WEST GREENWICH – On Saturday, an Environmental Police Officer (EPO) discharged his service weapon after allegedly being struck and injured by a man on a dirt bike at the Big River Management Area in West Greenwich. The EPO was taken by ambulance to Kent County Hospital.
Per the use-of-deadly force protocol established by the Office of Attorney General, the incident is currently being investigated by the Rhode Island State Police.
The dirtbiker, Austin DiPeitro, 22, of 14 Clover Drive, Coventry, was charged with one count of assaulting a police officer, one count of obstructing a police officer in execution of duty, one count of failure to stop or move on an oral command of an environmental police officer and one count of reckless driving in an attempt to elude an officer.
After being processed at the Department of Environmental Management’s (DEM) Wickford Marine base in North Kingstown on Saturday, DiPeitro was released on $2,000 surety bail with court dates still to be scheduled.
Michael J. Healey, DEM’s Chief Public Affairs Officer, said that the state police are currently investigating whether or not the EPO’s use of deadly force was appropriate.
“The state police are investigating the circumstances into our officer’s use of deadly force and, given those circumstances, whether or not it was appropriate,” Healey said.
He added that DiPeitro was not injured in the incident, though went on to say that it would be inappropriate for DEM to comment or speculate on the investigation.
According to DEM, dirtbikes and all-terrain vehicles are prohibited at the Big River Management Area, which DEM is responsible for.
“DEM is responsible for managing the 8,000-acre parcel, which is owned by the RI Water Resources Board,” the department stated in a press release. “Under state regulations, dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles are prohibited in state management areas – unless allowed through a special use permit – because they can cause ecological damage.”
Further arrests stemming from the incident include that of Jonathan C. Maaz, 23, of 51 Montcalm Road in Warwick, and Tyler Perry, 24, of Lane 4, Warwick.
Maaz was charged with one count of obstructing a police officer, one count of failure to stop or move on the command of an officer and one count of eluding an officer and released on personal recognizance bail, while Perry was charged with one count of obstruction and released on a summons to appear.