PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — What started as a meeting to discuss a convicted child rapist moving into a Providence community has resulted in a large crowd marching to the man’s home.
Richard Gardner was released from prison in Massachusetts last week. He was convicted of sexually assaulting children in Warwick and Massachusetts in the late 80s.
Wednesday night’s meeting was called after it was learned he’d be moving to the Washington Park neighborhood. Upon his release, Gardner had to register as a Level III sex offender, meaning he’s a high risk to re-offend, so police know where he lives.
However, unlike other convicted sex offenders, the community won’t be notified about his address because his crimes were committed before notification laws were enacted.
“I thought to myself, ‘why here?’ How many communities did this individual travel through on his way here?” City Councilman Luis Aponte asked.
Even though Gardner’s address isn’t being made public, residents say they’ve figured out where he’s living and that the street is home to dozens of children.
“My wife told me and I Googled it. It’s 141 feet from my door to the front door of that house. It’s a little too close for comfort,” neighbor Jesse Andrade told Eyewitness News.
The Washington Park Community Center was a full house for Wednesday’s meeting, with Mayor Jorge Elorza and Police Major David Lapatin among those on hand.
Lapatin kicked off the meeting by saying he’s sorry the community had to come together for a situation like this. He said police are reviewing the legal circumstances that allow Gardner to live in the city, noting that he cannot live within 300 feet of a school.
It didn’t take long for the crowd to get out of hand, however, with angry attendees yelling things about Gardner such as, “how did he get here?”
Elorza responded by saying, “this man does not belong here,” and said he would approve overtime for police to provide a 24/7 detail outside Gardner’s home as soon as he left the meeting.
The meeting ended abruptly, and a large crowd marched over to Gardner’s new residence. Police were also on hand to keep things under control.