PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — For the second weekend in a row, police in Providence responded to multiple incidents of violent crime, including a deadly double shooting.
Two men from Massachusetts died Saturday after they were shot outside a nightclub off Broad Street. The victims were identified by police Monday as Mario Diaz, 27, of Boston, and Kerwins Pimental, 29, of Mattapan.
According to Major David Lapatin, the victims were among a group of 10 friends celebrating a birthday at Fuego Lounge when a fight broke out with another group. At one point while they were outside the nightclub, Lapatin said a member of the second group retrieved a gun from a vehicle and shot Diaz and Pimental.
It’s unclear at this time whether the two groups knew each other prior to the incident.
“We don’t know that yet,” Lapatin said. “It’s a good possibility that it could’ve been a Boston feud that was brought down to Providence.”
The Board of Licenses voted Saturday to close Fuego Lounge pending a formal hearing this week.
Lapatin recalled that police were called to the club for another incident last year.
“We’ll be using that in our case in regard to shutting this club down for a long suspension or permanently,” he said. “We usually ask for permanent because we just can’t have this going on.”
Less than 24 hours later after that shooting, three people were shot and wounded at a Manton Avenue home. Lapatin said a crowd of about 15 people were outside the home around 1:15 a.m. Sunday when a person approached on foot and opened fire.
None of the victims were seriously injured, Lapatin said.
Additionally, around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, a man was assaulted and carjacked in the area of Poe and Oxford streets, according to police.
At this time, no arrests have been made in any of those crimes.
Mayor Jorge Elorza said he thinks at least some of the violence has been retaliatory.
“This idea of taking matters into your own hands, that only leads to more violence, a cycle of violence, doesn’t help anyone,” he said. “Please give us that information. Let the detectives do their job and hold everyone responsible accountable.”
Elorza chalked up the lack of arrests to the unwillingness of the victims and those associated with them to share information with police about what happened, which Lapatin corroborated.
“A lot of times on the shootings, the victims in a lot of cases don’t cooperate as much as we wish they would,” Lapatin said. “The community has been very helpful, always offering their video or what they’ve seen.”
“You can’t do it on your own,” he continued. “You need the help of everyone, and it just helps so much to have people come forward and give us information.”
The mayor said he’s committed to making people feel safe, which requires prevention through community programs and response by a larger police force.
The Providence Police Department typically aims to have around 500 officers, according to the police union’s president, but right now it only has about 400, with about a third of those officers in range of retirement.
Elorza contended, however, that what’s happening in the city right now has anything to do with the size of the police department.
“There is no correlation between the number of officers and the number of crimes,” Elorza said.
He noted that crimes like robberies and assaults are down from last year, and over the past five years, all violent crimes have decreased with the exception of homicides.
“We have less officers now and we have less crime,” he added. “But then there’s perception of crime and perception is reality, and perception matters a great deal.”
Around 50 cadets are set to graduate from the police academy in November, and the Providence City Council has included money in the budget for another class after that.
“What I hear in the community is that they want to see more officers, or when they make a call for an officer, they want that officer to come sooner rather than later and for all of those things, for those quality of life things and for that sense of safety, it’s important to have more officers,” Elorza said.
Lapatin said that while the department “could always use more people,” police are doing everything in their power to investigate these crimes and maintain public safety.
“It’s a decent-sized city and I think, relatively speaking, people have not stopped coming in,” he said. “The people feel safe, we try and put as much manpower as we can out there, and I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it.”
“It’s tragic, what happens here, I don’t want to take away from that, but for the most part we’re working hard to keep everybody safe,” Lapatin added.
The city’s police department is also working with Rhode Island State Police to address the uptick in violence.
On Tuesday night, Elorza is expected to attend a special meeting called by the City Council to discuss ways to respond to the issue.