Jhamal Gonsalves is a Rhode Island moped driver who was left in critical condition when a police officer may have crashed into him in Providence.
The incident was captured on video and is causing outrage.
“We had a terrible incident last night where a young man was seriously injured and is in the hospital… we hope he makes a speedy recovery,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a news conference.
He said authorities are trying to “reconstruct exactly what happened yesterday.” He said they are committed a transparent and complete investigation. WPRI reported that Gonsalves is in a coma “suffering from severe swelling to the head and internal bleeding.” The attorney general also said authorities are still investigating what happened and can’t “draw any legal conclusions” yet.
Police said they weren’t sure yet whether the police cruiser struck the moped. “That will be a major focus of the investigation,” Providence Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements said in the news conference.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. A Cell Phone Video Raises Questions About the Crash
Breonna Rozayy posted a cell phone video of the police moped crash on Facebook on October 19. You can watch it here on her page.
“Providence Police Department need to be stopped !! This is really CRAZY THEY INTENTIONALLY HIT THIS MAN AND YOU CAN SEE IT CLEAR AS DAY!” she wrote. You can watch the video above and decide for yourself.
The video shows the squad trailing the moped, which then turns. You briefly can’t see what’s happening, but the squad then slams into the moped. “Too bad you turned your camera away at the most critical moment,” one person wrote on the thread of the video, which has been shared thousands of times.
2. Gonsalves Has a ‘Long Road to Recovery,’ & Was Described as a ‘Ball of Energy’
There is a GoFundMe page to help Gonsalves that has raised more than $14,000. “Jhamal Gonsalves was slammed off his moped Sunday night by a police officer in his SUV cruiser into a wall. Jhamal has a long road ahead of him in terms of recovery,” the friend who created it wrote.
The organizer, William Wladyka, added in an update, “Hey everyone! Thank you so much for your donations! We still need your help to get Jhamal back in fighting condition! For all those concerned about the legitimacy of this go fund me I work with Jhamal and he is a friend of mine. I have been in touch with his fiancée Kendra and and have reached out to his parents. All the money goes to Jhamal for his recovery. Thank you again for your support!”
Gonsalves’ fiancé, Kendra Thibault, told 12 News that he loved Motorcross and added, “He’s a ball of energy. He always has to be doing something, being active. This is literally what he loved.”
3. Gonsalves Is a Motorcross Racer & Yacht Painter
According to his Facebook page, Gonsalves is a “yacht painter / motocross racer” who went to Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island. His cover picture is of a bike.
His most recent visible post, from March, reads, “…getting my new headers and traction bar laced up last night getting me ready for this retune💪🏼💪🏼💪🏼dudes been my mechanic since day 1 always a+ work anybody need work done contact him full swaps/welding anything u can think off dude gets it done 🤟🏽🔥🦾.”
Most of his posts deal with motorcross racing or motorbikes. He also posted a picture of him working on a yacht. “Shipyard took this pic last summer when I had to do touch ups on this 200ft yacht,” he wrote, adding, “finished the street bike I’m a free man after tomorrow let’s rip ASAP.”
4. Authorities Say a Large Group of Vehicles Was Driving Recklessly
Providence Police Col. Hugh Clements started his comments by saying, “Nothing good comes from a young man sitting in the hospital.”
At about 3:24 p.m., the calls started coming into Providence Police dispatch, he said. Ultimately 25 calls came in for large groups of mopeds, ATVs, and other vehicles, indicating there were up to 300 of the vehicles, he said. They came into the city, left the city, and came back in, and they traveled through multiple communities.
They came back into the city later in the afternoon, going through several neighborhoods, Clements said, adding that it was a huge challenge for police departments in Providence and other neighborhoods. “These vehicles operate in a completely unsafe manner, reckless,” he said, adding that they disregard public safety and blow traffic signals, stop signs, and go in the wrong lane.
“What we do in these events is try to monitor their path and try to follow them from a safe distance,” Clements said.
Squads try to encourage the vehicles to leave the city. “There was a large group exiting Providence…a small black moped, which is in front of one of the marked units following at a distance with his lights on. That moped took an abrupt right hand turn up to the sidewalk… mounting the curb and losing control,” said Clements. It collided with the house. The city’s dense and populated streets cause challenges for law enforcement, authorities said.
The rest is under investigation, he said. He said the moped was not registered with no plates. He did have a helmet on.
5. The Review Could Take Months, Authorities Say
Authorities said they need to talk to witnesses, gather all available video, and reconstruct what happened.
“We welcome the Attorney General having a separate set of eyes over the investigation,” said Elorza. “We want to reassure the public that this will be a thorough and complete investigation.”
The officer who was involved is a six-year veteran officer named Kyle Endres. He is on administrative duty. He will be coming to work but will be on a desk assignment, said Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Paré in the news conference. He said investigators want to understand why the crash happened and what happened.
He said there is a digital black box in the patrol car that investigators are studying.
“I think it’s unspeakable that a police officer would use a vehicle as an instrument of death. And enough is enough. If you’re not outraged by this, then you’re not human,” said Mark Fisher of Black Lives Matter to WJAR-TV.