PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha announced that a Providence man was sentenced in Providence County Superior Court to serve 23 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions (ACI) after pleading to multiple felony charges stemming from his arrest by the Providence Police Department in 2020 for armed robbery and shooting at an officer during a car chase that followed.
Roberto Cruz Rivera (age 30) entered a plea of nolo contendere to first-degree robbery, discharge of a firearm during a robbery, assault with a dangerous weapon on a police officer, discharge of a firearm while committing an assault on a police officer, and carrying a pistol without a license.
At a hearing on June 1, 2022, before Superior Court Justice Robert D. Krause, the Court sentenced the defendant to 53 years with 23 years to serve at the ACI and a 30-year suspended sentence with 53 years of probation.
“This case demonstrates the enormous danger that large-capacity magazines, that remarkably remain lawful in Rhode Island, and illegal firearms pose to members of the public and law enforcement alike,” said Attorney General Neronha. “This defendant not only brandished a ghost gun during this robbery, but also discharged it, including at a pursuing police officer. The long sentence imposed by the court here should send a strong message that gun violence perpetrated against police and members of the public will bring the most serious consequences. The work of the Providence Police Department was exemplary during this case, and I am grateful for the Department’s continuing partnership with this Office.”
Had the case proceeded to trial, the State was prepared to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that during the evening on October 29, 2020, the defendant robbed a convenience store in Providence and shot at an officer during a car chase that followed.
That evening, the defendant traveled to a 7-Eleven on Smith Street in a car driven by a co-defendant, Jeffrey McKay. Along the way, the Cruz Rivera told McKay that he intended to rob the store.
As he entered the store, the defendant brandished a handgun that he pointed at a store clerk standing behind the counter. The defendant held the clerk at gunpoint and emptied the cash register of approximately $500. While behind the counter, the defendant fired his handgun once at the ground nearby the store clerk. He also fired twice more into the ceiling as he fled the store.
During the robbery, a Providence Police officer pulled into the parking lot of the 7-Eleven in his marked cruiser and heard gunshots. As the officer exited his cruiser, the defendant pointed his handgun at him as he ran out of the store and then across the street towards the car driven by his co-defendant.
As the defendants drove away, the officer pursued them, traveling down Ruggles Street, where the defendant opened the front passenger door of the car and fired his handgun at the officer in his cruiser. The car chase continued down Chad Brown Street, Admiral Street, Charles Street, and Mineral Spring Avenue before the defendants crashed into a median on the Route 146 on-ramp.
The defendant then fled from the crash on foot and was apprehended by officers in a nearby wooded area.
Officers recovered a Polymer80 9 mm semi-automatic ghost gun with a 27-round large-capacity magazine underneath the car and an additional magazine inside of the car.
The case against co-defendant, Jeffrey McKay, is currently pending in Providence County Superior Court.
“The long jail sentence of this defendant is the result of outstanding police work by the Providence Police Department, excellent work by the prosecutors from the RI Attorney General’s Office, and a strong message from Judge Krause that if you use a gun and shoot at police, there are severe consequences for such criminal behavior,” said Steven M. Paré, Providence Commissioner of Public Safety.
Detectives Robert Melaragno and Mitch Guerra of the Providence Police Department and Special Assistant Attorneys General Edward G. Mullaney and Alyse Antone Smyth of the Office of the Attorney General led the investigation and prosecution of the case.