PROVIDENCE — Woonsocket police say that a petty dispute among young men led to the fatal shooting of an innocent teenager in that city Wednesday night.
As the father of 17-year-old NyAsia Williams-Thomas watched silently in a courtroom Friday, one of the three young men accused in her death broke into tears.
Jose Ortiz Martinez, who just turned 18, and two 17-year-old males are being held without bail on charges of murder and conspiracy. Police Chief Thomas F. Oates III said Williams-Thomas was not the intended target.
Martinez and the young men had an ongoing dispute with a 14-year-old boy, and they went out looking for him Wednesday night, Oates said.
They showed up at the Plaza Village apartment complex in Woonsocket, a quiet 226-unit development on the north end of the city. They recognized a vehicle the boy usually rode in and fired into the passenger side, Oates said.
The gunfire missed the boy and a young woman in the passenger seat — and instead hit Williams-Thomas, who happened to be in the driver’s seat.
Williams-Thomas tried to drive away from the shooter but struck a line of parked cars in a futile getaway and ended up on Village Road. She was pronounced dead at Landmark Medical Center that night.
Hours into the investigation, the Woonsocket police announced that Williams-Thomas’s death was a case of mistaken identity. They arrested Martinez and the two young men shortly afterward, charging them with involvement in the homicide.
Neither the police nor assistant attorney general Meghan McDonough have identified the gunman. The police had arrested a fourth man, who was released without charges. However, the investigation is ongoing and may lead to more arrests, Oates said.
“All of the Woonsocket department’s thoughts and prayers go out to the Williams-Thomas family,” he said. “Senseless violence by young people not thinking has destroyed her life and her family’s lives, and put their own in jeopardy.”
District Court Judge Brian Goldman ordered Martinez held without bail, pending a hearing on Dec. 20.
The teens were petitioned into Family Court on charges of murder and conspiracy, and were remanded to the Training School.
Amanda Milkovits can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.