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LITTLE COMPTON, R.I. (WPRI) — “Ease up, he’s turning blue.”
That’s what one partygoer told police he said to a man who’d pinned Steven Velozo to the floor amid a drunken brawl last fall in Little Compton. Velozo was subsequently transported to St. Anne’s Hospital in Fall River where he pronounced dead.
Little Compton police and a statewide grand jury have since investigated his death — which a Massachusetts medical examiner ruled a homicide — and they decided last month not to bring any criminal charges against the men involved in the fight.
But new police documents released Wednesday help shine light on the drunken circumstances leading up to the Velozo’s death, which have been shrouded in secrecy ever since the 47-year-old man was killed last October.
“Once in the home, we observed Steven Velozo lying on his back,” Senior Patrolman Jon Pomerleau wrote in a report filed on Oct. 2. “Tiverton FD performed CPR and rescue breaths on Velozo until he was attached to a [chest compression] machine and loaded into the ambulance.”
Police said Velozo had been “drinking heavily” at his mother’s home during a going-away party for her. The party was attended by multiple former and current emergency responders and witness accounts about what happened varied.
But the general thrust of their accounts included allegations that Velozo pushed down his mother twice while fighting a man he incorrectly identified as someone else he was upset about being at the party.
“I got in front of my son again and I tried to calm him down,” his mother later told police. “I’m like, ‘Steve, that’s our friend … the other guy left.’”
But the fighting continued until at least two other men joined the fray and multiple witnesses said they restrained Velozo and took him to the ground.
One of the men “stayed on top of Velozo with his knee in the small of Velozo’s back, pinning him to the ground,” according to a witness. He added the man “stayed in this position for about one minute, commanding Velozo to calm down repeatedly.”
That’s about the time a different witness made the comment that Velozo was “turning blue,” and two different people in attendance attempted to administer CPR.
“As soon as he started doing CPR and all that stuff to him … I could tell it wasn’t — it wasn’t going to work because he was blue,” a separate witness later told police, according a transcript released in response to a Target 12 public records request.
There are portions of the report that are redacted and police don’t appear to have interviewed everyone at the party, acknowledging at one point they were receiving different accounts about how it happened.
The man who reportedly pinned Velozo to the ground until he became unresponsive provided police with an initial statement, but his attorney later told police he’d advised his client “not to answer questions.”
As Target 12 first reported, a grand jury convened last month to decide whether anyone should be held accountable criminally for Velozo’s death. R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office later said the grand jury returned a “no true bill,” meaning they hadn’t heard enough evidence to establish probable cause for criminal charges.
The grand jury called multiple witnesses over the week, but the proceedings are kept secret making it difficult to know what was shared with the jury. Velozo’s mother had previously told police she didn’t blame the people who restrained her son.
“All I know, it was like, three of ’em, and it just happened so fast,” she told police. “But there was nothing wrong or bad. Nobody did anything wrong. They were just trying to restrain him.”
Velozo’s death has been looming over the Rhode Island seaside town of 3,500 people, which hadn’t previously seen a homicide since 1999, according to state police records.
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