Man in custody after allegedly stealing cruiser, leading to search that left man dead

Donald Morgan, 35, who is accused of stealing a police crusier while handcuffed.

WPRI

Police have a man custody who is accused stealing a Rhode Island State Police cruiser Thursday morning that set off a manhunt that led to police chase of a separate vehicle that left a man dead, CBS affiliate WPRI reports

State Police confirmed to WPRI that Donald Morgan, 35, was caught Friday by the violent fugitive task force and is in custody. Police said he would be held overnight pending an arraignment Saturday morning for unspecified charges.

Col. Ann Assumpico said Morgan was being transported to court for a hearing around 9 a.m. Thursday when the trooper driving stopped for a crash and the suspect – who was handcuffed – got into the front seat and drove off.

Morgan later ditched the police cruiser, according to police. Assumpico also said the firearm that was in the cruiser was still there when the vehicle was located.

Police said that while they were searching for Morgan, they received a tip that he might be in a white pickup truck. Officers in Cranston and Providence, Rhode Island, attempted to stop several white trucks, including one being driven by 32-year-old Joseph Santos. Police say Santos led them on a chase down a busy interstate before repeatedly ramming into a car. Officers then shot at Santos, killing him and wounding a passenger, police say.

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The aftermath of a shootout on Interstate 95 in Providence, Rhode Island, on Thu., Nov. 8, 2017.

WPRI-TV

Providence police on Friday held a press conference to show highway surveillance footage of the moments leading up the shooting and a video from an officer's body camera that includes some profanity. Police said they believe the footage shows an imminent danger to the public, justifying use of force. 

A driver is shown racing in a white pickup truck down a highway Thursday morning as he tried to elude police cars, then getting caught in traffic where two highways merge alongside the city's downtown. He repeatedly rams a woman's car in front of him as officers jump out of the way.

Providence police and state police converged on the truck and fired more than 40 rounds, killing the driver and injuring the passenger, said Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements. Police later found no weapons in the truck.

"This vehicle is being used as a weapon in an attempt to flee, and it is hitting other cars. It is ramming at least one other car and, it is rocking back and forth," Clements said as the video played.

Clements said the footage shows officers "doing exactly what we would want them to do in stopping an imminent and significant threat." A Providence officer pulled a woman out of the car that was rammed to get her to safety.

Clements identified the dead man as Santos and the injured passenger as 37-year-old Christine Demers, who is hospitalized.

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said he couldn't say yet why Santos was fleeing or how Santos knew Demers. Santos had two outstanding warrants, Clements added.

Friday afternoon, more than 24 hours after the shooting, state police would not release information about the agency's involvement, including how many troopers had used force and whether any were placed on administrative leave.

Spokeswoman Laura Meade Kirk said the agency is working with Providence police and the state attorney general's office to investigate, and said she would not comment further on an active investigation.

The investigation into whether use of force was justified is being jointly conducted by state police and Providence police and overseen by the state attorney general, Pare said. He said the findings will be presented to a grand jury.

Providence officers recently began wearing body cameras, and only one of the department's five officers who used their weapons had body camera footage, Pare said. They are all on administrative leave, protocol in any shooting involving an officer.

A witness filmed the shooting from a neighboring on-ramp, which also shows the truck boxed in on the road and slamming into cars.