it all happened: A diner fight escalates and an officer is slainAdd
By JONATHAN D. ROCKOFF
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE -- The stocky 29-year-old black man stood by
the diner's cracked formica counter, waiting for his usual, a steak club
sandwich to go.
It was about 1:40 a.m. last Friday. The customer, Cornel Young Jr., and about 20
other patrons of Fidas Restaurant milled amid the grill smoke and restaurant
The manager recognized Young as a regular customer and a Providence police
officer. Young, on his day off, was wearing street clothes, but he was carrying
his department issue, a .40-caliber Beretta pistol. Department rules required
Young to carry his gun even on his day off.
While Young waited for his order, five customers started to argue. There was
shouting and breaking glass, shoving and pushing. The melee spilled into the
diner's icy parking lot on Valley Street. The manager called 911.
Young watched as the brawl grew wilder, with cursing and fistfighting. One man
waved a gun. In the distance, a police siren sounded.
A Providence police cruiser swung into the parking lot, and two officers jumped
Inside the diner, Young moved into action.
``Police,'' he shouted.
Young reached back into his waistband and drew his pistol.
Diners ducked underneath cramped booths or ran for cover.
Pushing patrons aside, Young headed for the diner's entrance. He cocked his gun
and stepped through double doors into the frigid night air.
He aimed his pistol at the man waving the gun.
There was more shouting. The uniformed officers screamed, ``Drop it! Drop it!''
The man waving the gun put his weapon down.
Young didn't hear the command.
The two officers shot six times. Three bullets knocked Young to the ground. His
gun slid across the ice and rolled under a silver Camaro.
A short time later at the hospital, Young was pronounced dead.
THIS IS THE story of Young's death, the most complete account to date.
It is based on interviews with the police, a dozen witnesses and two
participants in the fight. The Providence police spoke about the case because
they believe the details will vindicate the officers that fired, showing they
reacted properly in a volatile, split-second situation.
The death involves more than a police officer killed in the line of duty: Young
was black and his shooters were white.
Critics say the patrolmen wouldn't have been so quick to pull their triggers if
Young were white.
There are growing calls for independent inquiries.
At the center of the tragedy is Young, whose gentle demeanor was underscored by
his droopy eyes, slight smile and infectious laugh.
A family friend, Irene M. Mendes, said ``Jai'' always wanted to be a police
officer like his father, Cornel Young Sr.
Major Young is the highest-ranking black in the Police Department and the
overseer of the community police division.
Patrolman Young worked the Police Department's midshift, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.
He responded to the city's hot spots.
Young was on his day off Thursday night, when he ran into his boyhood friend
Thomas Horton at Gerardo's Alternative Nightclub, at 1 Franklin Square.
Young and Horton spent two hours reminiscing about their childhoods, all those
days when Young was wearing the coke-bottle glasses that made everyone say he
looked like a little professor.
Pounding hip-hop beats and melodious rhythm-and-blues jams filled the nightclub,
which is housed in a 21/2-story brick building. Shafts of light illuminated the
dance floor. There was a good but not capacity crowd.
At one point a fight broke out at the club. Young wanted to step in. Horton told
him not to bother, security would handle it.
`` `This is my job,' '' Young told him.
Before Young could intervene, the club's security forces had stopped the fracas.
Young returned to the orange juice he was sipping -- Horton bought him four that
night -- and resumed the conversation.
Upon parting, Young said he was going to Fidas Restaurant.
ALSO AT GERARDO'S late Thursday were Juanita Vasquez, her friends Brenda
Ruiz and Aldrin Diaz, all of Providence, and Diaz's girlfriend Christa Calder.
Ruiz, 23, and Vasquez, 30, had met through Ruiz's sister.
Vasquez and Diaz, 30, were companions since the sixth grade.
Diaz's girlfriend, Calder, 28, had driven down that day from Gray, Maine.
She brought with her a .22-caliber semiautomatic pistol. The police said she
kept the gun unloaded.
Calder told the police she had bought the pistol from a Gray, Maine, gunshop in
November, but detectives could not trace it and are investigating.
The four were out for a night on the town in Calder's silver Camaro. They agreed
to go to Gerardo's.
At the club, Vasquez and Ruiz sipped glasses of Aliz , cognac splashed with
At one point, a man recognized Vasquez from Hope High School. The man was
talking and laughing with a friend, then he approached.
``You look familiar,'' the man told Vasquez.
``You do, too,'' Vasquez replied.
Standing nearby during the brief conversation, Vasquez said, was Cornel Young
Jr. He didn't speak.
Around closing time at Gerardo's, Vasquez and her three friends decided to leave
for Fidas Restaurant.
As she walked out, Vasquez tucked a cocktail glass inside her coat pocket.
FIDAS, ACROSS the city from Gerardo's at Valley Street and Atwells
Avenue, is a popular destination serving up standard diner fare to the
From the outside, the restaurant resembles a miniature airport terminal, with
large plate-glass windows.
Inside are rows of orange formica whose cracks are covered in duct tape, wood
panels and chrome, lots of chrome.
The place looks every day the 28 years it has been in business, a time during
which it has experienced more than its share of violence.
In 1982, a small-time hood, Anthony ``The Moron'' Mirabella, was murdered in a
gangland slaying there, one of Rhode Island's most notorious.
Patrons have reported to the police being stabbed or shot. In 1997, the police
arrested a man with a machete strapped to his waist.
Like several police officers, Young was a regular at Fidas.
The night manager, Mahmoud Kashk, said Young loped to the counter like he always
did and ordered the steak club sandwich he always requested.
It was about 1:30 a.m.
Some customers stood by the counter near Young waiting for their orders; others
sat at the 11 small tables that form four rows in the other half of the diner.
A student at Roger Williams University by day, John San Martino works as a
cashier on the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift at the Mobil Mart across from Fidas.
Thursday night started out as it always did at the station: customers trickled
San Martino watched a silver Camaro drive into the gas station, spin its wheels
and pull into Fidas's small parking lot.
The Camaro carrying Vasquez, Ruiz, Diaz and Calder parked to the left of the
Diaz remained behind the wheel. Calder sat in the front passenger's seat.
Ruiz and Vasquez strode toward the diner. Ruiz wanted a cheeseburger and fries.
Vasquez wanted to use the bathroom and then get food.
Even before the pair made it into Fidas, Vasquez said, trouble started.
They came face to face with two women and a man. The police identified them as
Stephanie Zoglio, 20; Diane Villafane, 19 and Alex George, 20.
Vasquez said one of the women blocked her path, saying, ``Can I look at you?''
Ruiz made a comment, and then she and Vasquez brushed by and went to the
When they came back, more words were exchanged.
Vasquez said she took offense and told off one of the women, who unsheathed a
knife and slashed Vasquez across the chest. Ruiz then punched the woman in the
Vasquez withdrew the cocktail glass stowed in her pocket, smashed it on the
countertop and waved a piece of broken glass in the air.
The diner's night manager ordered them out.
``Look, if you want to fight, you'll have to take it outside,'' he said. ``Get
out. Get out.''
At 1:41 a.m., the manager called 911.
He told the dispatcher four women were fighting.
``It looks like the fight is going to get bigger and bigger.''
UPON SEEING the commotion inside of the diner, Aldrin Diaz jumped out of
the Camaro and rushed to the diner, the police said.
But Diaz ran into the crowd as they were being thrown out by the manager, and he
was pushed back into the parking lot.
Customers inside the diner gravitated to the doorway to watch the fisticuffs, a
few even ventured outside. In all, about a dozen people watched.
The police said the fight included the breaking of two beer bottles. One of the
bottles was thrown against the Camaro.
One of the women grabbed a dumbbell and slammed it against the car. Diaz ran at
her, but he was tackled by her boyfriend.
The man knocked Diaz against the car.
A woman yelled, ``Get the gun.''
Calder, who had remained in the Camaro, reached into the glove compartment and
grabbed her gun in its holster.
Diaz took the gun from her, walked around the front of the car and waved the gun
at the man who had tackled him, the police said.
Diaz threatened the man; the police said he pointed the gun at the man and said,
But the police said the man was too afraid he would be shot in the back if he
At some point, the police said, the gun was loaded and it jammed. The bullet was
lodged, crooked, in the chamber.
Vasquez said someone shouted: ``They have a gun.''
Diaz leaped into the Camaro and screamed at his three companions, ``Get in the
car. Let's go.''
PATROLMAN CARLOS A. Saraiva attended the same police academy as Young.
Like Young, he had been an officer for three years.
On Westminster Street Sept. 18, he shot an unarmed man in the legs while being
attacked; state prosecutors cleared him.
Saraiva had only recently returned to active duty.
Patrolman Michael Solitro III was an officer for just two weeks. In a colorful
City Hall ceremony Jan. 14, he had joined the department.
Like all rookie cops, he was paired with a more experienced officer. On
Thursday, he was assigned to ride around with Saraiva.
While patroling the city early Friday, the partners received a report of women
fighting at Fidas. Inside and outside. It was 1:43 a.m., according to the city's
The officers approached the diner from the north, on Valley Street. They weren't
far away. They radioed in their arrival at 1:44 a.m.
Saraiva, who was driving, parked the car at an angle, blocking the Camaro from
Diaz, who was backing up the Camaro, was waving a gun out of the driver's
Saraiva and Solitro saw Diaz pointing his gun, the police said.
Saraiva took cover behind a utility pole in the parking lot. Solitro crouched
behind the trunk of the Camaro.
They aimed their guns at Diaz just as Young burst out of Fidas.
MANUEL JIMINIAN was standing inside Fidas, by the booth closest to the
diner's exit, when the fight started.
After a woman jabbed the air with broken glass, he said he saw the fray spill
outside and intensify.
Jiminian looked out the diner window and saw a man waving a gun. Other patrons
inside the establishment did, too. One shouted, ``He's got a gun!''
An instant later, one of the customers was running for the door. ``Police,
freeze,'' he bellowed. It was Young.
According to the police, Young shoved aside fellow customers, who ducked under
the tables; one ran to the back.
Young emerged from the diner, pointing his gun at Diaz.
He was in civilian clothes, wearing a black baseball cap over a wool ski cap. He
had on a dark-colored coat.
The police said Young was coming to the aid of the officers suppressing Diaz.
But the on-duty patrolmen say they mistook him for a suspect.
The police said Diaz thought that Young was with the rival group and that Young
was going to shoot him.
The police said Young was as close as 5 feet from Diaz. The officers were
roughly 20 feet from Young.
Patrolmen Saraiva and Solitro yelled for Diaz to drop his gun.
Upon command, Diaz tossed his gun inside the Camaro and stuck both his hands
outside the window. Saraiva shouted, ``Get out of the car!''
Young held onto his weapon.
The patrolmen yelled at Young to put down his gun.
One witness heard Young say something, but couldn't make out what he was saying.
The police said Young did not identify himself as a fellow officer to the
According to figures close to the investigation, Saraiva saw the man in civilian
clothes head for the Camaro, pointing his gun at Diaz.
They said Saraiva thought his partner, Solitro, was in the man's line of fire.
``Drop the gun!'' Saraiva screamed at the man at least twice, the figures close
to the investigation said. Solitro yelled the same thing at the man several
But the man kept walking toward the Camaro, they said. When he did not drop his
gun, Saraiva and Solitro fired.
The police said they fired six bullets.
Vasquez recalled hearing the sound, then ducking as bullets smashed through the
Camaro's window over her head.
One bullet hit Young in the head, another in the chest and a third in the
He fell to the ground. His gun fell from his hand and rolled under the front of
At 1:47 a.m., the police called for an ambulance.
Police officers poured into the parking lot.
Vasquez thought Diaz was the victim.
The police said one of the other women thought her boyfriend was wounded, and
she ran to the fallen man.
A police officer rushed to the woman and tore her away.
Then officers looked to learn the bleeding man's identity.
``Oh,'' one officer shuddered. ``That's one of ours.''
With staff reports from Tom Mooney and Jennifer Levitz
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gather in tribute to Sgt. Young
In a ceremony
that lasts nearly three hours, clergymen, friends and community leaders eulogize
the slain officer as a hero and vow that his death will promote the cause of
By MARION DAVIS
and KAREN LEE ZINER
Journal Staff Writers
PROVIDENCE -- Two worlds came together yesterday to bid
farewell to a man who lived and distinguished himself in both, paying him
tribute with song, with prayer and with the military rituals due a fallen
Hundreds of law-enforcement officers from throughout Rhode Island and beyond
lined Hope Street as Sgt. Cornel Young Jr.'s friends and family, dignitaries and
community members gathered inside the Fourth Baptist Church for a deeply
emotional funeral service.
``We are brought together today by a tragedy of such magnitude that it defies
human comprehension,'' Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr. told the mourners, speaking
on behalf of the city and its Police Department.
``Any one of us would make almost any sacrifice to alter the sequence of events
occurring last Friday morning, but none of us have that power,'' Cianci said.
``And so we gather at the altar of this church to mourn one of the greatest
losses in the history of our city, one of the saddest days in the history of our
Providence Police Department.''
Young, 29, the son of Providence police Maj. Cornel Young Sr. and Leisa Young,
was shot by two of his fellow officers as they tried to quell a disturbance at
about 1:40 a.m. Friday at Fidas Restaurant, an all-night diner at 270 Valley St.
When a fight among three women spilled out into the diner's parking lot, Aldrin
Diaz, 30, of Providence, pulled out a gun in the parking lot, witnesses say.
Young, who was off duty and in street clothes, was waiting for a takeout order
inside the diner. As Patrolmen Carlos A. Saraiva and Michael Solitro III drove
up in a police cruiser, Young ran out to assist them, but they mistook him for a
suspect and shot him.
During the nearly three-hour funeral service yesterday, clergymen, friends and
community leaders eulogized Young as a hero and a martyr and vowed to ensure
that his death will promote the cause of justice and help to heal a divided
Few police officers participated in the ceremony, which was led by the Rev.
Olivier Bala, pastor of Fourth Baptist, and the Rev. Marlowe V.N. Washington,
pastor of Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church.
But the service drew many state and city leaders, including Governor Almond and
Lt. Gov. Charles Fogarty, Atty. Gen. Sheldon Whitehouse -- who will be in charge
of investigating Young's death -- U.S. Atty. Margaret E. Curran, Secretary of
State James R. Langevin, Police Chief Urbano Prignano Jr. and Public Safety
Director John Partington; City Council President John Lombardi, and several
other council members and legislators from Providence.
The clergy was amply represented, as were African-American leaders, including
Clifford Montiero, president of the Providence branch of the NAACP, and Dennis
Langley, executive director of the Rhode Island Urban League.
The clergy offered solace to the mourners by celebrating a young man who
impressed those who knew and loved him as a person who always strove for
excellence, treated others with respect and gave of himself by mentoring and
working with children and young adults.
Left unspoken was the concern that many have expressed: that Young's race
contributed to his death. But that idea seemed the underpinning of much that was
Leading the congregation in prayer, the Rev. Jonathan Young-Scaggs, senior
associate minister of Allen A.M.E. Church, beseeched God to help ``put at rest
our angry hearts.''
``Lord, we are here to celebrate the life of one young man who has served his
community well,'' he said. ``Lord, we mourn now. Lord, we are angry now. . . .
Lord, we beg of you, calm our angry hearts, put at ease our troubled souls. . .
. We strive to understand why. We are desperate for a reason.''
The Scripture readings were chosen to remind the faithful of God's constant
presence in their lives.
``If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold,
thou art there,'' reads Psalm 139. ``If I take the wings of the morning, and
dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and
thy right hand shall hold me.''
And as Paul wrote to the Romans, ``If God be for us, who can be against us? He
that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not
with him also freely give us all things?''
Providence police Sgt. Tanya King, president of the Rhode Island Minority Police
Association, which Major Young helped to establish, held back tears as she
assured the Youngs that ``your child's life was not taken in vain.''
``Sgt. Cornel Young Jr., you have unknowingly become a martyr,'' she concluded.
``You will live in the shadows of great heroic men. Your name will be mentioned
with the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.''
One of the most emotional parts of the service was a reading by Providence
police Inspector Luis Del Rio, Major Young's best friend, of tributes to ``Jai''
written by his stepmother, Amy; his 14-year-old brother, Joshua; and his
10-year-old sister, Jessica.
``I fell in love with him as soon as I laid my eyes on him,'' Amy Young wrote.
``I am so proud to have had him in my life.''
``My big brother Jai was more than a brother to me; he was also my best friend.
In fact, he was like a second father to me,'' wrote Joshua Young. He recalled
the day when, after four years of trying, he had finally beaten Jai at a
videogame, and the look on Jai's face.
``I would give anything to see his face again,'' Del Rio read. ``I would give up
everything to have Jai back in my life again.''
And Jessica, whom Young used to take out to dinner all the time: ``My handsome
and big brother Jai. . . . Jai was so nice, and he deserved better than what
happened to him, because he never hurt anyone else, and he tried to understand
everyone and help them if he could.''
Sobs echoed through the church as Del Rio read the words of Major Young.
``I was proud of you since the first time I laid eyes on you at the hospital,
when you were born,'' the major wrote. ``You were always a source of pride for
us, even though I know it was tough for you, growing up on the city's south
side, with all the kids knowing you were the son of a cop.
``How did you handle it in the end? You followed in my footsteps. Sadly, you
won't have the opportunity to have some little one follow in yours.''
The major recalled his pride when his son joined the Providence police.
Describing the moment when he pinned a badge to his son's chest at the
Providence Police Academy's graduation ceremonies in May 1997, he wrote, ``I had
to use every reserve to keep from shouting out with joy.''
When Mr. Washington took the pulpit for his sermon, the mournful tone was
replaced by old-fashioned brimstone shouted toward the rafters.
``Jai was selfless, even in the line of duty, even off duty,'' Mr. Washington
said. ``He gave himself so others may live. For he's not dead. He lives.''
Turning to Leisa Young, Jai's mother and a member of the congregation, Mr.
Washington added: ``It's like Jesus, Leisa. It's like Jesus. God gave up his
only begotten son.''
Mr. Washington's voice rose to shouts as he led the congregation into a
passionate tribute to Young.
``Blessed is Jai, who still wants to be righteous! Blessed is Jai! Blessed is
Jai!'' He raced up and down the sanctuary, and many rose to their feet and
In a closing reflection, Mr. Bala encouraged the mourners to find meaning in
Young's death. Noting that the imprisonment and murder of St. John the Baptist
gave rise to the ministry of Jesus, the pastor said Young's death ``presents us
an opportunity in Providence to come together to talk about peace, do something
about equality, and do something about justice.''
``I want to encourage family members that Jai's death is not in vain, but it is
the beginning of a ministry,'' Mr. Bala said. ``It is the beginning of a purpose
for us, as people, to be united together, black and white, red and yellow,
regardless of where we come from. . . .
``We don't know how it's going to turn out,'' Mr. Bala continued. ``But family
members, friends, police officers, dignitaries -- we have to be accountable to
this man's life, and we cannot let this go on without having the results of
bringing a community together.''
At the end, Leisa Young stood to thank those who had come to honor her son.
``I feel so very proud and very grateful to you all,'' she said. ``I have been
very quiet since last Friday, but all the prayers have gotten us through so
As the service concluded, a sea of uniforms stretched out along Hope Street to
prepare for the funeral procession. Young's police academy classmates stood to
one side, with his close friend Patrolwoman Tara Mastracchio holding the class
flag. Saraiva, a member of the class, was absent, as was Solitro, a graduate of
last year's academy session.
More than 2,000 police officers, firefighters, prison guards, park rangers and
other law-enforcement officials participated in the mile-long procession,
according to the Providence police.
Every law-enforcement agency in Rhode Island had sent representatives, and large
contingents had also come from Boston, Brockton, Mass., Hartford and the
Connecticut State Police, among others.
They shivered in the piercing cold as a horse-drawn caisson waited for the
coffin to be carried out by a Providence police honor guard. A single bagpiper
from the New York City Police Department's Emerald Society played a mournful
tune as Major Young and his family stood at the door, watching.
Then the honor guard took the lead, followed by Cianci, Partington and Prignano
and then, in order of rank, hundreds of Providence police officers and
firefighters. Behind them marched the state police and the out-of-town officers,
and finally the Emerald Society, the family and the civilians.
The procession stretched from Hope Street down Rochambeau Avenue, all the way to
Blackstone Boulevard, where it turned north, to Swan Point Cemetery.
The coffin was carried into the cemetery chapel, as police stood somberly
outside. The family went in to pray, then emerged for a final military tribute.
The officers stiffened into a salute, and seven men standing at a distance fired
three shots each in unison. Two officers played taps.
Then, very slowly, the mourners walked away.
With staff reports by W. Zachary Malinowski.
on this topic
Fire officers who fatally shot Young
Alliance of Rhode Island also demands that the attorney general's office remove
itself from the investigation and that charges against Aldrin Diaz be dropped.
By ARIEL SABAR
Journal Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE -- Mourning over the death of Sgt. Cornel
Young Jr. will turn to protest for the first time today, as a group of ministers
from black and Hispanic churches demands that the two officers who shot Young be
An official with the Ministers' Alliance of Rhode Island said that the group
also plans to demand at a news conference that the attorney general's office
remove itself from the investigation and that Mayor Vincent A. Cianci Jr.
retract his statement Saturday that the shooting was not racially motivated.
In addition, the group will ask that authorities drop the felony murder charge
against Aldrin Diaz, 30, of Providence, a suspect at the scene where Young died.
Critics say Diaz has been made a scapegoat in Young's death.
The Urban League of Rhode Island says it will make similar demands at meetings
with Cianci and Atty. Gen. Sheldon Whitehouse later this week.
The developments, together with a possible protest at City Hall today by a
Providence community group, mark an important shift away from a period of
mourning toward one in which the concerns of minority leaders move into the
Those leaders said yesterday that anger over the shooting has been boiling over
in minority neighborhoods, but that they have heeded the wishes of Young's
family for calm in memory of the officer. With Young buried yesterday, they said
in interviews that they would now press for a thorough, independent probe into
the shooting, and would hold police to account for what they say has been a
long, troubled relationship with minorities in the city.
Immediately after the shooting, ``We decided we were going to respect and honor
the dead and, with due respect to the family, we were not going to cause any
confict or problems,'' said Dennis B. Langley, executive director of the Urban
League. ``The strategy is changing. The strategy now is to devise a plan of
The Ministers' Alliance, a group of ministers from more than two dozen churches
across the state, is expected to release the initial results this morning of its
independent probe into the shooting. One minister said yesterday that it will
contain new information about Young's death last Friday outside an restaurant on
``I don't want any confrontation with the mayor or the colonel [Police Chief
Urbano Prignano Jr.] or the attorney general,'' said the Rev. Theodore Wilson
II, the senior pastor of the Congdon Street Baptist Church on College Hill and
the parliamentarian for the Ministers' Alliance, which met for more than two
hours yesterday after Young's funeral. ``We just want reconciliation and
resolution and what's right and what's truthful.
``In a situation like this, we can't afford to wait,'' he added. ``The trail
gets cold, the spin starts to run and people start to forget about it. It
becomes difficult then for David to defeat the Goliath of falsehoods.''
Though the ministers' group and the Urban League are preaching peace, others
seem to be taking a more aggressive approach.
An E-mail circulated by a volunteer for the Providence community group Direct
Action for Rights & Equality, or DARE, urges people to attend a ``mass
mobilization'' at 3 p.m. today in which ``people from all over the Providence
community are planning to storm City Hall.''
The E-mail, which was obtained by The Journal, includes a list of demands, among
them one to ``fire the racist cops responsible.'' The E-mail says that the group
is trying to ``silently mobilize -- talk to no media, no city officials.''
DARE Executive Director Shannah Kurland declined to confirm or deny the
existence of any protest.
Cianci said yesterday that he was willing to meet with civil-rights groups. But
he questioned whether public protests would do any good.
``Splitting the communities up to demonstrate for different agendas is not
constructive at this point,'' he said. ``We just buried him today, and we need
to come together as a community, not go into negativity.''
The attorney general's office and the Providence police are investigating the
shooting, and will present their findings to a grand jury.
Young had been waiting for a steak sandwich takeout order at Fidas Restaurant at
1:40 a.m. Friday when a fight broke out in the restaurant and continued in the
parking lot, where witnesses say Diaz waved a gun.
Young was off duty, but was following Police Department procedure by carrying a
gun. He drew the weapon in an attempt to break up the fight.
When Patrolmen Carlos A. Saraiva and Michael Solitro III arrived in response to
a 911 call, they apparently did not recognize their fellow officer. They ordered
Diaz and Young to drop their guns. The police said that Diaz complied, but Young
Saraiva and Solitro, who are white, then opened fire, striking Young with three
bullets. Young died later at Rhode Island Hospital.
Diaz was charged with felony murder, under a law that allows the police to
charge a suspect with murder if anyone dies while that suspect is committing a
In interviews yesterday, critics of the police said they planned to protest the
charge, alleging that the police were trying to find a scapegoat for an
embarrassing shooting of one of their own. They noted that Diaz's girlfriend,
who unlike Diaz was white, was charged only with possession of an illegal
``To charge him with felony murder is more of an emotional than a rational
reaction,'' said Derek P. Ellerman, the executive director of the Center for
Police and Community, a police-watchdog group. ``I understand that the law is in
place, but I do not think it's a just application of the law.''
The Urban League and the Ministers' Alliance also plan to ask for the
establishment of an independent board to lead the probe into the shooting.
Their leaders said yesterday that many minorities distrust the attorney
general's office, in part because of its strong ties to law enforcement in the
state and in part because many resent the attorney general's prosecution of
Derek S. Hazard, a 27-year-old black man from Providence, for a 1996 murder
several witnesses say he did not commit.
Emerging on Sunday from the first meeting with Cianci over Young's death, the
city's black leaders called for calm. ``We do not want to talk about problems,''
Clifford Montiero, president of the Providence branch of the NAACP, said at the
time. ``We just want to get through the pain.''
But on Monday night, some 35 to 40 civil rights and religious leaders met for
more than two hours in the basement of the Allen A.M.E. Church in the West End
for an emotional session on what action to take after Young's funeral, two
sources said yesterday.
It was there that a list of demands was assembled, drawing a loose consensus
from participants, said Ellerman, who was there.
The demands included the dismissal of the officers, the dropping of charges
against Diaz, the start of an independent probe into the shooting, and a request
that Cianci retract his statement to reporters on Saturday that race wasn't a
factor in the shooting. The leaders said yesterday that Cianci's remark that
Rhode Islanders shouldn't make the shooting ``something that it's not'' was an
unwarranted rush to judgment given that the investigation into the probe is
With staff reports by Jennifer Levitz.
on this topic
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