Officers use of force in weekend arrest in Providence under investigation
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — An arrest of 21-year-old man in Providence is being reviewed by the Providence Police Department and the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office.
Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré and a spokesman for Attorney General Peter Neronha said the use of force during the arrest is now being investigated.
Video of the arrest was published by GoLocalProv, which shows two officers and 21-year-old Armando Rivas engaging in a struggle.
In the video, Rivas is seen resisting officers until the the two get Rivas to the ground. Once on the ground, the video shows one of the officers striking Rivas in the back of his head, forcing Rivas’ head to go into the pavement.
Providence police have released an incident report regarding the arrest of Rivas.
According to the report, Lt. Matthew Jennette was assigned to fireworks patrol at India Point Park Sunday when he saw an unattended Jeep impeding traffic in the area at about 9:30 p.m.
The report said the lieutenant waited for about 10 minutes for the driver to return and when he did not, Jennette called for a tow truck to take the Jeep away.
At that point, Rivas showed up and told Jennette it was his vehicle and after Rivas was informed it was being towed he called Jennette a racial slur and got into the Jeep on the passenger side, according to the report.
Police said Jennette informed Rivas he was under arrest and while Jennette was trying to place Rivas into custody, he began to struggle with the officer and that is when Capt. Stephen Gencarella came to assist Jennette.
The report then says Rivas continued to struggle with the two officers and Gencarella used a palm heel strike to the head of Rivas to try to get him under control and Jennette used a an arm bar technique and was able to handcuff Rivas’ right hand.
However, police said the struggle continued and at one point Rivas reached for his waistband and Gencarella used another palm heel strike to the head of Rivas to put him under control.
Ultimately, police were able to place Rivas into custody and upon subsequent search the officers found a serrated knife inside Rivas’ waistband.
Rivas was booked on charges of disorderly conduct, simple assault or battery, resisting arrest and obstructing an officer in execution of duty.
ABC 6 News is trying to learn the status of the two officers and if there is any body camera footage of the arrest, though State Rep. David Morales (D-Providence) said there is not any body camera footage.
“Over the weekend, there was a case of police brutality in Providence where an officer literally slammed a young man’s head against the pavement,” tweeted Morales Tuesday. “While the officers were NOT wearing body cameras, thankfully, someone recorded the situation. This is abuse.”
The Providence Police Union said they are not commenting on the arrest at this time.
According to court records, Rivas pleaded nolo contendre to several of the charges Tuesday and was given one year probation.
Court records also indicate Rivas has a pending case on charges of possession of stolen vehicle and driving with a suspended license, third offense.
His next scheduled court date for those charges is July 15.