State Police report on Jhamal Gonsalves clarifies incident; AG Neronha declines criminal charges against officers

Jhamal Gonsalves “sustained his injuries as a result of being struck in the head by a stop sign … which had been struck by Officer [Kevin] Endres in his cruiser as he attempted to follow Mr Gonsalves into a turn from Elmwood Avenue onto Bissell Street.”

January 7, 2021, 5:58 pm

By Steve Ahlquist

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha today released the results of a painstaking accident reconstruction report by the State Police Reconstruction Unit and a legal analysis of whether or not to criminally charge the officers involved in the case of Jhamal Gonsalves, the 24-year old man on a moped who sustained serious injuries while being pursued by police officers.

The report concluded that Jhamal Gonsalves “sustained his injuries as a result of being struck in the head by a stop sign at the Elmwood Avenue/Bissell Street intersection, which had been struck by Officer [Kevin] Endres in his cruiser as he attempted to follow Mr Gonsalves into a turn from Elmwood Avenue onto Bissell Street.” The report was presented by Rhode Island State Police Chief Colonel James Manni.

After reviewing the evidence and the relevant caselaw, Attorney General Neronha made the determination that the actions of the police officers leading up to the incident did not meet the standard of criminal recklessness, but he left open the possibility that the police behaved in ways that were civilly negligent.

“Taking into account the comparatively low and decreasing speeds involved, the following distance between the vehicles, the unexpected path of travel taken by Mr Gonsalves, the extremely short timeframe within which Officer Endres had to react, the officer’s emergency steering maneuvers, and the fact that Officer Endres was braking, and ultimately exerting so much braking pressure that his cruiser’s anti-lock braking system engaged, we found that Officer Endres’ manner of driving does not meet the standard of criminal recklessness,” said Attorney General Neronha in a statement. “A full summary of the facts and the bases for these conclusions are contained in the 46-page report we released today.”

Neronha made his announcement to reporters in his Providence office in what amounted to a 90 minute press conference. Every detail of the incident leading up to the crash, every video, photo, and police interview was made available on the Attorney General’s website here.

Neronha had spent the morning explaining his decision to the family of Jhamal Gonsalves. The family held a press conference with their lawyer, Jude Kerrison, shortly after the Attorney General’s presentation to voice their frustration and dissatisfaction with the Attorney General’s decision.

“The Gonsalves family has waited for 81 days, and it is an understatement to to say today that they’re disappointed with the Attorney general’s conclusion,” said Attorney Kerrison. “While the Attorney general has closed his file, we will carry on. We will continue and we will get justice for Jhamal.

“While the Attorney General was not satisfied that the evidence supported criminal liability,” continued Attorney Kerrison, “what we have seen and heard does support our conclusion that the officers and the Providence Police Department caused the collision and are responsible for Jhamal’s injuries and the condition that he is presently in.”

Caring for Jhamal, given the extensive injuries suffered and the head trauma, has been an emotional and financial strain on the family. Jhamal is currently being treated for a traumatic brain injury at a facility in West Orange, New Jersey. The cost of this facility is more than the family can afford said Jhamal’s mother, Tia Tribble. “We don’t even know. We may have to take him home next week because my insurance is not going to pay for it.”

PROVXPVD reporter Brooklyn asked Jhamal’s father, Mark Gonsalves, what the family needs from the community. “We need from our community what you all need too. What you need is for everyone to stand together and demand justice.”

Though the Attorney General’s decision means there will be no criminal charges brought against any officers of the Providence Police Department, “the next phase is to now look at, administratively, what officers did or didn’t do in violation of our policies,” said Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré. Commissioner Paré said his office is prepared, “in a short time” to identify what officers violated what procedures.

“How many and what policy violations may exist is too early to disclose and even to talk about,” said Commissioner Paré. “I’m as frustrated as you. Our Law Enforcement Officer’s Bill of Rights precludes us from talking publicly about any specific circumstances in which officers either face administrative and policy violation sanctions, and to what extent.”

That said, Commissioner Paré said he believes in transparency, and will be making announcements soon, not just about the officer actions leading up to the crash, but also about the way in which officers responded to the incident afterwards.

Lastly, and for completeness, here’s the video of Attorney General Peter Neronha opening the press conference.