BRISTOL, R.I. — Only a month ago, David E. Barboza rode past crowds in the back of a convertible in the Bristol Fourth of July parade, celebrated as a past chief parade marshal.
On Monday evening, a crowd came to his historic home just off the parade route and held a demonstration in support of the men who say Barboza molested them as children.
Barboza left before the arrival of about 30 demonstrators, who stood outside his house as cars slowly passed by. Motorists stared and honked, one shouting: “Lock him up and throw away the key!”
Since the 1970s, Barboza has been a prominent public official in this town, serving on various boards, and as a police officer, volunteer firefighter, state fire marshal, and civil defense director.
Then last Wednesday, the Globe reported that Barboza was accused of sexually abusing two boys and soliciting a third decades ago. State and local police opened an investigation when a fourth man reported on Thursday that he’d also been abused, and authorities are now urging any others to come forward.
The revelations have rocked the town. Retired Bristol officer Steve Annarummo and local resident Joe DeMelo decided to organize the demonstration to show support for the alleged victims.
They chose to hold the event outside Barboza’s house for a reason. The criminal statute of limitations had expired for the first three accusers, but “I want a neighborhood awareness for people to know where he lives,” Annarummo said, adding. “I hope he feels uncomfortable with it.”
The demonstration included men who said they were victims.
Robert Powers, 54, filed a civil lawsuit in December accusing Barboza of raping him multiple times in the mid-1970s, starting when he was 9 or 10 and Barboza was a Bristol police officer.
After speaking out in the Globe last week, Powers said, he’s been overwhelmed by support. He said people have called him courageous for stepping forward publicly to talk about his experiences. He was grateful and wanted to return the support by speaking out for other victims.
“I’m not here for myself,” Powers said. “I’m here for the victims of Barboza. I’m here for the victims in the state of Rhode Island who are afraid to come forward, and anybody else who is afraid to come forward.”
As he stood outside Barboza’s house, Powers hugged a stranger who said he was motivated to go to the Bristol police on Thursday after seeing Powers’ story.
The 45-year-old man, who asked not to be identified, said that Barboza made sexual advances at him at a party in 1992 and at St. Mary’s Church more than a decade ago. The man said he went to the church because he was homeless and needed clothing. He said that Barboza, who was the longtime administrative assistant at the church, pulled open his pants.
Barboza lost his job with the church on Wednesday, after the Globe report.
Others had previously reported Barboza to the police.
A Bristol man told the State Police in 2014 that Barboza molested him multiple times at a fire station in the 1970s, starting when he was 6 and Barboza was a volunteer firefighter. The 54-year-old man told the Globe that he’d spoken to multiple authorities since 1975 about Barboza, to no avail.
Barboza was arrested in 1982, when Bristol police charged him with soliciting a 14-year-old boy from his state fire marshal’s vehicle. The charge was dismissed without prejudice but never refiled.
Though her son had been a victim of a different offender, Bristol resident Ruth Lombardi came to the demonstration to support the men who said Barboza had abused them.
“The way these things happen, it destroys the families,” she said. “I want to support the victims. And, I want to see justice done.”