PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Providence police and federal investigators conducted at least two early morning raids as they continue their intense search for dozens of guns that were reportedly stolen from a home in the city two weeks ago.
The theft of at least 52 guns has put law enforcement on edge at a time when shootings and violence in the city is on the rise. The Providence Police Department is working with Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to trace the weapons and arrest anyone involved with their disappearance.
The search warrants were conducted before 6 a.m. Tuesday at a home on Brookside Ave. in North Providence, and Donelson Street in Providence, Target 12 has learned.
Col. Hugh Clements declined to comment on the raids but said the investigation into the cache of guns that vanished is ongoing.
“We are concerned with the number and type of firepower that is out there,” Clements said. “We’re extremely concerned with those getting in the hands of people prone to pull the trigger.”
North Providence Police Col. Arthur Martins, who said he was on scene during the search at Brookside Ave., said his department was made aware of the raid but referred all questions to Providence Police.
“It’s their case,” he said.
The guns were reported stolen by their owner on the evening of August 12, according to Lindsay Lague, a spokesperson with the Providence Police. Lague said the owner reported 52 weapons were taken from his house at 15 Hawkins Street in the city, consisting of “both handguns and rifles, along with a large quantity of ammunition, had been stolen from his residence over the past ten days.”
Questions remain about the reported theft of the weapons. Law enforcement sources with direct knowledge of the investigation are closely scrutinizing the gun owner’s claim that he was away on Cape Cod during the time of the alleged break-in.
It is unclear exactly when the weapons were purchased, but sources say they were bought at a gun shop in Rhode Island.
A law passed earlier this year requires gun shops to notify the police chiefs in both the town where the gun was purchased and where the owner resides, but the massive cache of weapons taken from Hawkins Street could have been bought prior to the bill being signed into law on July 22.
The bill was filed in the wake of a deadly shooting in Westerly on Dec. 19, where police said Joseph Giachello purchased a weapon from a dealer in Richmond, then returned to a housing complex he lived in and opened fire, killing a manager and wounding two women. He later turned the gun on himself.
Police have been responding to an increasing number of shootings in Providence in recent weeks. Data provided by the department show there have been 14 shootings since July 1, six of them were fatal. That’s double the number for the months of July and August in 2019, where there were seven shooting, two of them were homicides.