PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ As a 24-year-old man who was critically injured in an officer-involved moped crash last weekend continues to fight for his life, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza is reassuring everyone that there will be a fair and thorough investigation into the incident.
Jhamal Gonsalves was rushed to the hospital Sunday night immediately following the crash, which occurred on Elmwood Avenue. Gonsalves, according to his family, is currently in a coma.
The night of the crash, officers in Providence were attempting to reel in hundreds of off-road vehicles that took to the city streets.
Prior to the crash, it appears a Providence Police cruiser, which the department said was being driven by officer Kyle Endres, was following Gonsalves down Elmwood Avenue.
Cell phone video from a witness shows Gonsalves take an abrupt right turn onto Bissell Street before losing control of his moped and slamming into a building.
Providence Public Safety Commission Steven Paré released two new videos leading up to the crash Wednesday, neither of which show whether Gonsalves was hit by Endres’ cruiser.
During a sit-down interview with 12 News on Friday, Elorza said investigators still don’t have definitive evidence that the cruiser hit Gonsalves and contributed to his injuries.
“We don’t have any video that shows that direct moment,” Elorza said. “All of the video footage that has come to our attention, we’ve shared that publicly.”
The incident has sparked outrage throughout the city. Cell phone video of the crash continues to make its rounds on social media, and two initially peaceful protests that occurred earlier this week quickly devolved into chaos once the sun went down.
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Elorza said while it is everyone’s First Amendment right to protest peacefully, police will break up any gathering that turns violent.
“We had a terrible incident that devolved into violence several months ago and there’s no way we can allow something like that to happen again,” Elorza said, referring to a riot that occurred in June following the death of George Floyd.
He also said he does not believe the incident involving Gonsalves was race-related.
“The fact that they were following them has nothing to do with the race or ethnicity of any of the people that were riding,” Elorza said. “However, if you step back, I do believe that not addressing the race issue as a society has infected every institution.”
Elorza is asking everyone to reserve judgment on what happened until the investigation is complete.
“Once we complete this investigation, we’re going to lay all of the facts out in excruciating detail if we have to, and if it’s helpful,” he said.
The Providence Police Department, Rhode Island Attorney General’s office and the Rhode Island State Police have all opened separate investigations into the incident.
Elorza said he has also reached out to the Department of Justice regarding the incident.
“If the feds want to come in and get involved and oversee what we are doing and run their own investigation, they are welcome to do so,” he said. “We want this to be as transparent as possible.”
Gonsalves’ family met with Attorney General Peter Neronha Thursday for an update on the investigation into the crash.
Attorney Jude Kerrison, who’s representing the Gonsalves family, said while the investigation is still in the “fact-finding” stage, the meeting was “very informative.”
“I think the public deserves to be able to trust the results of this investigation and I think it will be impartial and unbiased,” Kerrison said.