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Florida man held without bail on federal gun charges after East Providence shooting

The US Magistrate called Joshua D. Pavao, 43, “a danger to the community” and a flight risk after hearing a federal prosecutor describe the chaos and firepower found after he shot at his ex-girlfriend’s home in Rhode Island

Joshua D. Pavao of Florida, formerly of R.I., faces more than 100 felony weapons charges after a shooting and wild pursuit in East Providence on Dec. 1, 2023.

PROVIDENCE — A Florida truck driver facing more than 100 felony weapons charges after a shooting and wild pursuit in East Providence on Friday was ordered held without bail on federal charges of having illegal short-barrel firearms and illegal weapons converted to machine guns.

Joshua D. Pavao, 43, of Kissimmee, Florida.Coventry Police Department

US Magistrate Lincoln D. Almond called 43-year-old Joshua D. Pavao “a danger to the community” and a flight risk after hearing a federal prosecutor describe the chaos and firepower in East Providence last week. Weapons were allegedly found in a duffle bag at his girlfriend’s home in Coventry on Tuesday.

Pavao’s girlfriend, sister, and mother wept in the courtroom as the magistrate handed down his decision. They declined comment. Pavao mouthed “I love you” at the three women over and over before he was led away in shackles.

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Pavao had allegedly been stalking the East Providence residence of an ex-girlfriend from about 20 years ago, and is being investigated in relation to several incidents of vandalism at the house since last year, Assistant US Attorney Paul Daly Jr. said in court. The latest incident was mid-afternoon on Dec. 1, when he pulled up to the house and used a rifle-style pellet gun to shoot out the rear window of a vehicle in the driveway, according to the East Providence police.

That set off a pursuit by police, as Pavao tried to evade officers, driving his Nissan Armada at 60 to 80 miles per hour in residential neighborhoods, according to police. Daly told the magistrate that Pavao was also caught on surveillance camera dumping a backpack that held loaded weapons on Boyd Avenue.

Pavao sped off, crashing into vehicles and injuring at least one other person, until the Armada could go no further, Daly said. Pavao abandoned his SUV and tried to run, before he was caught by officers. East Providence police released some of their video of the chaotic scene.

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East Providence street is littered with guns, magazines after wild pursuit
Joshua D. Pavao of Florida, formerly of R.I., faces more than 100 felony weapons charges after a shooting and wild pursuit in East Providence on Dec. 1, 2023.

Investigators found more than 100 loaded high-capacity magazines strewn inside the SUV, and rifle ammunition strewn inside and outside the Armada, according to East Providence police. Three were also three duffle bags filled with ammunition in the vehicle, and investigators found a bulletproof vest and a bag containing more than $14,000 cash.

On Monday, Pavao was arraigned in 6th District Court on 116 charges from East Providence. A judge set bail at $100,000 with surety, double the bail guidelines, and ordered him to relinquish all of his firearms. Pavao posted bail on Tuesday.

By then, Coventry police officers and an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms were at Pavao’s girlfriend’s house in Coventry, where he was staying on weekends, Daly said. The girlfriend directed the investigators to Pavao’s belongings — including a red duffle bag in her garage that held eight long guns and four gun magazines that each held 30 rounds, according to an affidavit supporting an arrest warrant.

Four are short-barrel firearms, which are required to be registered and are illegal in Rhode Island, the affidavit said. Three of those four were also converted to operate as machine guns, according to the affidavit. Pavao also had another machine gun, as well as three other rifles: a Romarm/ Cugir GP WASR-10 7.62 caliber rifle, a Nodak Spud LLC NDS02 5.45 caliber rifle, and a Diamond Firearms Multi-Cal rifle.

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Joshua D. Pavao, a Florida resident and Coventry native, is charged by federal authorities after Coventry police seized these weapons Tuesday. They include firearms modified to be automatic weapons. Coventry Police Department

An ATF agent was able to trace only two of the firearms: one that Pavao purchased with the machine gun conversion in 2008 in Kissimmee, Florida, where he lives, and the Romarm/Cugir rifle that Pavao bought in Gray, Maine, in 2005.

Pavao is now charged with four counts of possession of a machine gun, and four counts of possession of an unregistered firearm. Each carries a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison.

Pavao was expecting to be released on bail on the state charges and go live with his mother in Kissimmee. Instead, he is being detained at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls. His court-appointed attorney, Kevin Fitzgerald, said Pavao is having a difficult time being incarcerated.

On Facebook, Pavao identified himself as working for the US Department of Defense and posted an old photo of himself in a US Marine Corps uniform. He’d been in the service for only a few months in 1999, ending at the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, according to military records.

His Facebook posts show a mixture of enthusiasm for firearms, support for former president Donald J. Trump, and anger against women, particularly his estranged wife, who moved to Maine with their son and had a no-contact order against Pavao.

Fitzgerald said that Pavao had relinquished all of his firearms.

But at the arraignment Wednesday, at least, there was still no explanation of Pavao’s motive for coming to East Providence, allegedly with his vehicle packed with firearms, dozens of high-capacity gun magazines, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

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“I can’t explain away his flight from police officers [in East Providence] or the presence of guns in Coventry,” Fitzgerald told the court.

Although Fitzgerald argued that Pavao could be released, the magistrate disagreed. “They’re saying he’s stalking, he’s vandalizing, he’s got guns, illegal weapons at his residence, and a lot of rounds in his vehicle,” Almond said. “It seems like dangerous behavior.”

Florida man arrested in East Providence on Dec. 1, 2023
Joshua D. Pavao of Florida, formerly of R.I., faces more than 100 felony weapons charges after a shooting and wild pursuit in East Providence on Dec. 1, 2023.



Amanda Milkovits can be reached at amanda.milkovits@globe.com. Follow her @AmandaMilkovits.