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Author: Mike Wood

Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A grand jury has determined that a deadly police shooting on a busy Providence highway that killed a man caught up in the search for someone who stole a state police cruiser was “lawful and legally justified.”

Joseph Santos, 32, was driving a white pickup, the same type of vehicle police were looking for in connection with the theft of the cruiser on Nov. 9.

Surveillance video captured by state highway cameras showed Santos speeding away from officers in a white pickup truck onto a Providence-area highway, then getting caught in traffic as he merged onto Interstate 95 next to the Providence Place mall. He then repeatedly rammed another car.

At that point, authorities say, nine officers from Providence and state police shot more than 40 rounds into the pickup. Santos was killed with a gunshot wound to the neck, according to the medical examiner’s office. His passenger, Christine Demers, 37, was severely injured.

A different man was later charged with stealing the cruiser, and police have never detailed whether they think there was any connection between the cruiser theft and Santos fleeing.

Police previously said the shooting was justified because Santos was putting lives at risk. But civil liberties advocates have raised questions about whether police followed proper procedures for high-speed chases and use of force.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin’s office announced the grand jury findings on Friday.

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