Providence car chase turns deadly

Anya Dussault, News Editor

Approximately thirty miles away from campus is a popular destination for Roger Williams University students: the Providence Place mall. The mall, which boasts three floors of stores, restaurants, and even a movie theater, is most often accessed by students via Route I-95 North.

On Thursday, Nov. 9, this same highway was the scene of a crime, leaving one man dead and a woman seriously injured.

Around 9 a.m. that morning, a handcuffed man named Donald Morgan was on his way to court when he stole a Rhode Island State Police cruiser.

The police proceeded to conduct a manhunt and, after an eyewitness informed them that he had seen someone fitting Morgan’s description climbing into a white pickup truck, they began to stop white pickup trucks in the hopes of finding Morgan.

At about 10:35 a.m., Cranston police informed the officers conducting the manhunt that there was a white pickup truck driving erratically and refusing to pull over.

Upon arriving at the scene, officers determined that the driver, Joseph Santos, was essentially using his vehicle in a dangerous manner by aggressively ramming it into nearby cars in an attempt to flee.

According to CBS Boston, the Public Safety Commissioner Stephen Pare said, “The overarching decision was the imminent threat for serious bodily injury or death.”

The car chase led through Route 10 and onto the familiar Route I-95 North.

Because Santos was putting other drivers and officers at risk, the decision to open fire was made. Once the white pickup truck was boxed in by traffic, the Providence Police and State Police officers fired over forty shots at the truck, killing Santos, the driver, and seriously injuring his passenger, Christine Demers.

None of the officers were injured in the incident and the stolen police cruiser was later found abandoned in the Elmwood neighborhood of Providence. 

Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements has since praised his officers for their quick thinking and the actions they took to ensure the public’s safety.

An investigation into the police use of deadly force has begun and the findings will be presented to a grand jury.

“I remember hearing about it and being kind of freaked out,” said RWU freshman Alex Vegas. “My friends and I go to the mall pretty often, and it would have been so scary to be [in the area] at the time.”

Vegas shared that her mother had texted her shortly after the event to see if she had been in the area, knowing that her daughter often takes the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) bus 60 into Providence.

“Yeah, it’s just kind of weird to hear about something like that happening so close to us,” said freshman Mikayla Paley, referring not only to the physical distance that the mall is to campus, but also the regularity in which many RWU students go there. 

“I think it’s worth mentioning that they have since found a connection between [Morgan] and [Santos],” Paley said, adding that she plans to follow the story to see what ends up happening to those involved.

“It sounds to me like the officers did what they were supposed to do in that type of a situation,” Vegas said. “I guess we’ll find out from the investigation. I think it’s really important that there is video footage to capture the truth of what really happened.”