Only on 10: Woman rescued during highway shooting speaks out about grandy jury decision

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. Inset: Melissa Rios. (Courtesy Steve McLaughlin/WJAR)

The Providence woman trapped in her car during the shooting on Interstate 95 said she is still dealing with the physical, mental and financial effects of the incident.

Melissa Rios was driving to work Nov. 9 when a white pick-up truck began ramming her car.

State and city police had been pursuing Joseph Santos, who they believed was a different man who allegedly stole a state trooper’s cruiser.

Nine law enforcement officers fired more than 40 times and killed Santos. Rios was pulled out of her car by a police officer.

“I feel like I’m starting all over again,” she told NBC 10 News. “It’s been hard.”

The Rhode Island Attorney General said Friday that a Providence County grand jury found Rhode Island State Police and Providence police "lawful and legally justified" in the fatal shooting.

"The Rhode Island State Police believes the Grand Jury made the right decision. The men and women of the Rhode Island State Police and the Providence Police Department did what they are trained to do to protect the lives of innocent people who were in imminent danger that day," Col. Ann Assumpico, superintendent of the state police, said in a statement.

Still, Rios said she is traumatized.

“I take medications to be able to sleep at night. I see my doctor regularly,” she said. “I got stuck in the middle of this tragedy and I’m not getting paid. I haven’t been able to go back to work. I don’t have a vehicle. I walk my kids to school.”

Her attorney, Michael Lombardi, believes his client should be compensated for the totaled car and medical expenses totaling more than $1,000.

Lombardi said there has been little communication from law enforcement, state or city leaders.

“We’re interested in a settlement. We can’t even get a phone call at this point,” Lombardi said.

He said he has received one accident report since the incident. Lombardi has not ruled out a lawsuit, but is waiting on more documents.

“We have Ms. Rios not receiving one penny from a party being afraid of being at fault,” he said.

Rios said she is working day by day and wants the ordeal to be over.

“Everything feels like it’s crumbling,” she said.

Police said Santos led officers on a chase on Route 10 to an on-ramp to I-95, where he became stuck in traffic. Police said they fired on Santos when he started ramming his pickup truck into other cars and spinning its wheels to create a plume of smoke.

A passenger in the pickup truck, Christine Demers, was wounded.

The attorney general said the Rhode Island State Police officers involved were Lt. Cynthia Trahan, Cpl. Scott Carlsten, Cpl. Herbert Tilson and Trooper Garrett Hassett. The Providence police officers involved were Maj. Oscar Perez, Sgt. Gregory Paolo, Officer Matthew McGloin, Officer Thomas Zincone and Officer Christopher Ziroli.

The pursuit of the truck stemmed from the search for a man accused of stealing a state police cruiser earlier in the day. Santos was not the man who stole the cruiser.

Civil liberties advocates raised questions about whether police followed proper procedures for high-speed chases and use of force.

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