R.I. Police Officers Cleared in Raid

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R.I. Police Officers Cleared in Raid

PROVIDENCE, R. I. -- State police had inside information before their July 14 raid on a tribal smoke shop that the Narragansett Indians would resist if officers tried to shut down their tax-free tobacco stand, according to an internal police investigation.

The internal report, released by Governor Carcieri's office and obtained by The Providence Journal, concludes that officers "acted appropriately" with "the lowest level of force" in their raid on the smoke shop, which escalated into a grappling match between the police and tribal members. But the report appears not to directly answer Carcieri's own question, posed the day after the raid: Why did the police not withdraw, as the governor says he had ordered, when they encountered resistance from the tribe?

Narragansett Chief Sachem Matthew Thomas, one of seven tribal members arrested during the incident, dismissed the internal police investigation as "a whitewash" and "a waste of paper." "It's the state police covering for their own," Thomas said.

Carcieri, through his spokesman, Jeff Neal, said he was "satisfied" with the report. As for any apparent discrepancies, the governor will leave those to his five-member review panel that is studying the smoke shop incident in detail.

The governor has maintained that the tribe's tax-free tobacco shop was illegal. He has acknowledged ordering the police raid to close it down. In planning the raid, the state police tried to calculate potential risks, according to the report of the internal investigation, The Journal report said.

TV news cameras captured the escalating melee, with tribal members and police officers wrestling until the police overpowered the resistance. The report states that no weapons or pepper spray were used, and no blows struck. Still, video of the melee drew complaints from civil-rights groups.

The report contends: "The troopers responded to the assaults by tribal members with the lowest level of force given the facts and circumstances presented at the time of the engagement."

Seven tribal members, including Thomas, were arrested. Early news reports said that at least eight people were hurt.