Grand jury clears Portsmouth police in Tiverton man's death


PORTSMOUTH — The Statewide Grand Jury has determined that Portsmouth police were justified in actions taken to subdue a Tiverton man on February 3, 2012. That man, Craig Raposa, 25, of 1 Mill St., Tiverton, died shortly after the late-night struggle.

This incident was investigated by the Rhode Island State Police with the Office of Attorney General and presented to the Grand Jury.  It is the responsibility of the Grand Jury to determine the facts, apply the law to those facts and to decide whether anyone may be charged with criminal wrongdoing. The jury determined that the actions by the officers were lawful and legally justified. No further details of such proceedings are made available, said Amy Kempe, public information officer for the Attorney General.

In reaction to the jury findings, Acting Portsmouth Police Chief Jeffrey Furtado said, "Although we were confident that our officers had conducted themselves appropriately, and while we are pleased with the Grand Jury’s findings, we are nevertheless sorrowed by the fact that a human life was lost.  It is truly unfortunate that despite our best efforts, a tragedy still occurred."

Mr. Raposa was pronounced dead at Newport Hospital at around 12:45 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4, after being rushed there by Portsmouth rescuers.

Then-Police Chief Lance Hebert said that the Fire Department had received a 911 call from Mr. Raposa over an hour earlier at 11:22 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 3, asking that rescuers check on the well-being of his mother who lives at Almeida Terrace off West Main Road. Firefighters asked that a police officer also respond.

Rescue personnel "found Mr. Raposa's mother to he fine but determined that Mr. Raposa, who was on scene himself, seemed to be experiencing psychological difficulties."

Fire and police officers tried to persuade Mr. Raposa to allow rescuers to take him to the hospital for evaluation, Chief Hebert said.

"Initially, Mr. Raposa was cooperative and in agreement" but was he was escorted to the ambulance, "Mr. Raposa suddenly became combative and attempted to flee.

"The lone police officer on the scene attempted to restrain Mr. Raposa and a struggle ensued," the chief continued.

"Due to Mr. Raposa's physical size and strength accompanied with him being combative, the police officer was forced to release  an OC (pepper spray) in an attempt to subdue Mr. Raposa while trying to handcuff him."

The pepper spray "had no apparent effect and the struggle continued.

"A that time, Portsmouth rescue personnel, a nearby civilian and Mr. Raposa's mother then attempted to assist the officer in gaining control over him" but Mr. Raposa "continued to violently resist their efforts." Only after two more officers arrived was he finally restrained.

"Shortly thereafter, Mr. Raposa became unresponsive and was transported to Newport Hospital where he was pronounced dead."

Mr. Raposa's mother, Brenda, was later reported as saying that she felt her son had a right to refuse to go to the hospital and that police did not need to use such force to make him do so.

Chief Hebert said he asked State Police to investigate.

Interviewed several days later, Chief Hebert said police believe that Mr. Raposa's initial 911 call about his mother was a hoax, meant to get him into her apartment.

He said that local police had had contact with Mr. Raposa in the past involving "mental health issues" and "being an unwanted party on two occasions." He had not been previously arrested by Portsmouth police.


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.