Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

The Bruno Brief: An update on the case of Jhamal Gonsalves

This week, we hear about the civil lawsuit against two Providence police officers who were involved in a moped crash that left Providence resident Jhamal Gonsalves, 24, in a coma last October. Senior staff writer Karlos Bautista spoke with Gonsalves' father and his attorney about the lawsuit, as well as several activists, including Brown students, who are speaking out against police misconduct and violence in Providence. 

 




Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or listen via the RSS feed, and send us tips and feedback for the next episode: herald@browndailyherald.com. The Bruno Brief is produced in partnership with WBRU.

Livi Burdette: 

I'm Livi Burdette and you're listening to The Bruno Brief from The Brown Daily Herald and WBRU. Each week we take you inside one of The Brown Daily Herald's top stories. This week, we give you an update on the case of Jhamal Gonsalves, a 24-year-old Providence resident who was left in a coma after a moped crash involving Providence police officers last October. In January, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha announced that the officers involved in the crash would not face criminal charges, citing too little evidence of criminal recklessness. In the wake of the announcement, Gonsalves’ family has filed a civil lawsuit against the officers involved. Today, we'll speak with Karlos Bautista, a senior staff writer at The Herald who covered this story. Welcome back to the show, Karlos. 

Karlos Bautista

Hi. Thanks for having me. 

Livi Burdette

So first off, could you describe for our listeners what exactly happened to Gonsalves on October 18? 

Karlos Bautista

Yes, on October 18, Jhamal Gonsalves was on a moped. And he was involved in a crash that left him critically injured. One police cruiser was following him, and according to different videos and accounts, the police cruiser led Gonsalves to direct his moped off the road onto the sidewalk. And while he was doing that, another cruiser pulled up in front of him so that the cruisers made a sort of L shape that prevented Gonsalves from getting out of that. And then the cruisers hit a stop sign, which in turn hit Gonsalves in the head, leading to severe injuries which put him in a coma for weeks. While he's no longer in a coma now, according to his attorney Amato DeLuca, he still has trouble with cognitive functioning and is severely neurologically impaired. 

Livi Burdette

So for this story, you got to speak with Gonsalves' father. What did he have to say about how Jhamal is doing? 

Karlos Bautista

I spoke with him a good deal ago, but at the time when I was speaking with him, he was mentioning that Gonsalves was still in long-term care in New Jersey, and in speaking with one of the attorneys representing Gonsalves on Thursday, that while Gonsalves was able to come out of his coma, he still had trouble speaking, recognizing people, being able to ascertain his physical location and where he was. 

Mark Gonsalves

He was a young man that had so much going on for him. Him being disabled now, for a traffic citation, could be better, and could be worse. That's what I'm known for saying, that's what I say to everyone when they say how he's doing. Could be better, could be worse. I try not to pray too much, to ask God for things, and just give thanks for what I have already received, like my son still breathing.

Livi Burdette

So I know that pretty quickly after this incident happened, it became a big topic of conversation and protests in the Providence community. But The Herald first covered the story in November, when Brown students got involved in protests after Jhamal's crash. Can you tell us why they were protesting? 

Karlos Bautista

This crash followed, as we all know, a summer of activism following the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor by police officers. And so thinking about organizing against police brutality at large involved thinking about what happened to Jhamal Gonsalves and seeing what can be done at a local level to address a larger national issue. 

Livi Burdette

Can you explain why they saw this as specifically an issue of police brutality? Because I know that the different sides are arguing over how much evidence there is that it was reckless or negligent or even intentional.

Karlos Bautista

In speaking with different students and also Gonsalves’ father and Kiah Bryant from DARE, overall, what they would say would be that he wasn't breaking any law. So the fact that he was left in such perilous condition doesn't seem, at least to protesters and community members, to be requisite to what actually happened leading up to the crash. 

Livi Burdette

And how does Gonsalves’ family plan on responding to the attorney general's decision not to press charges against the officers involved in this crash? 

Karlos Bautista

Right, yeah, so given that any avenues for criminal charges or criminal accountability are pretty much off the table given the attorney general's decision, the family is now seeking civil recourse through a lawsuit that alleges that the officers involved with the crash committed civilly negligent action.

Livi Burdette

Do Gonsalves’ family and attorneys believe that they have a strong case?

Karlos Bautista

Yes, so when I spoke with one of the attorneys representing Jhamal Gonsalves, Amato DeLuca, he was saying that the actions taken by the officers, at least according to his suit, he alleges that they took aggressive tactics against Gonsalves that resulted in a violation of Gonsalves’ civil rights and that, in being able to pursue this sort of civil action, that they'll be able to receive compensation for the injuries that he suffered. 

Amato DeLuca

There are two police officers, in our opinion, that were involved in this incident with Jhamal. One was the police officer that was following that actually struck a stop sign that hit Jhamal in the head, which caused the severe injuries that he has. And the other one was a police officer who was stopped at a stop sign as Jhamal and this other police officer and another vehicle approached him and then pulled out in front of Jhamal. And him pulling out in front of Jhamal is, we believe, is the reason that he took the right, lost control of his scooter and went up on the sidewalk and hit the wall, as well as being struck by the stop sign. So we're bringing a cause of action against both drivers of both vehicles. Because we believe it was a coordinated effort to try to stop Jhamal, and the way they were doing it — the police department's own policy prohibits what they were doing. 

Karlos Bautista

And just thinking about, also, the amount that they could be looking for. Obviously, in my talking with him, he gave me more of an estimate as opposed to a specific hard figure. But in thinking about the different services and accommodations that Jhamal Gonsalves will need for the rest of his life — so that could include nursing assistance, physical therapy, having a wheelchair and a myriad of other things overall — given his current age is 24 now, he would need anywhere from $10 to $20 million to pay for his ability to live. 

Livi Burdette

Now, a Providence organization called Direct Action for Rights and Equality has been one of the groups protesting against the police officers’ actions on the day of the crash and against police misconduct and brutality, more generally. What do they have to say about this case? 

Karlos Bautista

Right. So you know, first off, at least in terms of determinations made by the state's attorney general, I spoke to Kiah Bryant, who is a managing director at DARE. 

Kiah Bryant

I wasn't surprised, to be honest. I mean, this is very typical. We see it over and over again. And this is not unique to Rhode Island. They close ranks, and of course they protected their own instead of actually getting justice. 

Livi Burdette

So it seems like Gonsalves, his father and his attorneys were not very surprised by the result of the attorney general's investigation. What do you think that signals about this larger moment? 

Karlos Bautista

I spoke with Aida Sherif and Jordan Walendom, who are both students. In thinking about my conversation with Jordan, for example, he was describing how this result is sort of emblematic of what he says is the ability for police officers nationally to “live beyond the law” and generally avoid consequences for the actions they take. 

Jordan Walendom

I don't necessarily have the information or the answer for how they should change policing, but the state of policing is in now, they should have consequences for the damage they wreak on communities. 

Livi Burdette 

There have been several other incidents of police brutality that have been in the public eye in recent months and Providence. For example, Providence police sergeant Joseph Hanley is currently being tried for allegedly assaulting a man named Rishad Gore, including kneeling on his neck while arresting him. In that case, the Rhode Island attorney general brought charges against the officer involved. Do activists you spoke to see changes in policy, like making it easier to prosecute police officers, as a solution to police brutality? 

Karlos Bautista

The short answer to that would be no, at least with the activists I spoke with for the story. They feel that the avenue of approaching police brutality by implementing certain policies — that avenue is one that is doomed to fail at the start. And no matter what sorts of policy changes are made, there is no way to prevent violence. From speaking with students from Brown, the idea that they are most behind is defunding the police department in Providence. 

Aida Sherif

A lot of times pursuing criminal charges is really like a Band-Aid fix to the issue, right, like charging this one officer and then stopping at that. I feel like a lot of people view that as justice, but it's really not. People need to start looking at it more systemically and looking at why is this a repeated pattern. Because it's not just individuals that lead to this type of thing happening. If we can break away from viewing policing and prisons as the solutions to addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, poverty, then we can start to build up alternative solutions to these things that don't punish people for being affected by, you know, systemic issues. 

Karlos Bautista

Since the summer, different city leaders have gotten behind the idea of defunding the police, so that includes certain city council members, and generally they would hope to see the money that is being used for the police department and for police officers to be reallocated. But so far, we haven't really seen any substantive action or any specific policies coming to fruition. I'll place an emphasis on the fact that, you know, in speaking with Kiah Bryant from DARE, not necessarily everyone who is part of the Providence community is extremely eager to see an abolition of the police department right away. 

Kiah Bryant

We can't move too fast. We also have to make sure all of the community is on the same page as far as abolition, as far as defunding the police, as far as, What is it? What is our community going to look like, once we start defunding the police and getting rid of jobs? You know, what does that mean for us? What can we do to replace what we're taking away? I mean, that is where our focus needs to be. 

Karlos Bautista

So the focus for organizers in Providence is to see how the messaging and the ideas behind defunding the police can be brought to communities within Providence, and see what sorts of changes from there can be implemented for the future in a way that makes sense for the different nuances and intricacies of Providence, as opposed to a sweeping change that doesn't take those sorts of nuances into account. 

In speaking with Bryant, she mentioned that now, her aim is to engage with Brown community members on a regular basis and have conversations with them to think about how their communities can look without police presence, and thinking about ways in which community accountability can be fostered within the actual residents, as opposed to being under the domain of police officers. 

Livi Burdette

Karlos, thanks so much for being with us. 

Karlos Bautista

Thanks for having me.

Livi Burdette

In other news, the nonprofit United Way of Rhode Island has pledged $100 million over five years to causes promoting racial equity, including through accessible education, affordable housing and unemployment for Black, Indigenous and other people of color in the state. The University has supported United Way over three decades through its fundraising program Brown Gives.

This has been the Bruno Brief. Our show is produced by Ben Glickman, Corey Gelb-Bicknell and me. The Bruno Brief is an equal partnership between WBRU and The Brown Daily Herald. I'm Livi Burdette. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next week.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

____________________

Produced by: Olivia Burdette, Ben Glickman and Corey Gelb-Bicknell

Music: 

Denzel Sprak by Blue Dot Sessions (www.sessions.blue)

Special thanks to Emily Teng and Olivia Burdette for cover design.

 



Popular



Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2021 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.