Probe of Carroll Tower incident covered by state protocol

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The death of a Providence man who was in police custody at the time will be reviewed by three independent sets of investigative eyes under a state protocol put in place 15 years ago.

Richard Cosentino, 63, died early Sunday morning after Providence firefighters and police rescued him from an elevator at the Providence Housing Authority’s Carroll Tower on Smith Street.

A team of state officials developed and instituted a protocol in 2000, requiring police involved shootings and police custody deaths to be automatically reviewed by state police and the attorney general’s office, in addition to the internal investigation conducted by the department that was involved.

A Carroll Tower resident died Sunday morning while in police custody.
A Carroll Tower resident died Sunday morning while in police custody.

The circumstances surrounding Cosentino’s death are part of an internal investigation by the Providence Police Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin told Target 12 the protocol brings three unique perspectives to a case.

“There will be three sets of eyes evaluating the facts of a case before it even goes to a grand jury,” Kilmartin said.

A Providence police department tragedy prompted the development of the state’s protocol.

It was early in the morning, January 28, 2000 at a Valley Street diner where off-duty Providence Police Officer Cornel Young Junior was eating in the restaurant when a disturbance developed. At the time, Providence police were required to carry their service weapons even when they were off the clock. Young drew his weapon in an attempt to help, but two on-duty officers did not realize he was a cop, and shot him.

Neither officer was charged. A civil rights lawsuit filed by Young’s mother was dismissed by a federal judge.

According to Kilmartin, over the years since the protocol was put in place, other prosecutors have reviewed the policy for potential implementation in their respective states.

Now, the Cosentino death will undergo the same scrutiny as several other police involved incidents since 2000. No one involved with the case would comment on how long the Cosentino investigation might take.

Send tips to Target 12 Investigator Walt Buteau at wbuteau@wpri.com and follow him on Twitter @wbuteau.

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