers for governor

JAMESTOWN — Police have arrested two individuals accused of providing officials falsified nomination papers for an 18-year-old gubernatorial candidate.

The Jamestown Police Department charged Gracie Flynn and Owen Lockey, both 18, for allegedly conspiring to forge signatures on nomination forms on behalf of Zachary Hurwitz, an independent candidate for governor in Rhode Island. They were charged with providing a false document to a public official and conspiracy.

Hurwitz needed 1,000 valid signatures for his name to appear on the ballot.

An investigation was launched after the clerk’s office in Jamestown attempted to verify signatures from two Jamestown residents, police said. Both surrendered at Jamestown police headquarters and were released with a summons to appear in court. They will be arraigned on Friday.

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— ALEXA GAGOSZ

Smithfield officer possibly exposed to fentanyl while making an arrest

SMITHFIELD — While conducting a search of a Johnston man this weekend, a Smithfield officer was potentially exposed to fentanyl and was taken to the hospital.

Police were called to the Seasons Corner Market on Douglas Pike Saturday morning for reports of a road rage incident, according to police. This unidentified officer spoke to both drivers involved, including 39-year-old Anthony Romano. While searching Romano for weapons, the officer found a plastic bag that contained “a white powdery substance” in his waistband, police said.

After finding the bag, the unidentified officer started feeling unwell. He was given a single dose of Narcan, which treats narcotic overdoses in an emergency situation, by another officer and then transported to Our Lady of Fatima Hospital in North Providence for potential fentanyl exposure. The officer was released from the hospital the same day.

Romano also had a brown bag that contained 390 suspected Oxycodone pills on him, according to police. He was charged with possession of more than 10 grams of cocaine and possession of over 10 grams of Oxycodone, police said. Romano was arraigned and released on $10,000 personal recognizance. He is scheduled to appear in court on Nov. 7.

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Both substances were tested for fentanyl. It’s still unclear whether the officer’s symptoms were from fentanyl exposure, police said.

— ALEXA GAGOSZ

Aug. 5, 2022

Providence man sentenced to 42 years for 2015 murder at Providence apartment building

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who pleaded guilty for the 2015 murder of a 54-year-old woman has been ordered to serve 42 years in prison.

Earlier this year, Efrain Blanco, 38, pleaded guilty to murdering Zenaida Pacheco at an apartment building on Randall Street in Providence. At his hearing on Aug. 3, Superior Court Justice Richard Raspallo also sentenced Blanco to an 18-year suspended sentence with probation after his time at the Adult Correctional Institutions in Cranston.

On Jan. 13, the defendant entered a plea of guilty to second-degree murder.

Attorney General Peter F. Neronha’s office said if the case had proceeded to trial, the state was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that on Oct. 25, 2015, the defendant strangled Zenaida Pacheco to death in her apartment.

Providence police detectives identified the suspect through cell phone records and surveillance footage. On Nov. 4, 2015, investigators released photos of the suspect to the media. Several weeks later, members of the public identified the suspect as Blanco, who was captured by detectives shortly after.

Investigators determined that Blanco used a power cord to strangle Pacheco. They confirmed Blanco’s DNA on the cord through laboratory testing.

“The day has finally come when this defendant must pay the price for his senseless murder of Zenaida Pacheco, a woman much loved by her family and her community,” said Neronha in a statement Friday. “Nothing can return Zenaida to her family, but we can deliver justice for her and for them, and that has now been achieved.”

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Detectives from the Providence Police Department conducted the investigation. Special Assistant Attorneys General Molly Kapstein Cote and Eric A. Batista lead the prosecution of the case.

“The men and women of the Providence Police were again outstanding in their investigation of this case, and I am grateful for our ongoing law enforcement partnership.”

— ALEXA GAGOSZ

Aug. 2, 2022

Providence man sentenced to 14 years for role in gang-related mass shooting

PROVIDENCE — A Providence man who pleaded guilty for his involvement in a gang-related shooting that wounded nine in the city’s Washington Park neighborhood has been ordered to serve 14 years in prison.

Ricardo Cosme Tejada, 21, pleaded guilty to assault with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy, both of which carried a criminal street gang enhancement, discharge of a firearm during a violent crime that resulted in injury and conspiracy, carrying a pistol without a license and conspiracy.

Tejada also pleaded guilty to possessing a ghost gun in a separate incident in April 2021.

Before sundown on May 13, 2021, Tejada and three other members of the “Get Money” gang drove to 87 Carolina Avenue, where members of the “Lakeside” gang were hanging out on the porch. The Get Money gang jumped out of their truck and started firing at their rivals — who fired back, wounding all four of them. Four of the people on the porch were also wounded, and another was hit by shrapnel.

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Police found 51 spent shell casings from different firearms sprayed on the road and the property at 87 Carolina Avenue, as well as bullets that went through a neighbor’s home.

Investigators also reported seizing 500 rounds of ammunition in various calibers, a dozen gun magazines that included some holding 20, 30, 40, and 60 rounds of ammunition, and multiple pistols, ghost guns, BB guns, and a rifle. They also found marijuana, THC, and Psilocin at the home.

Superior Court Judge Robert D. Krause sentenced Tejada on July 27 to 14 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions, with a 20-year suspended sentence and 20 years of probation for his involvement in the shooting on Carolina Avenue.

Krause also ordered Tejada to a concurrent sentence of five years, with two years to serve, followed by a three-year suspended sentence with probation, for possession of a ghost gun.

“While the Carolina Ave. shooting presents as an egregious example of gun violence in Rhode Island, it shares key characteristics that we have seen in many other shooting incidents since then: the wide availability of illegal guns, the number of rounds being fired, and the use in many instances of high-capacity magazines and ghost guns,” Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said in a statement Tuesday.

“The defendant was part of a group that that turned a peaceful Providence neighborhood into their own personal shooting range. The long sentence imposed by the court here should send a strong message that gun violence will bring the most serious consequences. The work of our law enforcement partners was exemplary during these cases, and I am grateful for their continuing partnership with this Office.”

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Woonsocket man sentenced to five years in federal prison for trafficking crack cocaine

PROVIDENCE — A Woonsocket man who led a crack cocaine distribution operation, and who attempted to disguise his involvement by having others deliver drugs that he had arranged to sell, has been sentenced to five years in federal prison, US Attorney Zachary A. Cunha announced Tuesday.

Anthony Medeiros, 31, arranged at least four sales of crack cocaine, using text messaging, phone calls, and Snapchat, in Woonsocket in early 2020, according to court documents.

Medeiros utilized a “runner” to deliver the drugs that he sold, including, in one case, his girlfriend, according to an investigation by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and Project Safe Neighborhoods.

Medeiros was arrested and detained in federal custody in October 2020 and indicted in November 2020, and pleaded guilty on May 6, 2021, to conspiracy to distribute cocaine base; distribution of cocaine base; and two counts of distribution of 28 grams or more of cocaine base. He was sentenced on Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy to 60 months of incarceration, followed by four years of federal supervised release.

July 19, 2022

Warwick restaurant patron sitting outside struck by vehicle, dies

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — A woman sitting in the outdoor eating area of a restaurant died after she was struck by a vehicle, police in Warwick said.

The driver was traveling through the parking lot of Tommy’s Clam Shack on Friday afternoon and inadvertently hit the accelerator, striking a couple who were sitting at a table, police said.

The woman, identified as Susan Hjerpe, 66, suffered life-threatening injuries and was taken to a hospital, where she later died, police said. Her husband, Carl Hjerpe, also was hospitalized and is in stable condition.

Police are still investigating the crash.

Exeter man charged with murdering woman

EXETER, R.I. — State police Tuesday arrested a 60-year-old Exeter man and charged him with murdering a woman who lived at the same address as him.

Ramsundar Ramkalawan, 60, of Exeter, was arrested and charged with murder. He was held overnight Monday at State Police Headquarters.

The state police said they received a 911 call of an unresponsive woman at an apartment on South County Trail in Exeter, a town without their own police department. Troopers and Exeter Fire and Rescue personnel arrived on scene and found Donna MacDonald, 65, dead and that the death was deemed suspicious.

The Rhode Island State Police Detective Detective Bureau responded and investigated. Police do not yet know the relation between the two.

Ramkalawan was arraigned Tuesday morning at the Washington County Courthouse in Wakefield and was held without bail. He is due back in court next week. — Alexa Gagosz

July 14, 2022

Contractor who cheated IRS to spend weekends in jail

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A Rhode Island drywall contractor who according to authorities played a key role in cheating the Internal Revenue Service out of more than $2.8 million by paying some workers in cash was sentenced Thursday to three years of probation, although he will serve some time behind bars, prosecutors said.

Jesus Jose Mendez, 44, of Woonsocket, must spend every weekend during the first year of his probationary period in detention, according to the U.S. attorney’s office in Rhode Island. He was also ordered to pay the taxes.

Mendez was the co-owner J&J Drywall, Inc., a business incorporated in Massachusetts and operating in Rhode Island.

He and his business partner paid most of their employees cash to work around tax laws, prosecutors said.

The men from 2013 until 2017 used check-cashing businesses to cash more than 600 business checks totaling about $16 million, then went to work sites with backpacks full of cash that was used to pay their employees, prosecutors said.

They also failed to make required unemployment insurance contributions, authorities said.

They kept a small number of employees on an official payroll and paid by check.

Prosecutors said they also shorted the Massachusetts Department of Labor more than $60,000 in unemployment contributions.

Mendez pleaded guilty in April to wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud. His business partner remains a fugitive.

July 12, 2022

Man who tried to kill police gets lengthy prison sentence

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (AP) — A Rhode Island man who engaged in a gunfight with police officers responding to reports of an armed man inside a Massachusetts church has been sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Eric Lindsey, 45, of Coventry, Rhode Island, was sentenced Monday in Superior Court after pleading guilty to armed assault with intent to murder, breaking and entering, and several gun charges, the Bristol district attorney’s office said in a statement Tuesday.

Two officers went to the Assembly of God church in Attleboro after the pastor called 911 and reported seeing an armed man inside the building at about 6:30 a.m. on Aug. 27, 2018, authorities said.

The officers saw Lindsey nearby and ordered him to stop and drop two backpacks he was carrying. Instead, he opened fire at one officer and both officers returned fire until Lindsey fell to the ground and dropped a gun, authorities said.

Neither officer was struck by gunfire, but bullets struck one cruiser’s windshield, and driver’s seat and headrest. Lindsey’s femoral artery was severed by a bullet and his life was saved by the officers who applied tourniquets, authorities said.

Lindsey had two handguns, as well as multiple high-capacity magazines and loose ammunition, authorities said.

July 7, 2022

R.I. State Police arrest 25 for driving under the influence on ‘busy’ July 4 weekend

Rhode Island State Police arrested 53 people during the July 4 holiday weekend, nearly half of them for driving under the influence, the agency said.

The 25 DUI arrests and 28 arrests for other crimes came during what police described as a busy weekend. Police also issued 611 traffic summonses and investigated 59 car crashes.

— By Brian Amaral

July 6, 2022

Newport Police withholding mugshots of two men assaulted by police during violent arrest, lawyers say

NEWPORT — The lawyers for two local men whose arrest on June 26 was captured in a viral video say the Newport police still have not released their mugshots.

Dennis Engleson and Christopher Adams, both 22, were punched in the face by two officers, who wrote in their reports that the men were being disorderly and struggled while being arrested.

None of the officers involved with the violent arrests used the department’s body-worn cameras, and their official reports differ significantly from what appears on viral videos.

The cell-phone videos shared widely on social media show Detective Patrick Walsh shoving bystanders and knocking one headfirst into a lamppost. Then, when Adams was walking by and stopped behind him, Walsh struck Adams in the head, knocking him down, and dragged him to the curb, where he handcuffed him and punched him in the head again. Officer John Sullivan also punched Engleson in the face while arresting him.

Both Engleson and Adams were charged with misdemeanor disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, and obstruction. They pleaded not guilty to all misdemeanor charges at their arraignment on Wednesday in Newport District Court, where a judge granted their request to move their cases to Superior Court.

“If this matter is going to proceed to trial, it will be before a jury of his peers,” said lawyer Craig Hein, who is representing Adams.

Hein and Engleson’s lawyer, Christopher Millea, had requested the police reports. They eventually got the reports, although without the mugshots, which is unusual. The police also did not give the Globe the mugshots, which are considered public records under Rhode Island law.

A photo of Adams taken days later shows his face swollen and bruised. Hein said Adams is still being treated for injuries.

— By Amanda Milkovits

July 5, 2022

‘Hot tub lawyer’ pleads no contest to firing gun in compact area; other charges dismissed

EAST PROVIDENCE — Lawyer Ryan J. McNelis has pleaded no contest to firing his handgun outside his identical twin’s house on Pawtucket Avenue on New Year’s Day.

McNelis had been hanging out in the hot tub with his twin, Robert, who is also a lawyer, and others when the celebration turned ugly just before 4 a.m. Police were called about gunfire and screams of “Just shoot me!” at the house on 3093 Pawtucket Ave., where they found blood and broken glass, and a shirtless and bloody Robert McNelis, according to a police report.

Police found three .380 caliber shells in the driveway, but Ryan McNelis had run off with his gun, the report said. Officers and K-9 units from Pawtucket and the State Police joined the search for McNelis; an officer finally found him running on Pawtucket Avenue and arrested him at gunpoint.

McNelis no longer had the firearm and wouldn’t tell the officers where he’d left it, according to a police report. Officers noticed that he had a strong odor of alcohol, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes, the police report said.

That New Year’s Day arrest led to McNelis serving 30 days at the Adult Correctional Institutions for violating his probation on a misdemeanor fraud case, where he’d forged signatures on papers to register his salvaged 2003 Acura.

On June 22, McNelis pleaded nolo contendere to firing in a compact area and received a three-year deferred sentence. He is also on a payment plan for $93 in court costs.

A plea of nolo contendere means the defendant neither accepts nor denies responsibility for the charges but agrees to accept punishment.

Prosecutors dismissed a felony charge of carrying a gun while intoxicated and a misdemeanor domestic disorderly charge. A felony charge of carrying without a license was dismissed, because Ryan McNelis had a concealed-carry permit at the time.

The disciplinary board of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, which reviews evidence against lawyers and recommends disciplinary action to the Supreme Court, is aware of Ryan McNelis’ criminal record. His status as a lawyer is unclear.

— By Amanda Milkovits

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