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PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The man who reportedly lost an eye after a Providence officer shot him with what the police department has dubbed a “less-lethal” projectile is now suing the capital city.
The lawsuit comes nearly three years after the alleged incident, which happened as hundreds of people converged in front of the Providence Place Mall.
Eduardo Santos was driving through Kennedy Plaza that night when he spotted officers chasing someone down the street. An investigative report obtained by 12 News reveals Santos told investigators he saw six officers “beating on a kid with sticks.”
Santos was stopped at a red light when he started yelling at the officers, according to the report, which is when he said “…something struck him in the eye without warning.”
His common-law wife recorded the entire incident on her cell phone from the passenger’s seat. Upon noticing Santos was injured, the report states she switched seats with him and drove him to the hospital.
It was later learned that Sgt. Sean Comella fired his less-lethal device after a glass bottle was thrown at him, according to the report. Comella thought Santos was the one who threw the bottle at him, though surveillance footage later revealed that wasn’t the case.
Santos had his eye surgically removed due to the severity of the damage. He also underwent facial reconstruction surgery.
Comella was placed on administrative leave after the incident, but returned to the force after Attorney General Peter Neronha cleared him of any wrongdoing last October.
Neronha determined Comella’s actions were reasonable and legally justified, though he did stray from protocol by failing to verbally warn Santos before firing.
The lawsuit alleges that Comella violated Santos’ civil rights by using excessive and unnecessary use of force.
Sonja Deyoe, Santos’ attorney, tells 12 News that it has not yet been decided how much they will be seeking in damages, but said it would be at least seven figures.
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