East Providence Police detectives help snatch an illegal handgun off the streets

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SEEKONK — By happenstance and savvy police instincts, a couple of area police detectives helped take an unregistered gun off the streets following their involvement in a pair of arrests recently just over the state border.
Major Nelson DeGouveia, of the Bristol County Sheriffs Office, and Detective Sergeant Diogo Mello, of the East Providence Police Department, assisted Seekonk Police with the capture of Derek Smith and Briana Bernier on Wednesday, March 5, in the parking lot of the Motel Six, located at 821 Fall River Ave.
Mr. Smith, 26 and of 231 Valley St., first floor, Providence, was eventually arrested on charges of possession of a firearm without a permit and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Ms. Bernier, 20, is also being charged with possession of a firearm without a permit.
The incident evolved rather innocuously. Major DeGouveia and Sgt. Mello, both members of area’s SCAT (SouthCoastAnti-CrimeTeam) unit, were situated in the adjacent Pub 99 restaurant parking lot, located at 821 Fall River Ave., at approximately 12:30 p.m. The detectives were there working on an unrelated case.
According to Sgt. Mello’s report on the matter, he and Major DeGouveia observed what appeared to be a “transaction” of some sort involving occupants of two vehicles roughly 100 yards from where they were located. The detectives watched as one of the vehicles exited the parking lot area in the vicinity of Motel 6 and attempted to obtain its registration number, but their view was obstructed. As they searched out the vehicle, while remaining in their car, they observed another car backed into a space in the Motel 6 lot.
The detectives observed the vehicle was occupied by two people, later identified as Ms. Bernier, in the operator’s seat, and Mr. Smith, on the passenger side. The occupants, according to Sgt. Mello’s report, were “both looking down as if they were preoccupied with something.”
The detectives continued their attempt to locate the vehicle of their initial interest, but to no avail. Instead, they turned their attention to the vehicle occupied by Ms. Bernier and Mr. Smith, parking about 50 feet away to monitor any activity.
After a brief period of observation, approximately five minutes according to Sgt. Mello’s report, the detectives determined the situation necessitated a field interview. As Sgt. Mello and Major DeGouveia, still in their unmarked police car, approached the vehicle, Mr. Smith exited it from the passenger side. At that point, the detectives moved in on foot, identifying themselves as police officers and presenting the possible suspects with their badges.
Mr. Smith immediately attempted to reenter the vehicle, but was prevented from doing so by Major DeGouveia. While doing so and with the vehicle door still open, the major observed “a black and silver handgun sticking out from under Smith’s seat.” Major DeGouveia immediately informed Sgt. Mello of the gun, prompting the latter to  draw his service weapon to cover his partner while the major placed Mr. Smith in custody. Ms. Bernier was then removed from the vehicle and secured as well.
Sgt. Mello next contacted dispatch and requested Seekonk Police officers respond to the location, which they did shortly. The two suspects were taken into Seekonk’s custody. Seekonk Police Detective Charles Mello processed the scene, locating, photographing and seizing evidence in the vehicle which included “U.S. currency, marijuana and a loaded Taurus 9mm handgun (16 clip and one chamber).”
Both Mr. Smith and Ms. Bernier were being held at the Dartmouth House of Corrections on charges of illegal gun possession pending a dangerousness hearing, which was scheduled for this week.

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