Off-duty Pawtucket officer will be charged with felonies for shooting teen driver

“Officer Dolan has been charged with these four felony counts because, in the view of this office and members of investigative team, his actions as alleged at the place and at that time were not justified, notwithstanding his occupation as a police officer,” Neronha said. The attorney general declined to […]

“Officer Dolan has been charged with these four felony counts because, in the view of this office and members of investigative team, his actions as alleged at the place and at that time were not justified, notwithstanding his occupation as a police officer,” Neronha said.

The attorney general declined to elaborate on the details of the investigation, instead referring reporters to the 207-page information package filed at court that includes the criminal complaint, multiple police reports, analysis of surveillance and highway-traffic videos, and interviews with Dolan, the teens, and several witnesses.

Dolan is currently on vacation in Oklahoma. Neronha said Dolan was allowed to leave Rhode Island during the investigation “before we were in a position to fully understand actually what happened here.”

It took eight days of investigation by the State Police, West Greenwich police, and state prosecutors to determine whether Dolan’s use of force was reasonable.

They decided it wasn’t. Dolan is due for arraignment on July 16 at District Court in Kent County.

James P. Howe, the lawyer for the three teenage boys who were in the car, said Thursday that the charges against Dolan were “appropriate, considering his actions.”

Dominic Vincent, 18, of West Greenwich, who was shot in his upper left arm, is still suffering from the injury, Howe said. Vincent and his family, and his friends who were in the car — Vincent Greco, 18, and Joseph Greco, 17 — are all suffering emotionally, Howe said.

Under the Rhode Island Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, felony charges mean that Dolan will be placed on unpaid leave from the Pawtucket Police Department, where he has served since 2015. He is a school resource officer at Slater Middle School and works in the community policing unit. The internal investigation will wait until the criminal case is concluded.

The encounter between the West Greenwich teenagers and the off-duty Pawtucket cop began on Interstate 95 on June 23. But the officer and the teens presented starkly different accounts of the incident.

The teens had gone to Walmart in Coventry for snacks and ordered a pizza from Wicked Good Pizza on Nooseneck Hill Road in West Greenwich, planning to pick it up before heading to Vincent’s house to watch the NBA playoffs.

Vincent, who’d had his driver’s license for a little over a year, was driving his Audi on Interstate 95 from Coventry to West Greenwich, and was moving fast.

While he later told investigators that he was speeding, but “it’s not like I’m breaking the sound barrier,” a State Police analysis cited in court documents found that Vincent’s Audi was traveling 125 miles per hour at one exit, and an average of 110 miles per hour in the mile-and-a-half between two exits on Interstate 95. The Audi slowed to 40 miles per hour when he took Exit 6 onto Nooseneck Hill Road, the analysis found.

When questioned by investigators in the presence of the police union’s attorney, Dolan said that he’d ended his shift that evening, left the Armistice Boulevard substation, and went to a nearby liquor store on Summit Street, where he purchased a six-pack and had “a sip” of beer. (He passed a breath test with a 0.00 percent blood alcohol content, according to court records.)

Dolan then headed home on Interstate 95, where, he said, he saw a black Audi speeding past him. He told investigators he saw the car drive in the breakdown lane and overtake two vehicles (no 911 calls were placed reporting an erratic operator, according to court records.)

Dolan said he lost sight of the car, which he said he thought was involved in a police pursuit. He got off at Exit 6, then saw it again, he said. The State Police speed analysis cited in court records found that Dolan was traveling about 77 miles per hour between the two exits on the highway, and 65 miles an hour on Nooseneck Hill Road.

When the Audi pulled into Wicked Good Pizza, Dolan — who was driving a white pickup truck, not a police vehicle — told investigators that he followed to “speak to the operator.”

According to Pawtucket Police Department policy, officers who are off duty are responsible for immediately reporting any suspected or observed criminal activities to on-duty officers. Off-duty officers may not make an arrest solely for minor traffic regulations.

Vincent told investigators that he had his music cranked up and was talking with his friends, and hadn’t noticed Dolan’s truck until it revved into the lot and tried to box him in. “I immediately knew there was an issue, so I just popped it in reverse once I saw him fling his driver door open,” Vincent said.

Surveillance video from the pizza parlor shows Dolan wearing a T-shirt and baseball cap, jumping out of the truck and striding over to the Audi with something small in his right hand. The black Audi slowly reverses out of the parking lot, and Dolan walks after it, right arm extended.

Off-duty Pawtucket police officer shot a teen driver in West Greenwich, R.I.
Security camera footage of the incident shows the police officer’s truck following the teenagers. (Video courtesy of James Howe)

“And I see a gun in his hand,” Vincent told the investigators. “So, at that point, like, your heart kind of stops. I’m like, OK, I want to get the hell out of here. . . . and he’s screaming, ‘Stop. Stop.’ ”

Vincent said that Dolan stood in front of his car with the gun, then hopped over his hood onto the driver’s side and screamed, “You’re gonna get shot.”

“Before I could even process it, window shattered; I’m shot,” the teenager told investigators. He did not think the man in civilian clothes was a police officer.

The teenager screamed to his friends that he was hit and drove down the road a short way before pulling over and getting out of the car, his arm bleeding and “swaying like a pendulum.” His friend Vincent Greco got out with him, while the younger boy huddled in the back seat and called 911.

Meanwhile, the pizza shop surveillance video shows Dolan returning to his truck and driving after them. He told investigators that he followed the teenagers and called 911 to report that he was an off-duty officer who had just shot someone. Dolan told investigators that he used a sweat shirt as a tourniquet on Vincent’s arm, and that Vincent told him he was afraid and did not want to die.

Dolan told investigators he shot the teenager “to stop him from taking me onto the roadway and possibly killing me.”

But Vincent said he was only going about 2 miles an hour as he pulled onto the road away from Dolan, and he was attempting to get away from Dolan, not run him over.

“There’s no physical way I could have actually run him over when he was on the side of my car,” Vincent said. “So, I don’t understand why he needed to shoot me.”

A Pawtucket city councilwoman told the Globe that she and other residents had complained to Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien and Pawtucket Police Chief Goncalves that Dolan was aggressive with people.

Goncalves refused to comment on those complaints at Thursday’s news conference.

“We’re here to talk about the incident that happened last Wednesday. . . . Any complaints that were made in an internal affairs investigation are separate and apart from why we’re here,” Goncalves said. “Any incidents that happened in the past were handled in the past and incidents that were filed by an IA investigation or use of force, they would have been thoroughly vetted.”

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMilkovits. Brian Amaral can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @bamaral44.

Elida Schollmeyer

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