PROVIDENCE — A state worker has been charged with keeping an AR-15 platform “ghost gun” in his locker at the motor pool building of Eleanor Slater Hospital’s unit in Burrillville.
Kenneth Fullam, 60, of Burrillville, was arraigned on a charge of possession of a ghost gun. He was charged by the Rhode Island State Police.
A State Police affidavit raises questions about the state’s response to the incident. According to the affidavit, an investigation started with an Oct. 19 complaint from a coworker of Fullam, but state Department of Administration and Eleanor Slater Hospital HR representatives didn’t conduct a search until Nov. 21, more than a month later, the affidavit states.
Troopers were dispatched to 2135 Wallum Lake Road at 1 p.m. on Nov. 21 for a report of an employee who had “previously stored and possessed a firearm in his locker on the grounds,” the affidavit states.
The troopers were met by Roland Daigle, a Department of Administration security specialist; and Stacey Suazo and Lori Ann Pouliot, both senior human resources business specialists for Eleanor Slater Hospital, the affidavit states.
Daigle told troopers that he, Suazo, and Pouliot arrived that morning at 10:15 a.m. to search the building, including the second floor, which only Fullam could unlock. Fullam unlocked it, and Department of Administration officials conducted a search, the affidavit states. They came upon a wall locker, which Fullam initially denied consent to search, but eventually consented to, the affidavit states. Daigle found the firearm there, according to the affidavit. The weapon and other items were secured in the back of Daigle’s vehicle for safe keeping until State Police arrived, according to the affidavit. A state police corporal, after he got there, then secured them in his cruiser.
Suazo told Trooper Gregory Palmer that the investigation started with a complaint from an unidentified coworker of Fullam on Oct. 19, “and she decided to conduct the search on November 21, 2022 based on scheduling,” the affidavit states.
The Nov. 22 affidavit seems to contradict Palmer’s statement at Fullam’s arraignment a day later that members of the Department of Administration — and the State Police — accessed Fullam’s locker and found the weapon, according to a recording of the proceeding. The affidavit states a search had already happened before State Police arrived.
The Department of Administration, citing restrictions on commenting about personnel matters, declined to elaborate on its response. The State Police did not immediately respond to a request for clarity about the timeline.
At Fullam’s Nov. 23 arraignment in Providence state court, State Police underscored the nature of the case in requesting $40,000 bail.
“It’s not just a firearm on hospital grounds, it’s not just an unregistered firearm, it’s an unmarked, no serial number, AR-15 assault rifle,” Palmer said at the arraignment before Magistrate J. Patrick O’Neill.
O’Neill signaled concerns about mass shootings in setting bail at $20,000 with surety, which wasn’t as much as State Police sought but still exceeded bail guidance.
“I don’t know what possible explanation Mr. Fullam has for having a ghost gun at work,” O’Neill said.
In court, State Police said the gun was found in Fullam’s locker after authorities got a report that an employee “had previously and may currently be possessing and storing a firearm in his locker on the grounds,” Palmer said. Fullam made incriminating comments, authorities said. Department of Administration and Eleanor Slater Hospital representatives did not immediately respond to a request to elaborate on what that previous incident referred to.
“I was hoping you would not find that,” Fullam allegedly said.
The federal government defines a ghost gun as guns that are “often assembled from kits, do not contain serial numbers, and are sold without background checks.”
Police said they also found a silver lower receiver, two boxes of spent shell casings, and one box of reloadable projectiles.
Fullam is listed on a state employee portal as a carpenter working with the Department of Administration at Eleanor Slater Hospital.
Fullam’s lawyer, Angelica Bovis, said he had no previous record, and had been dealing with health issues of late. Bovis said Fullam’s posistion hasn’t been terminated and that he is on administrative leave.
Bovis said she understood the judge’s concern about mass shootings, but said there was no ammunition, no magazines, and the gun was taken apart, with pieces on different shelves.
Fullam was also given a no-trespass order on Eleanor Slater Hospital grounds. He’s listed as having posted bond Nov. 23.
Eleanor Slater Hospital, which is run by the state Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities, and Hospitals, has campuses in Burrillville, called the Zambarano unit, and in Cranston. Its patients have long-term medical and psychiatric needs.
BHDDH sent a notice about the incident to its staff this week which described, in broad strokes, a Department of Administration employee who “allegedly had a weapon in a non-hospital facility.”
“We are aware that some staff are asking questions about what happened and we will provide more information as it becomes available,” the notice said. “We appreciate what you do every day, and your safety in the workplace is of the utmost importance to us.”
This story has been updated with information from a state police affidavit.