Just after midnight on Jan. 22, 2012, Warwick police were dispatched to 433 Nausauket Rd. for a report of a shooting there. A screaming woman told them someone was shot and needed help. She told the officers the name of the suspect and they asked her where the suspect was. The officers found a man bleeding on the floor and another man holding a towel or blanket to the neck of the man on the floor as the other officers cleared the house.
They found there were only three people in the house and that the suspect had left before Warwick Rescue workers arrived on the scene. The smell of burnt gunpowder was still in the air as Rescue relieved the man holding the towel and began administering CPR to the victim as they prepared him for the ride to Rhode Island Hospital’s trauma center.
More Warwick police arrived and sealed off the area and a sergeant ordered one officer to ride with the EMTs to Rhode Island Hospital, in case the victim could answer questions about the incident but the EMTs said there was no room and the officer was to follow the Rescue truck to Providence. But the ambulance called in that they were going to Kent Hospital instead. Nine members of the emergency room staff greeted the ambulance as it pulled into the triage area. It was 12:25 a.m., less than 30 minutes from the time the shots were fired. The victim, identified as Carl Cunningham Jr. of Warwick, was pronounced dead at 12:33.
The story of what happened that morning was told at length over the past two weeks and it took the jury two hours to decide it happened the way police and witnesses said it did. Tony G. Gonzalez, a 26-year-old reputed marijuana seller from Providence, came to Nausauket Road to shoot his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend. The new boyfriend’s buddy, 23-year-old Carl Cunningham, got between them and took the bullets that were intended for Matthew Chivers, who was in the closet of the bedroom when the shooting started.
It took the jury about two hours to decide that the prosecutor’s version of events was undoubtedly true. The defense attorneys attempted to paint Gonzalez’s ex-girlfriend as vindictive and unreliable and corroborative witnesses, many of whom had criminal records, were not to be believed.
The jury came to believe Gonzalez was enraged to learn the woman he was involved with was with another man, so enraged – as Assistant Attorneys General James Healey and Maureen Keough said – he took a gun to her house on Nausauket Road and shot the wrong man, as the woman’s new boyfriend hid behind him in the closet.
Gonzalez’s lawyer, Bryan Owens, pleaded with the jurors not to believe the prosecutors’ witnesses, especially Patricia Delomba, who apparently made no effort to charm anyone in court and said Delomba lies every time she speaks. The defense offered phone records of conversations and texts between Delomba and Gonzalez in which Delomba berated and goaded Gonzalez.
For their part, the prosecutors told the jurors they did not have to like Delomba and they could even believe she contributed to the circumstances that led up to the tragic shooting. The facts remain, they insisted, you have to believe her when she says it was Gonzalez who shot Cunningham and you have to believe all the evidence that supports that conclusion. The jury believed the prosecutors.
Gonzalez will be back in court on March 18 for sentencing.