CUMBERLAND, R.I. — Otis Diggs may have projected a gruff exterior, but those who knew him well noted that his smile showed who he really was.
“Very helpful,” said Abisola, whose last name is being withheld. She and Diggs, 38, were friends for about two years but have known each other for more than a decade. “Always there when you needed him to be there. It didn’t matter what it was or where it was; he was just there.”
Abisola said she was told that Diggs visiting Lincoln Village, a series of historic buildings that were once part of the nearby Ashton Mill, when the stabbing occurred around 3 p.m. Saturday. Police said the incident involved three individuals, all of whom they believed were familiar to one another.
On Tuesday, Cumberland Police Chief Matthew Benson announced that they had arrested Robert Perry, 34, in Warwick.
“As a result of the investigative efforts of the Cumberland Police Department detective division and with the assistance of the Rhode Island State Police Violent Fugitive Task force, the US Marshals, and the Pawtucket, East Providence, and Warwick Police Departments, the suspect in the murder of Otis Diggs this past Saturday afternoon was identified,” Benson said at press conference Tuesday.
“The case is still a very active and ongoing investigation so we will limit our comments at this time,” he said. “Additional criminal charges may be sought as the case unfolds.”
Benson and Mayor Jeffrey Mutter told the Globe that the “public is not in any danger” and that the attack was not “a random act.” Benson said Diggs was the only person harmed during the incident.
Video taken by a neighbor moments after the attack shows a group of about five people standing over Diggs’s motionless body on the sidewalk in front of 16 Front St. One person appeared to be rendering CPR while the sound of approaching sirens and a person’s cries could be heard.
Officers called to the scene on Saturday for a reported stabbing and emergency services found Diggs and attempted to assist him. He was transported to Rhode Island Hospital by Cumberland Emergency Services and was later pronounced dead.
Police ran crime scene tape over cars and around a half-block section on Front Street while they conducted their investigation on Saturday. They put up a tent on Front Street in front of the red brick apartment building.
“I can’t wrap my head around this,” Abisola said. “Two weeks ago he called me that he just passed a big exam. I can’t remember what he was in school for. He was so excited for that.”
When the two friends spoke in person or over the phone, they confided in each other about their problems.
In posts on his Facebook page, Diggs was open about his battles with mental health on Facebook.
Court records show that, from 2003 to 2020, Diggs had faced various charges including disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, possession of stolen motor vehicle parts, and carrying a pistol without a license. Some of the charges had been dismissed.
According to Abisola, Diggs enjoyed playing pool and basketball. He could often be found at 67 Lounge in Pawtucket and was her children’s barber.
“We talked about a lot of things in life,” she said. “Even things that he was going through personally. ... He was losing faith because of things he encountered in his life. I was always the motivator to get him to stay focused. Put God first.”
Abisola said she’d miss him.
“I pray that justice was served and the family gets the closure that they need,” Abisola added.
This article has been updated with the arrest of a suspect in the case.