Further information has been learned about Kenneth Cunningham, the California parolee and the subject of a shooting in Apponaug last week.
Warwick Police Commander Michael Babula said yesterday that it was more than a simple parole violation that prompted Cunningham to flee police. Cunningham was under strictly supervised parole in California for an attempted murder charge he spent 12 years in prison for, from 2000 to 2013, in California.
“He was wearing a [tracer] bracelet when he assaulted his girlfriend, which was a serious violation of his parole,” said Babula. “He decided to take off his bracelet and run in November of 2013 and was on the run since then, until we ran into him last week.”
A pair of Warwick officers on routine patrol spotted Cunningham in Oakland Beach on Aug. 18. They ran the plates and learned that the owner was wanted in California for a parole violation and attempted to stop the truck. The pickup truck would not stop and they pursued it as they were calling for backup. Other officers boxed the truck in at the Lockwood Condominiums, but he brandished a handgun out the window of the car and then crashed into two cruisers and forced his way past them and then onto Station Street, where he abandoned his truck and ran across the railroad tracks in the direction of Arnold’s Neck Drive, where he was confronted with officers coming from the other direction and was told to surrender several times before police responded to gunshots from him and hit him three times and he went down. He was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital, where he continues to be listed in critical but stable condition.
“He has family in the area,” said Babula, “but he was staying with someone else, who had no idea of his situation. He had no local address [of his own].”
In the meantime, the Attorneys General for California and Rhode Island will have to work out whether he will stay in Rhode Island and answer to charges of felony assault, possession of a firearm by a felon, being a fugitive from justice and possibly other charges before he is returned to California. A felony screening is scheduled for Sept. 15.
Last week, an employee of Twin Shellfish on Harrop Avenue described the drama unfolding as he watched a white guy and police running on the tracks just before the shooting started.
“It was pretty hairy,” said Tim McGiveney. “We were watching from behind a truck, over there, [he pointed to the rear of the lot]. We saw him up on the tracks with a red shirt in one hand – he was shirtless – and something else in the other, which must have been the gun. We heard lots of shots and then one very loud one, which must have been a shotgun, just before it stopped.”
The three officers involved in the shooting have been relieved of duty with pay as the Rhode Island State Police review the circumstances surrounding the shooting. Warwick Police Chief Col. Stephen McCartney said he’s confident that they will find that lethal force was justified under the circumstances.
Mayor Scott Avedisian was on the scene last week and professed he was also sure it would be found justifiable and said he was there to “express my confidence in my police chief and my officers,” he said. “Thank God no one else was hurt.”