Cruiser theft suspect expected to face judge Tuesday

Donald Morgan is accused of driving off with a R.I. State Police cruiser, setting off a chain of events that resulted in a deadly police shooting in downtown Providence.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With courts closed Monday to observe the Veterans Day holiday, Donald Morgan, 35, could face a judge Tuesday on numerous charges from a day of chaos that started, police say, with him stealing a Rhode Island State Police cruiser.

In the meantime, the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is raising questions about the police chase and deadly officer-involved shooting that stemmed from the search for Morgan.

Morgan, police said, had climbed into the front seat of the cruiser Thursday morning, despite being handcuffed, when the state trooper transporting him to court for a hearing had stopped on Route 146 southbound to assist a driver following a crash. Morgan’s then accused of stealing the cruiser and ditching it in South Providence.

The search for Morgan and the cruiser led police to believe a white pickup truck was holding Morgan in its tailgate bed, and police ended up shooting and killing the pickup’s driver, Joseph Santos, on the I-95 northbound on-ramp near the Providence Place Mall after Santos was observed driving erratically and ramming into other cars.

Morgan was caught Friday at a home in Cumberland, with stun guns being required to subdue him, state police said. His charges include eluding police, possession of a stolen motor vehicle and escape from custody. Two other people who lived at the home where Morgan was arrested are also facing charges of harboring a fugitive.

As of Monday afternoon, Rhode Island State Police Colonel Ann Assumpico has yet to release some information that Eyewitness News continues to pursue, including the name of the officer who left Morgan unattended, the names of the four state troopers involved in the shooting, and how many bullets troopers fired at the white truck.

Monday morning, Providence Police Major David Lapatin said his department is investigating whether there was any possible connection between Morgan and Santos.

ACLU expresses concerns

The Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU released a statement on Monday regarding the chaos that ensued on Thursday.

“At this point, no connection between the two incidents has been established,” said the ACLU’s Nicole Cordier in a news release.

When both Providence and Rhode Island State Police department representatives said at news conferences that they each had full confidence their officers acted properly at all times.

“In the absence of additional information, it would be wrong to blame the police for what they did, but it is just as inappropriate for police officials to so quickly conclude that there is no fault by police for what happened either,” the ACLU said in the analysis.

The ACLU said they’re raising multiple questions about the use of deadly force, the high-speed chase of the pickup and transparency, including the release of body camera video of the incident by Providence Police.

“It is a cause of concern that this was done only as a matter of discretion, not policy,” the organization said.

Todd Wallace contributed reporting.