Metro

Providence man and 2 others are charged after his escape with R.I. State Police cruiser

In this Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 still image from video posted by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, Providence Police Department officers converge on a truck driven into another vehicle by Joseph Santos on a highway on-ramp in downtown Providence, R.I. Police shot Santos dead, and injured passenger Christine Demers, who was hospitalized. (Rhode Island Department of Transportation via AP)
R.I. Department of Transportation/AP
Officers converged on a truck in downtown Providence on Friday as they searched for Donald Morgan, who had escaped from a police vehicle Thursday.

A Providence man who allegedly stole a police cruiser Thursday, and then spent more than a day on the run before being captured Friday, was held without bail after his arraignment Saturday, according to Rhode Island State Police.

Two friends charged with hiding him were also arraigned and held on $10,000 bail, according to officials.

“We haven’t stopped since this incident has happened,” said Colonel Ann C. Assumpico, superintendent of the Rhode Island State Police, during a press conference Saturday morning at the State Police headquarters in Scituate, R.I. “We have been looking to apprehend Donald Morgan 24/7.”

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Morgan, 35, was shot with a Taser during his arrest in Cumberland, R.I., officials said. He was ordered held at the Adult Correctional Institutions during an arraignment before a justice of the peace Saturday on charges of escaping from custody, possessing a stolen motor vehicle, obstructing an officer in execution of duty, larceny of a motor vehicle, reckless driving, and resisting arrest. He will be formally arraigned before a judge and enter a plea on Tuesday, according to a spokeswoman.

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Daniel Medeiros, 54, and Rachael Read, 47, both of Vermont Avenue in Cumberland, R.I., were charged with harboring a criminal. Officials identified them as friends of Morgan. They were ordered held on $10,000 surety bail Saturday. If they do not make bail, a police spokeswoman said Saturday, they will return to court Tuesday.

Morgan’s alleged cruiser theft Thursday morning kicked off a statewide search, during which State Police and Providence police fatally shot a man who was driving a truck that matched the description of a vehicle Morgan was believed to be in. Joseph Santos, 32, was killed after officials said he refused to stop on a crowded highway near the Providence Mall, and then used his truck as a weapon. His passenger, 37-year-old Christine Demers, was wounded.

Officials have defended the police and troopers who fired approximately 40 rounds into the vehicle, saying that Santos, who had two open warrants, presented an imminent danger to the public.

At her Saturday morning press conference, Assumpico said the video of the shooting “speaks for itself,” and she commended the involved officers for “keeping the public safe, saving lives.” She promised to release more information, including the names of the four state troopers who fired their weapons, when the investigation was complete.

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“Our sympathies go out to the family of Joseph Santos,” she said. Assumpico said that while Demers was critically injured, officials have heard that she is “doing well.”

During the press conference, Assumpico offered more details on how Morgan was able to allegedly steal the cruiser despite being handcuffed and in State Police custody.

Morgan initially had been arrested on Wednesday morning after he allegedly crashed a stolen car on Interstate 95 South, near the intersection with Route 10. He was taken to Rhode Island Hospital for treatment of injuries he suffered, she said, and was then taken to the Lincoln Woods Barracks, where he was held overnight before his scheduled arraignment Thursday.

The trooper transporting him on Thursday morning handcuffed him in front, rather than behind his back, Assumpico said, because Morgan was injured. “It’s at the discretion of the trooper how they want to cuff an injured person,” she said. “The trooper did follow protocol.”

The trooper’s vehicle did not have a barrier between the front seat and back seat, where Morgan was sitting belted in. At around 9 a.m., the trooper transporting him came upon a car crash in the travel lane, and got out of his car to check on the victims. Assumpico said he left his keys in the vehicle to keep the blue lights on.

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“You’re going to come upon emergencies, and it happens quickly,” said Assumpico.

Rhode Island State Police
Donald Morgan.

While the trooper was out of his cruiser, Morgan got into the front seat and drove off. The cruiser was found about a half hour later, with a gun still in the trunk. Morgan was nowhere to be found.

Assumpico said her department will review whether its vehicles should have barriers between the front and back seat but said the provision allowing troopers to handcuff suspects in front or in back was necessary to safely accommodate issues like injuries. At all times, she said, the trooper “did follow the right proper protocol.”

Officials have said that during the search for Morgan, a witness saw someone matching his description trying to get into a white pickup truck. This kicked off an effort by police to stop multiple white pickup trucks — including the one Santos was driving.

At about 10:35 a.m., Cranston police told Providence officers that a white pickup truck had refused to stop on Silver Lake Avenue near the city line, and Providence police eventually picked up the pursuit, leading to the fatal encounter.

Travis Andersen of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @evanmallen.