Providence officer saves woman trapped in car surrounded by gunfire

When Providence Police Officer Ivan Tavarez went to rescue a woman from her car during a deadly shooting on Interstate-95, a second round of shots rang out. “I was worried. I mean, I was worried that anybody could have gotten hit,” Tavarez told NBC 10 News Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017. (WJAR)

When Providence Police Officer Ivan Tavarez went to rescue a woman trapped in her car during a deadly shooting on Interstate-95, a second round of shots rang out.

“I was worried. I mean, I was worried that anybody could have gotten hit,” Tavarez told NBC 10 News Thursday.

Tavarez was one of the officers on I-95 who was trying to get a white pickup truck to come to a stop on the morning of Nov. 9. Officers initially thought Donald Morgan, who had been accused of a stealing a state police cruiser, was in the truck.

In the midst of the gunfire, Tavarez noticed a woman caught in the chaos. Melissa Rios was inside a silver car as the driver of the truck, Joseph Santos, rammed it into a guardrail.

“She can't get out because her vehicle's actually wedged in between the car and the guardrail,” Tavarez said. “I see her trying to jump over the center console.”

With seconds to act, Tavarez jumped over the railing and ran to the passenger door of the silver car.

At that moment, Rios told NBC 10 News she had one thing on her mind.

“Don't let nothing happen to me. I have four kids at home,” Rios said, noting that she feared for her life.

As Tavarez reached in through the window, the second round of shots was fired. He then pulled Rios out of the car and helped her hide behind a nearby car.

“She was just shocked, you know, a look of fear on her face but she wasn't saying anything,” Tavarez said.

Tavarez has been on the Providence police force for nearly 11 years. He said what he did wasn't heroic.

“I don't want to sound like a cliché, but I was only doing what any other officer would've done in my situation. I mean, the only difference is my incident was caught on camera. Officers do this every day,” Tavarez said.

Rios said she’s grateful for Tavarez’s brave actions, but said the incident has left her traumatized. She said she can't get into a car without covering her eyes.

“I can't look at the road,” Rios said. “I can't open my eyes. I just cry. I feel like they took a piece of my life away.”

Tavarez sympathizes with Rios. As an officer, he said he’s trained to handle situations like that. Civilians aren’t, he said.

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