WESTERLY, R.I. (WPRI) — A man accused of punching another man to death early Sunday morning was freed on bail Monday.
Westerly police said they have video of Alexander J. Brown, 23, of Ashaway, punching 49-year-old John Gardiner in a Main Street parking lot. Gardiner later died from his injuries at the hospital.
Police said they were called to the parking lot around 2:15 a.m. Sunday, where they found Gardiner unconscious. Lt. Michael Carreiro said surveillance video from the parking lot shows Gardiner apparently bump into Brown, after which Brown punches Gardiner. Gardiner falls to the ground and hits his head, according to Carreiro.
Police said both Brown and Gardiner were inside a pizza place before the incident, but did not start fighting inside the business.
Jennifer and Joe Iorlano, who own Midway Pizza, told Eyewitness News that Gardiner was a regular customer.
“He was just a great person, he would come in always talking and asking how we were,” Jennifer Iorlano said. “Just a wonderful guy.”
The pizza joint is raising money for Gardiner’s funeral expenses, collecting donations at the business and on a GoFundMe page. Some of the employees are also donating their tips to the cause, Iorlano said.
“Stuff like that doesn’t really happen here,” she said. “It’s quiet…no matter what time of the day or night, even in the middle of the night it’s always quiet here.” The restaurant is open until 3 a.m. on Saturday nights. Westerly Police confirmed there have not been any issues with Midway Pizza.
“That’s typical Westerly,” Town Councilman Jean Gagnier said of the restaurant’s efforts to raise money. “Joe and Midway…this is Westerly.”
He said Gardiner once worked at the Westerly Public Library.
“He was a good man,” Gagnier said. “He was one of those people you see in town every day.”
Lt. Carreiro said Brown told police in an interview that he hit Gardiner in self defense. He said Brown also denied knowing Gardiner.
Brown was charged with manslaughter and disorderly conduct and arraigned in Washington County Court Monday morning. He was released on $20,000 bail. The judge said he will be allowed to travel to Connecticut for his job.
Brown’s defense attorney Lou Cappuccio declined to say if Brown denies the charges.
“It’s an unfortunate incident,” Cappuccio said. “He’s a good person, he has no record. What happened, happened. Him and his family feel terrible about this and hopefully, at the end of the day, people will see their way clear to see that.”
Police said Brown did have a criminal record, including multiple misdemeanor arrests. He was sentenced to probation for disorderly conduct in 2015.
Westerly Police are still investigating the incident and urge anyone with information to contact them at (401) 348-6141.