RI officials call for increased security after gunfire outside courthouse


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After the second instance of gunfire near a Providence court complex within the last six months, state officials are calling for increased security in and around courthouses.

Shots were fired near Sixth District Court on Thursday. Police said the people involved were removed from the courthouse after an altercation unfolded inside.

This follows a similar incident back in September, when a single shot was fired during an altercation just outside the same courthouse.

State Court Administrator Joseph Baxter said the courthouse is not only where issues are resolved, but also where tensions can rise.

“More often than not, that spills out into the streets,” Baxter said.

Following the most recent incident, Supreme Court Chief Justice Paul Suttell and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin called for increased court security, saying it’s clear “the situation is getting worse in the surrounding streets.”

“The streets are becoming the battlefields of the gangs who lay in wait for rival gang members to emerge from court appearances,” Suttell said in a statement. “It is fortunate that no one was killed. This is unacceptable.”

Baxter said he hopes this call to action will lead to added security at all local courthouses.

“We’re hoping this will resonate and call attention to what we’ve been asking for for quite some time,” he said.

According to Baxter, law enforcement assigned to the courthouses are funded by the Executive Branch.

“We wouldn’t be able to open or operate without capitol police or sheriffs,” Baxter explained.

But he said within the last few weeks, the judiciary system has been funding additional security for themselves.

“It’s been a great help, but that’s not something we can maintain over the long haul because we have to pay for that extra out of our budget,” Baxter said.

Suttell and Kilmartin said in addition to the emergency overtime hiring of armed state and Providence police to patrol court hallways, the Judiciary will also put in a bid to hire armed private security officers to increase patrols outside court facilities.

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