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RI State Police investigating online threats made against Providence officers

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, RI. (WPRI) – The R.I. State Police are actively investigating social media posts that use images and home addresses of Providence police officers as a potential cybercrime.

State Police Col. James Manni confirmed Tuesday they are aware of the posts and his agency is involved.

“We take this very seriously and it is very concerning when anyone is harassed or threatened,” Manni said. “It is especially concerning when a police officer is threatened online.”

“If it is determined this is a credible threat, anyone who made it will be held accountable,” he added.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré said the state police are involved because the officers who were named in the posts live outside of the city. Paré said the state police Fusion Center – which shares “threat-related information” across federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies – is involved in the probe.

The online posts come after a high-profile moped crash that has left 24-year-old Jhamal Gonsalves seriously injured. His family said Monday Gonsalves remains in a coma. A city, state and federal investigation is looking into whether Providence Police Officer Kyle Endres struck the moped with his cruiser.

Three officers were named in one post, including Endres. 

A separate post that is being examined, and has been shared with Target 12, shows the image of a Providence patrolman with a caption that seemingly threatens the officer and his family.

Gonsalves family has repeatedly expressed disappointment and frustration with Providence police’s actions surrounding the moped crash, but they have also called for the public to be patient and to demonstrate peacefully.

Providence police union president Mike Imondi said in a statement that posts are “obviously intended as a direct threat to our safety.”

“If the roles were reversed there would be outrage within the community, but because it’s against police officers no one cares,” Imondi said. “It doesn’t matter that innocent parties (our family members) are being brought into this unnecessarily and put in danger.”

“This will not deter our Police Officers in the work we do, and we will continue to uphold and enforce the local, state and constitutional laws we swore an oath to,” he added.

Cellphone video and police body cam footage at the center of the investigation that has been released doesn’t provide a clear answer as to whether the cruiser made contact with the moped.

“We are investigating every aspect of this,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said on Monday. “The priority right now is the criminal end of the investigation and once that is complete, we are making a list of every single incident we have to look at an administrative level and we will be addressing every single one of them.”

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook

Eli Sherman contributed to this story.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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