PROVIDENECE, R.I. (WPRI) – A former Providence police officer has filed a federal lawsuit alleging Providence and State Police injured him during a 2012 incident in which he captured a suspect while off-duty.
Christopher Owens was off-duty on Sept. 19, 2012, when a police chase involving Providence police, State Police, and federal agents ended near his Glenbridge Avenue home in Providence.
Police had been investigating Sean Sparfven because they suspected he was dealing in stolen cars and attempted to arrest him at a location in North Providence, but Sparfven assaulted a State Trooper and fled in a tow truck, prompting police to fire several shots at the truck, wounding Sparfven’s sister.
The chase ended on Glenbridge Avenue in Providence, where Sparfven crashed the truck into another vehicle nearby and fled on foot towards Owens’ house. According to documents filed last week in federal court, Owens, despite being off-duty and not knowing the details of what was happening, chased down Sparfven and tackled him. Police credit Owens with the capture in a press release issued after the incident.
The suit alleges that a State Police detective and several Providence police officers, some of whom knew Owens personally, assaulted Owens and arrested him despite Owens identifying himself as a police officer several times. The suit also alleges that Owens’ son, Tyler Owens, was also assaulted and arrested at the scene despite being known to those same officers. Owens and his son are black and the suit alleges that the other officers assaulted them for that reason.
Included in the suit was the allegation that “it was the policy and/or custom or practice of the City of Providence and the Providence Police Department to provide grossly inadequate supervision, discipline and remediation to officers who demonstrate their propensities for violence, abuse of authority and bias toward certain racial or ethnic groups that are different from their own, including African Americans.”
Owens suffered several injuries and did not return to work; Eyewitness News caught up with him after the incident and although he declined to comment, he had a visible injury to his leg. According to the court filing, Owens has been approved for a disability pension by the state retirement board.
Owens and his son are seeking $1 million in damages.
The Attorney General’s office cleared the police officers in the shooting of Sparfven’s sister, while Sparfven was found guilty on several charges and sentenced to 20 years in prison, with seven to serve.