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RI CRIME

Man allegedly killed mother and neighbor in Johnston, R.I., shooting, police say

Rhode Island investigators remove evidence Wednesday from homes at 2 and 4 Ligian Court in Johnston, R.I.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

JOHNSTON, R.I. — Just before midnight Tuesday, hours before James Harrison allegedly shot and killed his mother and neighbor and injured his neighbor’s daughter, Johnston Police were called to Ligian Court for a report of suspicious activity.

When officers arrived, Thomas May, 44, who lived at 2 Ligian Court, said he heard banging noises on the walls outside his residence that were close to his daughter’s window. May told police he’d raised the window blinds and saw his neighbor, Harrison, 52, outside May’s home with a ladder.

Harrison resides at 4 Ligian Court, next door to May’s house.

Johnston Police Chief Mark A. Vieira released the details of the encounter in a news release Thursday.

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Harrison ran back toward his house, police said. Officers did not see any signs of attempted forced entry to the bedroom window, and could not find the ladder May reported.

Thomas MayJohnston R.I. Little League

May asked to file a trespass order against Harrison, forbidding him from his property at 2 Ligian Court.

Officers knocked on Harrison’s door and called him, but he did not respond.

Officer Scott Hopkins returned to Ligian Court at approximately 7:30 a.m. Wednesday in another attempt to reach Harrison and issue him a trespass notice, but when he arrived, he saw Harrison operating a dark blue Buick Encore.

Harrison made a hand gesture shaped like a firearm toward the officer as he approached Simmonsville Avenue.

Hopkins made an attempt to turn around to detain Harrison, but saw May’s 15-year-old daughter lying on the front lawn of the residence with an apparent gunshot wound, and stopped to aid her.

Thomas May was found in the garage with a fatal gunshot to his head.

Johnston police received two 911 calls about gunshots in the area.

May’s daughter identified Harrison as the shooter, and a “Be On the Lookout” bulletin was issued to area law enforcement.

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The injured girl was transported to Hasbro Children’s Hospital in Providence, where she received treatment for serious injuries that were not judged to be life threatening.

Officers made their way inside 4 Ligian Court, which property records show belongs to Janet Harrison, 83, of Johnston. Janet Harrison was found dead with a gunshot to the head. She was the mother of James Harrison.

At around 9:30 a.m., a police dispatcher called the Cranston Police Department to report that James Harrison’s vehicle was seen near St. Ann Cemetery. Officers pursued the vehicle through multiple jurisdictions, and the car chase ended with a crash on Plainfield Pike in Cranston, in the area of the Interstate 295 overpass.

Harrison exited the vehicle with a handgun that he pointed at police. Multiple officers shot and killed Harrison.

In the news release, Vieira offered condolences to the May and Harrison families.

“The juvenile victim in this case has shown incredible courage and resiliency, and we pray for her speedy recovery,” Vieira said. “The Johnston Police Department commends the assistance provided by the Cranston Police Department, the Providence Police Department, and the Rhode Island State Police in swiftly locating this armed and dangerous individual. As we continue to investigate this incident, we would also like to thank the Office of the Attorney General for their assistance.”

Johnston Little League, where May was a coach, made a statement on Facebook asking for support for his family.

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League president Joe Splendori said that league play will be suspended until Tuesday.

The Johnston Little League’s statement asked for “thoughts and prayer” for the May family.

“There are no words that will help ease this pain that we are experiencing at this time,” the league statement read. “TJ was a son, husband, father, friend, mentor, coach and most of all, a great human being. We will miss him tremendously. We ask at this time please give TJ’s family their privacy.”

Joe Splendorio said May has two young kids and the Johnston Little League board is focusing on what it can do to help the family. The league is hosting a car show on Memorial Day and will seek donations for the family.

The Rhode Island attorney general’s office is leading the investigation, according to Brian A. Hodge, the office’s director of communication.

The tragedy Wednesday closed the I-295 exit ramps to Plainfield Pike for most of the day as detectives investigated the scene. Bullet holes in Harrison’s vehicle show that rounds pierced the vehicle, which had collided with a rock after jumping the center median of the road.

Investigators place an evidence marker next to the car driven by James Harrison, who was shot dead by police at the Cranston/Johnson border, after a chase from his residence on Ligian Court in Johnston, R.I.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

Johnston Deputy Chief of Police Matthew G. LeDuc told the Globe Thursday that police had been called to Harrison’s Ligian Court home twice previously. Once on July 6, 2022, for an alarm, which was canceled en route. And on Sept. 8, 2021, Janet Harrison called the police because she believed her son was drunk and about to leave home.

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Police responded for a “well-being check” and found Harrison in good health. Officers gave his car keys to his mother for the night.


Carlos Muñoz can be reached at carlos.munoz@globe.com. Follow him @ReadCarlos and on Instagram @Carlosbrknews.