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Flanked by Attorney General Patrick Lynch (L) and Mayor David Cicilline, Providence Police Chief Dean M. Esserman discussed the shooting.
Flanked by Attorney General Patrick Lynch (L) and Mayor David Cicilline, Providence Police Chief Dean M. Esserman discussed the shooting. (AP Photo)

Police say man took gun, killed officer

Suspect captured after leap in R.I.

PROVIDENCE -- A 27-year veteran of the Providence Police Department was shot and killed early yesterday morning inside department headquarters when a suspect he was questioning managed to grab his service weapon and opened fire, authorities said.

The suspect -- Esteban Carpio, who grew up in Boston -- shot out the window of a third-floor room adjacent to where he was being held, jumped 35 feet to a road below, and attempted to hail a taxi to New York before officers tracked him down and arrested him a quarter-mile away.

The slaying of Detective James L. Allen, the son of a police captain, devastated the department. Allen was a senior officer in the 40-member investigative unit. His death marked the first time in five years that a Providence police officer had been killed in the line of duty.

''Jimmy Allen passed in the noblest possible way," Mayor David N. Cicilline said yesterday at a press conference where he was joined by distraught police officers outside department headquarters. ''He gave his life trying to make our lives safer. He died a hero."

Carpio, 26, had become increasingly mentally unstable and had been in and out of hospitals for treatment for paranoid delusions, his relatives said yesterday. Police said he has a criminal record, but they did not disclose any details.

He sometimes lived with his mother, a teacher at Hennigan Elementary School in Jamaica Plain, in a gray triple-decker in Roslindale, relatives said. Carpio had gone to Weston High School as a student in the Metco program, said his younger brother, David, and recently he had been staying in Providence with a girlfriend.

Allen, 50, had followed in the footsteps of his father, Captain Lloyd Allen, who is now retired, said Deputy Chief Commander Paul Kennedy. The son worked for about a decade as a patrolman before being promoted to detective. His cases ranged from homicides to sexual assaults and thefts, tracking crime in a city that has prided itself on an urban resurgence the past few years.

The attack apparently began shortly after midnight in a conference room of the modern glass-and-brick police headquarters overlooking Interstate 95, officers said. Allen did not normally work the night shift, but came in to question Carpio about the stabbing of an 84-year-old woman on Saturday, said Sergeant Guy DeAngelis.

Police Chief Dean M. Esserman said Carpio was not under arrest at the time, and though he had originally been brought to headquarters in handcuffs, his cuffs had been removed at the time of the shooting. Esserman would not say how Carpio managed to seize the weapon from Allen, who stood about 6 feet 2 inches tall and weighed about 200 pounds.

Esserman also declined to say whether police protocol forbade officers from carrying weapons during interrogations. He also did not say whether there were any witnesses to the shooting.

Afterward, Carpio ran along a service road near headquarters but never made it into a taxi. Officers wrestled him to the ground following a struggle. Police later found what they believe was Allen's gun on the ground under the window Carpio leapt through.

Carpio suffered head, leg, and hand injuries and was treated at a hospital. The woman attacked Saturday was expected to survive, officers said.

Shaken police officials launched an investigation yesterday into the shooting.

A friend of the Carpio family, Juan Cepeda, 23, said the three Carpio brothers were good students. The boys' mother, Yvonne, put the two oldest boys in Metco so they could attend high-performing schools in Weston. Cepeda said he used to play basketball with Esteban and David when they were growing up in Boston.

''They had a better opportunity than anybody else I knew," he said. ''They were two of the straightest kids I knew. They both had a good head on their shoulders."

More recently, Esteban Carpio had been hearing voices and seeing things, said Jean Gonsalves, his grandmother. Earlier this month, Carpio called his mother in a panic. Yvonne Carpio drove to Providence to pick him up and brought him back to her home.

He was ''pacing, talking, seeing things," Gonsalves said. ''Every time he closed his eyes, he'd see somebody."

On April 2, Yvonne Carpio called police and an ambulance took him to Faulkner Hospital, Gonsalves said. She said they released him that night. Peter Healy, an administrator at Faulkner, would not confirm that Esteban Carpio was treated there, citing patient privacy rules.

Yvonne Carpio was worried about her son's worsening condition, Gonsalves said. ''She said someone was going to get hurt if they didn't keep him."

His girlfriend took him to Rhode Island Hospital, and he was given an appointment last Monday but didn't show up, Gonsalves said.

On Saturday, his girlfriend called the hospital and said Carpio urgently needed to see someone. They asked Carpio to come in today, Gonsalves said.

''We were trying to get him help and it didn't seem to be there," David Carpio said.

''It's a very tragic situation for all parties involved," said Dolores Irish, an aunt, who called her nephew a kind and caring man.

In Providence, stunned police officers trickled out a side door of the headquarters yesterday. The broken window was still visible yesterday as crime-scene cleanup trucks arrived at the station.

Allen was married, with two young daughters, officers said. The family attends St. Thomas Church in Providence. Two police cruisers sat parked outside Allen's house in Johnston yesterday and kept reporters from approaching.

Fellow officers revered Allen for his encyclopedic knowledge of Providence's criminal underworld.

''He was the kind of guy you would go to with a question about anything," said Detective Bill Baldassare, an 18-year veteran of the force who sat on the hood of a police cruiser yesterday. ''If you had a question, Jimmy had the answer."

Less experienced officers looked up to him. They sought him out for help.

''He had an unbelievable memory," said DeAngelis, a 19-year veteran, who was outside the station. ''He could put names together with faces together with dates of birth. If anything happened up on the East Side, he was the guy you went to."

Allen also had a reserved quality that endeared him to fellow officers, DeAngelis said. ''He was like a gentle giant," he said. Allen was also ''a very, very good detective," he said. ''He was passive, but always got the results."

The last time a Providence police officer was shot to death was in January 2000, when Sergeant Cornel Young Jr., who was off duty and in civilian clothes, was killed by fellow officers who mistook him for a suspect. Young had been running to their aid during a disturbance outside a diner.

''Detective Allen is a hero," Esserman said, his voice quavering. ''This has been a hard night for this police department; this has been a hard night for this city."

Beth Daley and Sean Murphy of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Material from the Associated Press was also used.

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