PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rishod Gore says he wasn’t sure what was going to happen to him when Sgt. Joseph Hanley had his knee somewhere between his head and his neck on a Sunday night last April.
“This man put his knee on my head and shimmied and tried to crush my face into the concrete that night,” Gore testified Thursday in Providence District Court. “By the grace of God, honestly, had I made any kind of sporadic movements there’s no telling how this would have ended.”
Wearing a mask bearing the slogan Black Lives Matter, Gore took the stand for the entire day in Hanley’s assault trial, which resumed after a mid-month pause. Gore described being kicked, punched and verbally berated as he repeatedly asked police what he had done to be arrested.
Recorded on another officer’s body-worn camera, Hanley is heard on the recording calling Gore names, including “animal.”
“You want to act like a savage, that’s what you get,” Hanley is heard saying.
“They were racial slurs,” Gore testified Thursday. “I’ve been Black 29 years, so I’ve heard these words before and I know in what kind of context they’re used.”
Gore said Hanley punched him, kicked him in the face and the ribs, stepped on his legs and kneeled on his head during the interaction.
“I never found out what I was under arrest for,” Gore said.
The reason for the arrest, according to officers who testified earlier in the trial, was that Gore pointed his phone at police and shouted something they perceived to be threatening. Gore said he was recording video of the officers because they had just arrested his friend on Knight Street, and he made a comment that they “would see what happens next” with the footage he recorded.
Gore had dropped the friend off at his girlfriend’s house on Knight Street, he testified Thursday, and then was sitting with his own girlfriend in her car around the corner on Tell Street when he saw police arrive. After going over to the scene and recording the video, he walked back over to the black BMW and got into the passenger seat.
Shortly after that, Hanley and two other officers walked up to the car, opened the passenger door and dragged Gore out onto the ground, all of which was captured on body camera video. There was never a request or a command for him to leave the vehicle before they physically yanked him out, Gore testified, calling it an “attack.”
Once on the ground and in handcuffs, Hanley is seen on the video kicking Gore in the ribs, despite the fact that Providence Police policy requires an officer to stop using force once a suspect is under police control and no longer resisting.
Hanley’s defense attorney, Michael Colucci, has argued Gore was still resisting arrest by tensing his body, something that can’t necessarily be seen on video but would have prevented officers from gaining control of him so they could take him into custody.
Gore said he tensed his body to try and absorb the impact of the blows, adding that he was trying to avoid fighting with police.
“I wasn’t going to die throwing a punch back at a police officer who was clearly in a manic state,” Gore said.
Ultimately, Gore said, his injuries were mainly scrapes and bruises, with some swelling on his face and popped blood vessels in one eye. He didn’t see a doctor, he acknowledged, but rested in bed for a few days after being released from jail.
Prosecutors also played for the first time on Thursday a body camera video of Gore being driven to the Providence Police Department in custody, something that wasn’t allowed to be shown earlier in the trial because Gore had not shown up to testify and therefore couldn’t be cross-examined by the defense about it.
During the transport, Gore asks Officer Abraham Lugo if police are going to kill him.
“I just got my face mushed into the concrete,” he says on the video, sounding panicked.
Asked Thursday to describe his state of mind at that time, Gore said he was “upset and confused.”
Charges against Gore of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest were later dropped.
But the defense team noted Thursday that the East Providence man is no stranger to being arrested, with 22 arrests on his record, about half of which were for driving with a suspended or expired license.
On cross-examination, Colucci questioned whether Gore is biased against police officers, since they have arrested him so many times.
“And rightfully so they did,” Gore replied. “I have paid the consequences for all my crimes.”
“You’re wearing a Black Lives Matter mask in this courtroom, and you know they stand for anti-police, defunding police or obliterating police if they could,” Colucci said. “True?”
“I do not agree with that,” Gore replied.
Gore and Colucci sparred for hours in the courtroom, with Gore appearing to get increasingly frustrated by Colucci’s line of questioning, including his claim that the kick to the ribs seen on the video was actually Hanley pushing Gore’s elbow with his knee.
As the body camera video was played over and over again, Gore appeared distressed, shaking his head and calling the officers’ actions “inhumane.”
He turned and addressed Hanley directly at one point, claiming his girlfriend had also been struck by police during the incident, though no such accusations have been brought in this case.
“I can’t believe you treated her like that,” Gore said to Hanley, who was seated at the defense table. “That’s ridiculous that you did that to me as well. You’ve been on the force 17 years.”
Gore was still being cross-examined at the end of the day, and is expected to return to the stand to finish his testimony Friday morning.
After the prosecution rests, Colucci said he plans to call Hanley himself to the stand.
Earlier in the trial the defense already called to the stand a use-of-force expert, who testified that Hanley’s actions appeared to be in line with force used on a resisting suspect based on what he could clearly see in the video.
But the expert also acknowledged that if Hanley kicked Gore in the head — as Gore and an eyewitness to the incident both testified he did — that would change his opinion.