WOONSOCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — Woonsocket’s police chief said grief counselors will be on standby after a 17-year-old girl was shot and killed in the city Wednesday night.
Police on Thursday identified the girl as Nyasia Williams-Thomas.
Woonsocket Police Chief Thomas Oates tells Eyewitness News she was not an active student at Woonsocket High School but was known in the district.
The chief said Williams-Thomas was sitting in an SUV on Village Road, near the Plaza Village apartment complex, just before 10 p.m. when someone approached the vehicle and opened fire.
As Williams-Thomas tried to drive away, she hit six to 10 parked cars, according to Oates. Upon arrival, first responders began performing CPR on the teen before transporting her to Landmark Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead.
Oates said two other people – a 21-year-old woman and a 14-year-old boy – were in the SUV with Williams-Thomas. While the relationship between the three is currently unclear, Oates said the other two were not hurt.
Police also noted that the SUV belongs to one of the passengers and not Williams-Thomas.
While police believe the shooting was not a random act of violence and that someone in the vehicle was targeted, they said it could be a case of mistaken identity. No arrests have been made thus far.
Anyone with information is asked to call detectives at (401) 762-6725.
Brandon Issler said the sound of a gunshot woke him up Wednesday night. The 19-year-old’s apartment is just yards away from where it took place and he later learned the victim was a former classmate.
“She put smiles on everyone’s face,” Issler said of Williams-Thomas. “She got shot for no reason.”
“It’s terrible, terrible news to hear that, especially in Woonsocket, in Plaza Village,” he continued. “That’s where I live. Now I’m scared to go anywhere.”
Keith Hill said he was in disbelief when he learned his friend had been killed.
“She didn’t even get to graduate high school,” he said.
State Rep. Marcia Ranglin-Vassell, D-Providence, released a statement saying more must be done to address gun violence.
“My love and prayers go out to the family and friends of NyAsia Williams-Thomas and to all those whose bright lights have been extinguished by totally preventable gun violence,” she wrote. “Time and time again we mourn the lives of our young people gone way too soon.”
“We must connect the dots and commit to do better,” Ranglin-Vassell continued. “Gun violence is a public health issue, let’s treat it with a matter of urgency.”
A candlelit vigil was held Thursday night at Saint James Baptist Church to honor Williams-Thomas’ memory.
Thomas Gray tells Eyewitness News he knew Williams-Thomas well and was with her parents Wednesday night when they learned their daughter was dead.
“They were torn apart from the initial feeling of losing their daughter,” he recalled.
Gray said he spent time with Williams-Thomas when she was part of the church’s children’s choir.
“She always had a smile on her face, always bubbly, smiley,” Gray said. “She was just a very vibrant, young person.”