State police ID troopers who fired weapons in deadly shooting

Photo: Dan McGowan / WPRI 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — As Rhode Island State Police continue their investigation into a deadly officer-involved shooting in Providence, the head of the agency on Tuesday released the names of the troopers who fired their weapons during the confrontation.

In addition, Col. Ann Assumpico announced she’s ordering that partitions be installed between the front and back seats of all marked state police cruisers after one was stolen last Thursday, setting off a chain of events that resulted in the shooting.

Both Providence and Rhode Island State Police opened fire last Thursday on a white pickup truck driven by 32-year-old Joseph Santos, killing him and injuring his passenger, Christine Demers, 37.

The four troopers who fired their weapons in the officer-involved shooting were identified as Detective Lt. Cynthia Trahan, Cpl. Scott R. Carlsten, Detective Cpl. Herbert D. Tilson and Trooper Garrett S. Hassett.

Trahan and Carlsten are both 20-year veterans of the force while Tilson has been with the state police for 12 years and Hassett for six years, police said. All four remain on administrative leave.

Police said their investigation indicated the four troopers fired a total of 23 shots at Santos’ truck.

Cranston police said they pulled Santos over after it was learned that Donald Morgan, who’s accused of driving off with a state police cruiser earlier that morning, may have jumped in the back of a white pickup truck. He took off once the officer approached the vehicle, according to police, which led to a high-speed chase that ended with police shooting Santos on a blocked I-95 on-ramp near the Providence Place mall.

Police later said Santos refused to exit the vehicle and video released by the state Department of Transportation showed him driving erratically and crashing into other vehicles prior to the shooting.

Assumpico said in light what happened, the department is reviewing its policies for pursuit driving and the use of deadly force.

Providence Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune drafted a resolution calling for more details about the Providence Police Department’s policies and practices.

“As a mother, as a citizen and as an elected official I just want our communities to feel and to be safe, and I also want the rights of our citizens to be protected,” she said. “Many people are concerned. There were people on the highway who witnessed it. There was an eruption on Facebook.”

LaFortune’s resolution says that, “many lives were put at risk” and, “This highlights a defect in both the police pursuit policy and de-escalation practices and training.”

“I’m not trying to be critical, but I think that if you’re watching the video and watching what happened there seems to be a flaw,” LaFortune said. “But if there isn’t a flaw, I want to understand.”

Earlier on Tuesday, it was learned that Santos and Morgan may have known each other prior to last Thursday’s events.

Morgan, 35, was arraigned Tuesday on charges related to the cruiser theft.

The trooper whose cruiser was stolen was identified as Trooper Michael J. Doherty, a 12-year veteran of the state police.

Both incidents remain under investigation, according to Assumpico. Once it’s complete, she said the results will be turned over to the attorney general’s office, which is also investigating.