EAST PROVIDENCE – Police are beefing up their presence at Onna Moniz John-Central Avenue Playground and meeting with concerned neighborhood residents in the wake of a broad-daylight shooting that injured a 22-year-old man at the park last month.
In a report to the City Council Wednesday, Police Chief Joseph Tavares said the department has increased patrols at the park and is considering additional crime prevention measures. In addition, the first in a series of community meetings was held Oct. 10 between city officials and neighboring residents to discuss concerns about the park’s safety.
Located between Central Avenue and McCausland Avenue in the Suttonville section of the city, the Onna Moniz John Park is described as a neighborhood park with plenty of shade trees, the Central Avenue playground for kids 5 to 12 years of age, and a basketball court.
The neighborhood has been on edge since the Sept. 29 shooting at the park, which is typically a quiet, safe place for city youth to recreate. The park, located a short distance from City Hall, is one of several in the East Providence Parks network, which includes 15 neighborhood parks and playgrounds.
Investigators say that on the day of the Sunday shooting an argument escalated between two groups of adult males during a pickup basketball game. One of the men left the basketball court and then returned with a gun. At that point, the 22-year-old victim attempted to run to his car at the corner of John and McCausland Streets when he was shot at least once in the abdomen.
The police already were in route to Central Avenue and John Street after people in the area alerted them about 11:45 a.m. that a fight had broken out, according to police.
When police arrived, they found the victim in his car, reportedly helped there by friends.
The man was treated at the scene by East Providence EMTs before being transported to Rhode Island Hospital, where he was treated and released.
Two brothers, Alexis Valdez, 18; and Eric Valdez, 24, were arrested at 85 Williams Ave. the following day after police executed a search warrant. Alexis Valdez faces charges of intent to commit murder, conspiracy, and using a firearm when committing a crime of violence. Eric Valdez faces charges of simple assault and conspiracy.
The community meeting held on Oct. 10 at City Hall to discuss the shooting was attended by Police Chief Joseph Tavares, Community Police Division Sergeant John Andrews, City Manager Peter Graczykowski and Councilman Helder Cunha. During those discussions, Tavares noted that the shooting was an isolated incident and that the park is normally considered safe.
“It was a very informative and productive meeting,” Cunha said Wednesday. “The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the incident at the park, but what it turned into was an all-encompassing discussion on not just the park and that neighborhood, but what residents want to see happen throughout the entire city.”
Still, he said, city officials agreed to beef up police presence at the park and to have officers engage with those youths who regularly use the park. In addition, the Department of Public Works will be posting additional signs stating the 9 p.m. curfew at the park.
“We’ve come up with some great ideas for the park, like maybe creating an ice rink, so we’re hoping to have some more of these meetings to follow up on those ideas,” Cunha said.
“This (shooting) was an isolated incident, but that doesn’t mean we should just forget about it,” he added. “This is a beautiful park and I think there are ways we can make it safer and even more community-oriented.”
(Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter @jofitz7)