Providence, RI — For over a month, parents of three teenage boys, activists and local media have been attempting to get the body camera footage released from a police chase that ended in a violent fury by officers and led to a boy being hospitalized. After fighting for a month to get it, the footage was finally released.
The Providence Police Department released the cache of videos Wednesday afternoon, dumping over 8 hours of footage from 41 separate videos. In portions of the videos, police are seen violently attacking and even spitting at the boys after they crashed their BMW into a fire hydrant.
According to police, the three boys, two 15-year-olds and a 16-year-old, made an extremely poor decision to get into a car and lead police on a chase for nearly five hours. The teens are alleged to have pointed a BB gun out of the window at innocent bystanders causing panic throughout the city.
By all standards, they deserved to be held accountable for their actions and since they were charged with multiple felonies, they most assuredly will be. However, the taxpayers of Providence will also be held accountable thanks to the actions of several officers who were seen on video pummeling the teens after they had already surrendered.
As the video shows, after the teens crashed into the fire hydrant, they are swarmed by officers and dragged from the car. At one point, one of the teens appears to have his hands held back by one officer as another repeatedly punches him in his face.
At one point, officer Domingo Diaz is seen smashing in one of the boy's faces and he becomes so violent that Sgt. Andres Perez felt compelled to step in and restrain the raging cop — but only temporarily.
In the video, the child can be heard crying and moaning as Diaz and another officer, Mitchel Voyer unleash their street justice on them. Highlighting the sheer sadistic nature of the beating is the fact that after one of the boys is handcuffed and sitting off to the side in a pool of his own blood, while also covered in blood, Diaz walks over to him, looks him in the eyes, and spits at the boy.
WPRI reports that they had to fight for over a month to receive the body camera footage under the Rhode Island Access to Public Records Act. The city's attorney general, Peter Neronha finally authorized the release of the videos on Wednesday after he says the investigation has come to a close.
“That authorization was given now that the investigation is substantially complete, that is, all witnesses to the incident that were available to the investigative team have been interviewed. Those witness interviews were concluded yesterday,” Neronha said in a statement.
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“While those witnesses to the incident available to investigators have been interviewed, the investigation and evaluation of the evidence gained to date by this office, the Rhode Island State Police and the Providence Police Department continues,” he added. “We also remain in contact with our federal counterparts at the United States Attorney’s Office.”
According to that investigation, officers chose to omit the fact that force was used at all during the arrest and only described a moment in their reports in which the boys were "brought to the ground" and placed in handcuffs. However, the videos clearly show at least two of the boys being held down and savagely beaten.
Both Diaz and Voyer have been suspended with pay and are currently under criminal investigation for their actions that night. According to WPRI, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré and Mayor Jorge Elorza last month called the force used by the officers “appalling.”
“I fully support the suspension of these two officers, taking their guns away, taking them off the streets and holding them accountable,” Elorza said last month.
“I saw excessive use of force in some of the body cams that is both troubling and appalling,” Paré said at the time.
Naturally, the police union disagrees and claims that the officers had to make split second decisions and shouldn't be judged for their actions.
“The investigation surrounding this incident should be full and complete before judgment is passed on any of the actions taken to facilitate the arrest of these subjects,” Michael Imondi, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge #3 said. “As stated numerous times, when making an arrest, especially in a highly volatile incident with violent subjects who intend to resist arrest, it never looks good ‘on camera’ and people will be quick to judge. We remind people when viewing this incident like many others, officers have only split seconds to make a decision, one that all others viewing the videos have hours, days, weeks and in some cases months to critique.”
Others disagree, and rightfully so.
“The body camera video shows actions, yet again, by a police department that is flat out attacking our youth,” said Harrison Tuttle, the executive director of the Black Lives Matter R.I. PAC. “It truly is appalling. I don’t think that any of us can look at that video and see that a child is lifeless, on the ground, and being spit on, and feel like that is protecting people.”