Woman injured in deadly 2017 highway shooting sues police

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A woman seriously injured when police opened fire on a busy Rhode Island highway in 2017 after a high-speed chase in a search for a stolen police cruiser has sued the police.

Attorneys for Christine Demers, who was a passenger in the car fired at by officers, said in the lawsuit filed this week that nearly three years later she “continues to experience health problems and physical scarring that will plague her for the rest of her life.”

Demers was riding with her boyfriend, Joseph Santos, on Nov. 9, 2017, in a white pickup, the same type of vehicle police were looking for in connection with the theft of the cruiser.

Surveillance video captured by state highway cameras showed Santos speeding away from officers 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.

A different man later was charged with stealing the cruiser.

A bullet punctured Demers' kidney, liver, and diaphragm, her lawyers say in the lawsuit, which was filed against several Providence and state police officers.

“The Providence Police and the Rhode Island State Police together created a situation which put Christine Demers’s life at significant risk and ultimately resulted in her severe and permanent injuries. At every step, the police acted to put Ms. Demers in increased danger,” her attorney, Georgi J. Vogel-Rosen, wrote in an email statement.

A spokeswoman for Providence police declined to comment. An email was sent to state police officials.

A grand jury in 2018 determined that that the shooting was “lawful and legally justified.” Police have said the shooting was justified because Santos was putting lives at risk.