Providence Detective Killed with Own Gun by Suspect During Questioning
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A police detective was shot to death with his own service weapon at department headquarters early Sunday while he was questioning a potential suspect in a stabbing, the police chief said.
James Allen, a 27-year veteran, was shot in a detective conference room while questioning Esteban Carpio, Chief Dean Esserman said.
Police believe Carpio, 26, who was not handcuffed, got hold of the officer's gun, shot Allen, broke a third floor window in an adjacent office and jumped onto a service road, Esserman said at a news conference. Carpio was captured after a struggle a few blocks away.
Allen had been questioning Carpio about his possible connection to a stabbing attack Saturday on an 84-year-old woman, Esserman said. Carpio was not under arrest and had been taken out of handcuffs, he said. The woman was expected to recover.
The chief would not say how Carpio managed to get Allen's weapon, and would not discuss other details leading up to the shooting. Carpio was charged with one count of murder on Sunday night, and is expected to be arraigned on Monday. The charge carries a maximum sentence of life in prison without parole, because it involves the alleged killing of an on-duty police officer, according to Providence police.
Esserman would not discuss the protocols for carrying weapons inside police headquarters or for interviewing potential suspects, and would not say if there were witnesses.
"The investigation has begun and we will find answers, but not here this morning," he said.
Allen, 50, who was married and had two daughters, was pronounced dead at Rhode Island Hospital a short time after the shooting.
"Jimmy Allen passed in the noblest way possible. He gave his life trying to make our lives safer," said Mayor David Cicilline. "He died a hero."
Deputy Police Chief Paul Kennedy said Allen was an experienced investigator, and one of the department's longest-serving detectives. His father is retired Providence police Capt. Lloyd Allen.
Police said Carpio was injured in his jump from the window, and was treated at a hospital for injuries to his leg, arm and head.
A gun, believed to be Allen's, was discovered below the window where Carpio allegedly escaped. Police were awaiting forensic tests to definitively identify that gun as Allen's, and link it to Carpio.
Carpio had been seeking help for mental problems, according to his family. His grandmother, Jean Gonsalves, said he was "pacing, talking, seeing things" leading up to the alleged murder.
"We were trying to get him help, and it didn't seem to be there," his brother, David Carpio, told The Boston Globe.
The suspect alternately lived with his mother in the Boston area or in Providence with his girlfriend, according to published reports. Meanwhile, the sister of Carpio's girlfriend says he had a 3-year-old child with his girlfriend and had a job, though she did not know where.
Michael Brady, an expert in police procedures who teaches in the Administration of Justice department at Salve Regina University in Newport, said every police station has areas called "weapons secure," where weapons are banned.
Those areas generally include cell blocks and interrogation rooms, he said, but not areas such as detective conference rooms.
While police said Carpio had not been arrested, Brady said police comments that he was handcuffed before the shooting indicated he was under arrest and would have been brought into the station in a weapons-secure area, where he would have been searched.
But if Allen wanted to question Carpio, Brady said, it would not have been unusual for him to do so in a non-secure area, and with his gun in his holster.
"This officer was not doing something very different than what police officers throughout the nation do every single day," he said.
Brady said police departments usually decide on a case-by-case basis whether a suspect needs extra security or other measures during questioning.
In this case, Brady said, "You're dealing with a 26-year-old alleged perpetrator in what is a considered a serious, violent felony. ... Given this officer's seniority and experience on the job, the officer clearly felt comfortable doing that with this person."
Brady said that while all uniformed police officers use specialized security holsters to make it difficult for a suspect to remove the gun, most plainclothes officers use simpler holsters designed to conceal, rather than secure the gun.
Security in government buildings has been a greater concern since early March, when a man in the middle of a rape retrial in Atlanta allegedly overpowered a court deputy and took her gun, then killed the judge presiding over his case and a court reporter. A deputy outside the courthouse also was killed, as was a federal customs agent whose pickup was stolen elsewhere in the area.
In Providence on Sunday, city and police officials were clearly shaken.
Esserman's voice wavered as he briefed reporters several hours after the shooting.
"It is little consolation that a suspect has been apprehended," Esserman said. "We've lost a remarkable man today, and this city is the worse for it."
Cicilline called on city residents to pray for Allen's family, and asked them to make a point of stopping police officers to thank them for their service.
The last time a Providence police officer was shot to death was in January 2000, when Sgt. Cornel Young Jr., off duty and in civilian clothes, was killed by fellow officers who mistook him for a suspect when he ran to their aid during a disturbance outside a diner.
Visitors to the police building have been required to pass through a metal detector since last fall, when a man walked into the lobby with a loaded gun and told an officer he might hurt himself or someone else. Officers disarmed him and no one was hurt.
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.