PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Jhamal Gonsalves, the Providence man critically injured in an officer-involved moped crash last year, has filed a lawsuit against the city through his mother and fiancée.
The crash, which took place on Oct. 18, left 24-year-old Gonsalves in a coma. Gonsalves, his family reports, has woken up but remains in serious condition at a medical facility in New Jersey.
The lawsuit comes less than a week after Attorney General Peter Neronha announced no criminal charges would be filed in the case, but mentioned that civil negligence could still be in play. Gonsalves’ family attorney said the same day that they would indeed file suit.
The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in federal court, claiming Gonsalves “was operating his vehicle in a safe manner and using due care” when Providence police officers “used excessive and unsafe force” to stop him, resulting in the crash.
The named defendants include Col. Hugh Clements, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré, Officers Kyle Endres and Brad McParlin and the city of Providence.
The lawsuit claims Gonsalves was traveling down Elmwood Avenue when Endres began pursuing him.
McParlin was in his cruiser near Bissell Street when Endres requested by radio that officers “box him in,” according to the suit.
At that point, the lawsuit claims McParlin pulled forward onto Elmwood Avenue to block traffic.
In an attempt to avoid hitting McParlin’s cruiser, Gonsalves “was forced to turn his vehicle onto Bissell Street, thereby resulting in him losing control of his moped which went onto the sidewalk and struck a wall,” according to the lawsuit. At the same time, Officer Endres “turned his vehicle in a negligent and reckless manner onto the sidewalk … causing his vehicle to strike a stop sign and Mr. Gonsalves,” the suit claims.
Gonsalves was then ejected from his moped and rendered unconscious.
Last week, Neronha said the investigation concluded Endres lost control of his cruiser and hit the stop sign, which came down on Gonsalves’ head. But he said Endres’ driving stopped short of being criminally reckless, though it may be considered civilly negligent.
The lawsuit claims Gonsalves “was traveling within the speed limit, operating his vehicle safely and had done nothing to warrant pursuit or arrest” and the officers’ actions were “an unwarranted exertion of force.”
Endres and McParlin had a different version of events when they were interviewed by fellow officers in the Office of Professional Responsibility during the course of the investigation into the crash.
Endres denied pursuing Gonsalves, telling investigators he had been instructed only to monitor and follow behind the various ATVS, dirt bikes and mopeds that had been riding erratically throughout the city that evening, but not chase them, with the goal of protecting public safety in case of a crash or incident.
He acknowledged telling fellow officers “box this guy in” over the radio, but said he meant they should do it after Gonsalves stopped, since it appeared he might be losing control of the moped. Boxing in during a pursuit, or to stop a vehicle and prevent a pursuit, is against department policy.
“By saying “box him in,” it, it was not my intent that to do so while he was operational,” Endres said during the interview. “That’s … I know that … that’s something we don’t do and that isn’t what I was suggesting by saying that whatsoever. I, again, thought he was gonna stop because he was losing control. However, he kept going.”
In his own interview, McParlin denied taking any action in response to Endres’ radio call to box Gonsalves in, and also denied attempting to block Gonsalves from passing on Elmwood Avenue. He said he pulled out onto the street in order to head “back into the city” after the street riders appeared to have entered Cranston.
Despite not facing criminal charges, the department disciplined Endres and several other officers who were involved in the crash and its aftermath.
Gonsalves family told 12 News it’s not enough, and they want the officers responsible for the crash to be held liable.
“This is all on the negligence of these officers,” Mark Gonsalves, Jhamal’s father, said.
The lawsuit claims the injuries Gonsalves suffered at the hands of the officers “are severe and permanent.” Gonsalves, the lawsuit states, “has endured multiple surgeries, hospitalizations, rehabilitative treatment and had endured severe emotional distress.”
The suit is seeking monetary damages as Gonsalves’ family struggles to keep up with mounting medical bills.
12 News reached out to the city and the Providence Police for comment on the lawsuit, to which a spokesperson replied, “Our law department has not received the lawsuit yet, but as expected, the city does not comment on ongoing litigation.”