PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Attorney General’s office has concluded police were legally justified to use deadly force last year when they fired hundreds rounds into the home of an armed suspect on Denison Street in Providence.
On Feb. 10, 2022, police responded to the home of 61-year-old Scott MacLean for a domestic violence incident. The Providence resident had barricaded himself inside the second floor of his home at about 2 a.m.
Roughly four hours later, police say MacLean – who had a stockpile of more than a dozen weapons in the home – began shooting.
After a 15-minute volley of gunfire with police, a fire broke out on the second floor. MacLean was later found dead and the state medical examiner determined he fatally shot himself.
In a 20-page report, Deputy Attorney General Adi Goldstein wrote, “the actions of the police officers involved were legally justified.”
“Deadly force used by the police officers who responded to the scene was objectively reasonable and necessary under the circumstances,” Goldstein wrote. “Additionally, the evidence supports the conclusion that the officers’ use of force did not cause MacLean’s death.”
The investigation – conducted by the attorney general, R.I. State Police and Providence police – found eight members of the Providence Police Department (all but one members of their Special Response Unit) fired rounds into the home.
MacLean first shot a rifle at police from his second-floor window at approximately 6:19 a.m., then moments later fired a second round. At the point, Officer Frank Moody was the first to return fire.
He later told investigators, “he has never come under such sustained fire from a suspect over his more than 40 years with the Providence Police Department,” according to the report.
All Providence police officers and state troopers who responded to the scene that night agreed to be interviewed for the investigation. A union attorney was present for the interviews with officers who fired their weapons.
Officer Shane Romano, the department’s crisis negotiator, attempted to contact MacLean using a loudspeaker on a state police armored vehicle known as a Bearcat.
“Just talk to me. We can end this peacefully. This doesn’t have to be bad at all,” Romano said to MacLean, according to the report. “We need to make contact with you, or you leave us no choice. We’re going to have [to go] through the window. We have to check on your well-being.”
But MacLean never responded.
Police also used several forms of “less lethal” devices like shooting OC cannisters, which spread pepper spray – a respiratory irritant – into the second floor. They also used a device called a “Throwbot,” a small remote-controlled device with a camera, to keep an eye on MacLean.
Providence Fire Department investigators said the likely cause of the fire was from what’s called a “SpedeHeat” round that police shot in through the window. Law enforcement uses the device for crowd control and spreads smoke when it is launched and strikes a solid surface.
Goldstein analyzed the use of the device separately as the manufacturer states the round should be used outdoors because it “has fire-producing capabilities.”
“This information is also included in training materials used by the Providence Police to train officers who are authorized to use the 40mm launcher,” Goldstein wrote.
Despite that, Goldstein determined the chaotic situation made use of the device acceptable.
“Here, officers faced an active shooter who presented an imminent risk of death or serious bodily injury to them and others,” she wrote. “The decision to deploy a SpedeHeat round in an attempt to end the confrontation – and possibly save Maclean’s life – this use of force was objectively reasonable.”