WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — An investigation is underway after a Warwick officer fatally shot a man who reportedly threatened police with a rifle during a standoff late Monday night.
Police said they responded to Lockwood Condominiums on West Shore Road around 10:30 p.m. to check the well-being of a man who was said to be suicidal and reportedly armed with a loaded firearm. The caller told police they were concerned for a woman in the condo.
Responding officers were able to get the woman to safety as they set up a perimeter and attempted to make contact with the man, according to police.
A short time later, police said he came out of the building with a loaded rifle and twice pointed it at officers before heading back inside. On the third time, the man “advanced towards the officers while aiming the rifle in their direction and ignored repeated police commands to drop his weapon,” police said. One officer then opened fire and hit the suspect.
“All bets are off when that weapon is pointing at the police. They leave no alternative to do what it is they have to do,” 12 News law enforcement analyst and former R.I. State Police Col. Steven O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said officers are trained to stop a threat, which sometimes may mean opening fire on a person.
“The threat may be where they’re trained to hit body mass, there’s a lot of reasons for that, to make sure that person can’t fire that round or if they had fired a round already, fire another weapon or another round that could injure you or other people,” O’Donnell said.
Nathan Calise, who lives nearby, said he had just returned home from work when he heard shouting, including police asking the man to drop his weapon.
Calise claims he heard two gunshots, and that’s when he said he opened his phone to record what happened next from behind his apartment door.
“I heard every cop car in Rhode Island come to my complex. There were so many cops here, it was like a scene out of a movie,” Calise said.
Police said following the shooting, officers immediately rendered first aid to the man before he was taken to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The names of the suspect and officer involved are not being released at this time.
The Warwick Police Department, Rhode Island State Police, and the R.I. Attorney General’s office are conducting a joint investigation into the incident.
“Any time there is an officer-involved shooting we are involved in the investigation,” R.I. State Police Col. James Manni told 12 News. “The Rhode Island State Police and the Rhode Island Attorney General working with the Warwick Police Department are involved to investigate per the Attorney General’s protocol.”
“It’s really for transparency, so everybody can see that three agencies are looking at it,” O’Donnell added.
The review will determine if the incident was what’s called “suicide by cop,” which O’Donnell said happens with a number of officer-involved shootings across the country.
“They force the police into a provocative position where they leave no alternative for the police to fire on them and stop the threat. In this particular case, it caused that person’s death,” he said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis — there are a number of ways to get assistance.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has support available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or text with a counselor at 741741.