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ACLU questions how high-speed chase ended in deadly shooting

Providence police shot and killed a man who led officers on a high speed chase from Route 10 to an on-ramp to Interstate 95 in Providence. (Courtesy Steve McLaughlin)

The American Civil Liberties Union raised questions Monday about how a high-speed chase that ended in a deadly shooting involving officers on Interstate 95 in Rhode Island.

The ACLU of Rhode Island is questioning whether the chase and use of force were justified, why more body cameras weren't activated and why state police haven't released the involved troopers' names.

Police say Joseph Santos, 32, tried to speed away from officers Thursday but got caught in traffic and repeatedly rammed another car in front of him as officers jumped out of the way.

“This chase really endangered the motoring public. It was high speed. There were many, many cars involved and Providence Police Department policy, like most policies across the country, limit the circumstances of when those types of chases should be held,” said Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the ACLU.

Providence and state police fired more than 40 rounds, killing Santos and injuring his passenger, Christine Demers, 37. Both agencies praised the responding officers for keeping the public safe.

"In the absence of additional information, it would be wrong to blame the police for what they did," the ACLU said in a commentary on the shooting. "But it is just as inappropriate for police officials to so quickly conclude that there is no fault by police for what happened either."

State police superintendent Col. Ann Assumpico, in a press conference Saturday, wouldn't release the names of the four troopers involved, although she commended them, The Providence Journal reported .

The ACLU is asking state police to release its high-speed pursuit policy and the troopers' names. It says the agency's decision not to name the troopers "represents a glaring and troubling lack of transparency."

“You might wanna know how long have these police officers been on the force? Have they been subjected to any disciplinary actions in the past? You know having their names out there is really part of the job when such a high-profile incident occurs, especially when we’re talking about the use of deadly force,” Brown said.

The state police and Providence police didn't respond to a request for comment Monday.

The shooting happened less than two hours after a suspect who was being taken to court was left alone in a state police cruiser. The man stole the police vehicle, driving it to a Providence neighborhood and abandoning it.

Authorities on Friday arrested 35-year-old Donald Morgan, who was wanted for stealing the cruiser.

Assumpico said the trooper who left Morgan alone was "following protocol," according to The Providence Journal. She said the trooper stopped to investigate an accident scene, and state police must leave their keys in their cars to run emergency lights. She would not name the trooper.

(NBC 10 News contributed to this report.)

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