by Sarah Giani
Last Thursday, the FriarAlert System was utilized to communicate with the campus community that shots were fired near the Providence Place Mall.
The day began with a Providence police cruiser was stolen on Route 146 at about 9:00 a.m. that November 9. According to several media reports, officials said the suspect, Donald Morgan, was being transported to court. Morgan was facing charges after being arrested the night before for car theft that result in a crash on Route 95 in Providence.
After a trooper stopped to check on a car crash on Route 146 south, the handcuffed suspect managed to get in the front-seat of the cruiser and drive off. Less than two hours after this initial incident, a call on police radio channels called for officers to be on the lookout for a white Ford F150. An eye-witness had reported that a man looking like Morgan was getting into a white pick-up truck at the site of the abandoned cruiser.
Between 40 and 50 officers became engaged in a chase after a white pickup truck on Route 10, believing Morgan, the man responsible for stealing the cruiser, was inside. The driver of the truck, Joseph Santos, attempted to flee, crashing into nearby cars. Determining that the driver was putting the lives of those in the vicinity in danger, officers shot at the driver. Santos was killed while the female passenger his girlfriend Christina Demers, was injured. It was reported after the incident by Morgan’s ex-girlfriend, Priscilla Almeida, that Morgan knew Santos and Demers from a drug rehabilitation facility.
At 11:50 a.m., the FriarAlert system sent a message to the Providence College community with the following message: “according to news reports and law enforcement sources shots fired near Providence Place Mall; avoid I-95 and Rt. 10 near the mall.”
Some community members questioned the timing of the alert, saying that they had heard about this incident an hour or two prior to the campus-wide message. “There is some confusion amongst students at times when they are not made aware of certain incidents that occur off campus,” said Executive Director of Public Safety Major John Leyden. The Department of Public Safety determines whether or not to issue a crime alert to the college community based on a multi-step protocol, which can be accessed on their website. “If something happens—a serious felony—and there’s an imminent threat to the campus, we are required to notify the students, faculty, and staff,” said Major Leyden.
“On Thursday we got word that there was a shooting right outside of the Providence Place Mall, but the information we initially received was not completely accurate.” Major Leyden said that it is important to take the time to decipher what news is true and what is not, while still keeping in mind that community members want information as quickly as possible.
Ultimately, a message was sent to the community to allow for individuals to be aware of the situation. “You’d rather error on the side of caution, as this was a pretty critical event in Rhode Island,” said Major Leyden. Looking to the future, the Office of Public Safety is identifying how social media can be further incorporated to keep the PC community safe and up to date.
The stolen police cruiser was later found crashed and abandoned. Providence police launched a search for the suspect in the Elmwood neighborhood, with several schools in the area shutting down as a safety precaution. Morgan was found and taken into custody on Friday.