Pawtucket officer Dan Dolan takes stand in his own defense — here's what he said
WARWICK — Off-duty Pawtucket police officer Daniel Dolan was driving an unregistered truck with an open beer beside him on the June evening in 2021 when he pursued a speeding car with intentions, he testified at trial Tuesday, of having a “fatherly chat” with the motorists about the dangers of erratic driving.
As a middle-school resource officer, “that’s what I do all day long," he said. "I call them fatherly chats.”
Instead, Dolan ended up shooting and wounding Dominic Vincent out of fear for his life, he testified, as the then-18-year-old sat behind the wheel of his car outside a West Greenwich pizza shop.
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"At that moment I believed I was going to fall in front of the vehicle . . . and get dragged down the road," Dolan told a Superior Court jury.
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Dolan takes the stand in his own defense
Dolan, facing four felony charges of unjustly shooting Vincent, took the witness stand in his own defense Tuesday, insisting he shot Vincent after aiming through the windshield to stop the car he said was bearing down on him.
Dolan actually shot through the driver’s side passenger window, witnesses and ballistic experts testified — an undisputed fact that prosecutors say proves he was not in harm’s way when he fired.
Under direct questioning by his defense lawyer Michael Colucci, Dolan, 40, explained his years as a Marine and his three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan before joining the Pawtucket Police Department in 2015. Most recently he had been a resource officer at Slater Middle School.
He said he encountered Vincent’s black Audi on the way home to Coventry on Interstate 95 on the evening of June 23, 2021, when it sped past him so fast he could feel the wind shift over the road.
Dolan said he suspected the car was “fleeing from the police,” and that its passing other vehicles in the breakdown lane at more than 100 mph “showed a disregard for human life.”
Still, Dolan said he didn’t decide to pursue the car until he took his normal exit off the highway, Exit 6 at the time, and saw it about 500 feet down Nooseneck Hill Road.
He sped after it to get a license-plate number to pass on to local police, he said, but then noticed it pulling into Wicked Good Pizza and followed it into the parking lot.
Even then, Dolan said his intention was only to “observe” the vehicle. But then Dolan said the car made an "aggressive" move toward his Ford-350 truck as he attempted to pull in beside it.
Vincent testified earlier he had pulled in and started to swing around in the small lot to head back out once they had picked up a pre-ordered pizza.
Dolan then jumped out of the truck and approached the car, showing his badge.
Vincent and two friends testified that they saw this man in cargo pants, a T-shirt and a baseball cap as a threat, not a police officer, and tried to back away from him.
Dolan walked toward the car as it backed out of the parking lot, all the time showing his badge and yelling for the driver to stop.
Dolan said he “found himself” in front of the car and shot only after it had hit him.
“I was knocked backwards and to my right.”
Prosecution tries to discredit Dolan
During cross examination, Assistant Attorney General Daniel Guglielmo, chief of the office’s civil-rights division, sought to discredit Dolan’s testimony.
Guglielmo said Dolan didn’t just find himself in front of the car as if he floated down in front of it. "You purposely walked in front of it, didn't you?" he asked.
“Unintentionally,” Dolan said.
Not true, Guglielmo said, noting Dolan had, on three separate occasions in his official statements to investigators, said that he walked in front of the car. Guglielmo read those parts of the statements to the jury.
And "nowhere in any of those reports did you ever say you were bumped by the car, did you?" again Guglielmo asked. “You come in here expecting the jury to believe you were bumped, knocked backwards by that car, right?”
So “now you are changing you story,” said the prosecutor. “You want this jury to believe that this whole [episode] happened because you wanted to give some fatherly advice?”
"But you had no authority to stop this car, did you?" Guglielmo challenged; Dolan could have called in the plate number to Coventry police, but he didn't.
"You were driving an unregistered truck with an open beer bottle in the front seat," Guglielmo said, and “you pulled in there with the idea you were going to teach this little punk kid a lesson, isn’t that right?”
Dolan said he took only one sip of the beer and passed a field sobriety test.
“You are creating an incredibly dangerous situation, aren’t you?”
"No, sir," Dolan answered.
Asked why he jumped out of his truck so fast if he only wanted to “observe” the situation, as he had earlier testified, Dolan said he “pulled out of the truck looking for a tactical advantage at that point,” wanting to get to the occupants of the car before they got out and possibly surrounded him.
“You’re talking like this is a takedown of al-Qaeda,” said Guglielmo. “This is a pizza stand!"
Closing arguments are expected Wednesday.
Contact Tom Mooney at: email@example.com
This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Dan Dolan testifies at trial, wanted to chat with teen before shooting him