Scot Free: Officers involved in Gonsalves moped crash will not be charged

Attorney General Peter Neronha announced today his office will press no charges against any officers involved with the Jhamal Gonsalves moped crash on October 18. The announcement from the AG’s office comes after a two and half month investigation. Jhamal Gonsalves had been driving a moped for the Ride Out rally on that day, before crashing and ending up in a coma at Rhode Island Hospital. The incident inspired protests against police brutality and sparked new conversations about policing in the community.

Colonel James Manni of Rhode Island State Police laid out the findings of the crash reconstruction unit. Manni announced the unit had found no damage to the cruiser from the moped and vice versa. The cruiser had crashed into the stop sign, sending the sign to hit Gonsalves on his helmet. Neronha found there was no criminal negligence in the conduct of the officers. He also announced that despite Endres calling other officers on the police radio to “box them in,” no officers responded to the radio call. Another officer, Officer McParlin, who was close to the crash at the time, did not respond to the call in anyway. “Boxing them in” refers to the practice of driving a person in the vicinity of another officer.

Neronha showed various audio, body cam footage and cell phone footage in laying out the his office’s finding. “We did not rely just on video,” said Neronha. The state police reenactment showed that the accident could not have happened in any way other than what the video and damage comparison showed. The only way for the stop sign to have hit Gonsalves on his head was for the cruiser to hit the stop sign and stop. Endres was slowing down in the last six seconds before the crash, hitting the stop sign at 18.5 mph. The attorney general said today they only presented scientific evidence, black box data from the cruiser, video gathered from the crash and scene reconstruction. He acknowledged statements from the officers and statements from the witnesses contradict each other.

“It’s not to say Officer Endres drove perfectly here,” says Neronha. The state police report opines the movement of the wheel form body cam footage is consistent with practices to avoid a collision. 

“Proof of negligent driving is not enough,” said Neronha. The RI Supreme Court has a high standard for proving criminal negligence with driving. According to the Court, a minor driving offense is not enough to prove criminal action. Excessive speed, driving impairment, weaving in and out of traffic, texting while driving, tailgating, failure to break are the behavior needed to be involved according to the highest court. “

“It’s the kind of thing when you travel down [interstate] 95 you know when you see it.” said the attorney general.  “It’s the guy in front of you driving like maniac.” Neronha cited two Supreme Court cases, State v. Arnold and Watkins v South County, where the judge set the standard for criminal negligence. 

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Pare stated there would be accountability for the incident from within the department, with more being announced soon.