PROVIDENCE — Providence police officers shot and killed a driver and wounded his teenage daughter Friday night after the wanted man allegedly rammed his car into a nurse outside Women and Infants Hospital and dragged a police officer who was trying to stop him.
The wild pursuit began in the northwest corner of the state, where Michael Pinto, 40, of Glocester, was running from Burrillville police officers, who shot at him when he allegedly drove at them on Route 146 in North Smithfield. It continued into Massachusetts and then back into Rhode Island and down into Providence. It ended with Pinto dead, his 16-year-old daughter wounded, and a nurse and police officers from Burrillville and Providence injured after being hit by Pinto’s silver Chevy Cruze.
In a press conference Saturday, Providence Police Chief Oscar Perez and Burrillville Police Chief Stephen Lynch described how the chaotic night unfolded.
The incident began Thursday afternoon, when Pinto was seen in Glocester speeding at 65 to 70 miles per hour on the town’s narrow country roads, Lynch said. Pinto ignored police attempts to stop him, even as Burrillville officers joined the pursuit, and continued into North Smithfield and Smithfield, where police broke off the chase near Bryant University.
Glocester and Burrillville police obtained warrants for Pinto’s arrest, to charge him with felony reckless driving. Pinto had a criminal record going back more than 20 years for reckless driving, domestic violence, drug possession, and starving his Great Dane “Buddy” to death. At the time of the chase, Pinto was out on probation for failing to care for Buddy and for eluding police in Providence just a few months ago. He was also wanted on charges of felony assault and reckless driving in Johnston.
On Friday, around 7:30 p.m., Burrillville officers were near Pinto’s residence on Money Hill Road in Glocester, near the Burrillville town line, when he sped off, Lynch said. The officers followed him on Route 100 to Route 98, entering Uxbridge, Mass., where local police joined the pursuit, then down Route 146A and Route 146 south. Burrillville Sergeant Henry Yakey, who was in the chase, called off the pursuit with the other officers, but as they kept riding south with their lights and sirens off, they saw Pinto’s silver Chevy Cruze just ahead of them, stuck in traffic near Anchor Subaru in North Smithfield, Lynch said.
The officers used their cruisers to box Pinto’s car in, and Yakey and Officer Bret Simas got out to pull Pinto out of his car. Pinto drove at Yakey, who shot at him twice, and then Pinto rammed one of the cruisers and kept going, disappearing from sight, Lynch said.
Perez said that the Providence police heard about the shooting over the intercity radio and, soon after, a Providence sergeant spotted Pinto’s car coming off Route 10 and onto Dean Street, in Providence.
Officers from all over the city converged to stop the car, but Pinto drove on sidewalks to evade them. He became stuck in traffic at Eddy and Dudley streets. Lieutenant Eugene Chin grabbed for Pinto, who avoided him and swung into reverse — hitting an unmarked police car and dragging the lieutenant, Perez said. Pinto drove onto the sidewalk, swung right onto Gay Street by the emergency entrance of Women and Infants Hospital, and drove over the curb and onto the sidewalk — where a nurse was standing.
Sergeant Joseph Lopes and Sergeant Matthew Rampone surrounded the car, guns drawn, and when Pinto reversed into Rampone and the nurse, both sergeants opened fire on the car, Perez said. Pinto was killed, and his 16-year-old daughter, who was a passenger, was shot in the leg but did not appear to have life-threatening injuries.
Yakey, Chin, and the nurse, who was not identified, were treated for their injuries.
All officer-involved shootings are investigated by the attorney general’s office, the State Police, and the local police department where the shooting occurred. Attorney General Peter F. Neronha said he expects to release the video from officers’ body-worn cameras in about a week to 10 days, after interviewing witnesses. Investigators will review the video footage, interview witnesses, analyze the ballistics evidence, and the scene, including Pinto’s vehicle, and then determine how to proceed.
“I think what we need to do is understand what happened and then decide whether there’s any additional steps that we need to take as a law enforcement matter,” he said.
Police shootings in Rhode Island are relatively rare — past Providence police chiefs have said that their officers would make arrests in violent situations without firing a shot.
The last fatal police shooting in Providence was six years ago, when five Providence officers and four state troopers shot and killed a driver and wounded a passenger after a high-speed pursuit on Interstate 95, during which the driver was ramming his truck into other vehicles.
This article has been updated with additional details from Burrillville and Providence police and the state attorney general.