State crime lab receives evidence in officer-involved shooting case

KINGSTON, R.I. (WPRI) – Evidence from last week’s fatal officer-involved shooting was dropped off at the state crime lab on Thursday, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

Dennis Hilliard, director of the R.I. State Crime Laboratory, confirmed that the state police “did show up with evidence in that case.”

Hilliard declined to elaborate on what kind of evidence his staff will be reviewing, but said in most shooting cases they are often asked to determine what type of gun was used, or attempt to match a bullet with a specific weapon.

“In general in cases like this, weapons that are available, they would be test-fired,” Hilliard said. “Any bullets taken from a victim would then be compared to those.”

The crime lab is located at the Kingston campus of the University of Rhode Island.

Last week, police opened fire on a pickup truck driven by 32-year-old Joseph Santos after he rammed several vehicles on an I-95 on-ramp following a high-speed chase. The medical examiner’s office said Wednesday that Santos was killed by a gunshot wound to the neck.

In all, a mix of nine state police troopers and Providence police officers fired 43 rounds at the pickup truck, according to officials. A passenger in the pickup – Christine Demers – was also shot but survived and is recovering at Rhode Island Hospital.

Based on the condition of the evidence, the crime lab may be able to determine which agency fired the fatal shot. The state police and Providence police use different types of service weapons and bullets. The state police use a handgun made by Sig Sauer that fires a .357 caliber bullet, while the city has a .40 caliber Winchester.

The state crime lab has also been able to pinpoint exact weapons used based on unique markings each gun leaves on a bullet when it is fired. But that can depend on the condition of the evidence.

Tim White ( twhite@wpri.com ) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook