Report: North Providence police chief challenged Cranston officer to a fight at memorial ceremony

This snapshot from surveillance video shows confrontation.

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A Cranston Police Department internal investigation claims now-suspended North Providence Police Chief Christopher Pelagio was the aggressor during a confrontation with a Cranston officer at a May Police Week memorial ceremony at the Cranston police station.

The dispute dates back about 20 years, a report on the investigation indicates, and involves a dispute over a woman who the Cranston officer eventually married.

According to a statement by the unnamed Cranston officer, who was part of the honor guard for the service dedicated to fallen police officers, Pelagio mouthed expletives at him from his seat in the audience.

The officer claims Pelagio was “making eye contact” with him and mouthing what appeared to be “you [expletive] punk.”

“C’mon, what are you going to do?” the Cranston officer reported Pelagio saying. “You are a punk. You are a two-bit punk.”

The officer told investigators Pelagio confronted him after the ceremony, getting “approximately 2 inches” from his face, and again repeating the expletive.

The report stated Pelagio was heard saying that the Cranston officer’s “guys were threatening to rip my head off.”

“Well, hit me then,” Pelagio said, according to the report. “What are you gonna do, hit me?”

Cranston Chief of Police, Colonel Michael Winquist said the probe determined there was no physical contact, and that his officer did not do anything wrong.

“The investigation confirms that the confrontation was initiated by the officer from the visiting police department,” Winquist said. “And that no Cranston Police Department personnel acted inappropriately.”

The confrontation, which was caught on surveillance video, continued to heat up from there, according to the Cranston officer and other witnesses. They claim Pelagio repeatedly asked the Craston officer what gym he went to, saying several times he would “fight or box” him anytime.

Pelagio – who was suspended with pay last week by North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi – has not responded to requests for comment. The officer who replaced him as interim chief, Charles Davey, was interviewed as part of the Cranston investigation.

Mayor Lombardi told Target 12 he could not comment on the incident or the suspension.

According to the report, a witness told investigators “the issue was over [the Cranston officer] marrying a former girlfriend of [Pelagio’s].”

The report states Pelagio acknowledged to Davey during the ceremony that Pelagio and the Cranston officer “have had some history together,” and that Pelagio said “look, he’s eyeballing me” with reference to the Cranston officer.

The Cranston officer told investigators that the dispute bubbled over a number of times, and he claims Pelagio tried to block him from becoming a police officer.

“[Pelagio] possibly approached and contacted members of the Cranston Police in an attempt to prevent [me] from obtaining a job,” the Cranston officer told investigators. “And also limiting future career options.”

When the incident was first reported by Target 12 last month, Pelagio acknowledged he attended the Cranston ceremony but said “there was nothing to it” when asked about the altercation. He would not offer any details about what started the episode.

According to the report, Pelagio initially told Cranston police that he wanted to press charges, but never responded when asked about that statement a number of times.

Eyewitness News will continue to update this story as it develops on WPRI.com and tonight on Eyewitness News.

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