Ex-girlfriend: Cruiser theft suspect knew man killed by police

Donald Morgan and Joseph Santos (Photos: R.I. State Police/Facebook)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A man accused of driving off with a Rhode Island State Police cruiser and setting off a chain of events that resulted in a deadly officer-involved shooting knew the man who was shot and killed, his ex-girlfriend told Eyewitness News on Tuesday.

The woman, Priscilla Almeida, said her ex-boyfriend Donald Morgan and Joseph Santos were close friends, having met at a rehabilitation center in Cranston.

“I was close [with Santos] because Donny was friends with him,” Almeida explained. “I knew him from Donny.”

She attended Morgan’s arraignment on Tuesday, and said she was there to support him.

Providence Police Commissioner Steven Paré confirmed “we are aware they knew one another,” and said they are still looking into whether Santos helped Morgan in his attempt to escape custody.

“We have been since Thursday,” he said.

Santos, 32, was shot and killed by police in downtown Providence as officers were working to track down Morgan for stealing the police cruiser. Police received a tip that Morgan may have jumped in the back of a white pickup truck, and started pulling over white pickup trucks in the area.

Police said Santos, who was driving a white pickup truck, took off as an officer attempted to pull him over, which led to a high-speed chase and resulted in a violent confrontation near the Providence Place mall. Santos was shot and killed by police, and his passenger was injured.

“He should’ve just stopped on the highway,” Almeida said. “If he just would’ve stopped…I feel bad for the family that now they’re suffering because he died over something that had nothing to do with Donny.”

It’s unclear at this time if Santos assisted in Morgan’s escape in any way. Providence Police said they are investigating whether there was any connection between the two incidents.

Morgan, 35, was arrested in Cumberland last Friday after about 36 hours on the run. He faced a judge Tuesday and was ordered to be held as a violator of his bail on previous charges.

According to an affidavit obtained by Eyewitness News, Trooper Michael Doherty was driving the cruiser that Morgan allegedly stole on Thursday. Trooper Doherty writes in the affidavit that he was transporting Morgan to court when he pulled over to assist a possible crash on Route 146.

“While attending to the accident, your affiant turned to see Morgan operating State Police Cruiser #187 on Route 146 South past the location of the accident,” Doherty writes in the document. He says Morgan activated the emergency lights and was moving from lane to lane until he was out of sight.

Police began a widespread search for Morgan, eventually finding the cruiser abandoned on Vineyard Street in Providence. The firearm that was inside the vehicle was still there, but Morgan was not.

Two other people, Daniel Medeiros and Rachael Read, were charged with harboring Morgan at their home in Cumberland. In court, State Police Corporal Thomas Chabot said the Violent Fugitive Task Force tracked Morgan down at the Vermont Avenue address.

“As VFTF members converged on Morgan, he attempted to flee by jumping into the driver’s seat, placing the van into drive and lurching the van forward,” Chabot said. “He then struck a tree.”

Court records obtained by Eyewitness News show Morgan has a lengthy criminal record, having had numerous encounters with police dating back to 2002 including another attempt escape custody.