Body-cam video shows RI state rep Enrique Sanchez outside illegal after-hours bar
A Providence state representative is under scrutiny after body-worn camera video shows him arguing with police outside an illegal after-hours bar.
The Providence police body-cam footage, first revealed by The Boston Globe, shows 27-year-old state Rep. Enrique Sanchez behind the steering wheel of a car outside the illegal drinking establishment, located inside a home on Ashmont Street in Providence.
The lawmaker is confronted by officers, including Lt. Charles Vieira, who criticizes the lawmaker for defending the household bars — also known as “sip joints” — where people go to drink alcohol after hours, typically for a fee.
“I’m curious why you’re here this late at night, and you’re a state rep,” Vieira told Sanchez. “You’re helping to contribute to a problem.”
Sip joints are an ongoing law enforcement headache in Providence, where police are often called to shutter the unregulated drinking establishments. Police have been cracking down on the illegal bars after a series of violent crimes, including the fatal shooting of Ivan Encarnacion in February. Police said the 25-year-old Providence man was gunned down at a sip joint inside the basement of a home on Burnside Street.
“I’m disappointed in you,” Vieira added. “Part of your job, and you should know this, is to uphold the standards of your office.”
The video shows Sanchez defending himself, telling Vieira the people who attend these establishments are his community members and constituents who he’s trying to meet where they gather.
“I do my thing,” he said.
Sanchez also defended the after-hours drinking, arguing there are far worse things happening across the state, including inside government agencies.
“There are things that happen in local government and state government that are far more atrocious — far more illegal — than this,” he said, adding that Providence Col. Oscar Perez knew about him attending the establishments.
“There’s nothing to hide, he knows I do my thing,” Sanchez said.
The conversation became heated at times. Vieira chastised Sanchez for being there just months after the Encarnacion homicide, arguing the lawmaker should “be held to a higher standard” and ought to “be embarrassed.”
Sanchez countered that the officers shouldn’t be so critical, considering they “are being investigated by the FBI.” A week before the incident, a Target 12 investigation had revealed the FBI was examining whether accused drug-ring leader Jasdrual “Josh” Perez benefited in any way from his relationship with his two uncles, Colonel Perez and Sgt. Andres Perez.
“Who’s being investigated?” Vieira asked Sanchez, appearing annoyed at the lawmaker’s comments. “Your buddy, the colonel? I’ll be sure to let him know that tomorrow.”
The late-night dispute came one day before police had another run-in with Sanchez, this time at 3 a.m. at a licensed club called Ibiza Lounge, according to the Globe report.
Body-cam video posted on the newspaper’s website shows Providence Sgt. Peter Salmons standing at the club’s door, where he criticized staff for their being a lot of cars and people still at the bar so long after closing time. (Bars typically close by 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. in Providence.)
The video shows Sanchez is one of the patrons still inside the bar at the time.
“That’s a state rep right there,” Salmons said in the video. “That’s the state rep that was at the after-hours last night talking [expletive] about the colonel.”
Sanchez, who’s holding a Styrofoam cup, puts the drink down before exiting the bar, trying to touch Salmons on the arm and asking, “Can we talk?”
The video shows Salmons steps back, saying “don’t touch me,” and refusing the lawmaker’s offer.
“You can talk to the colonel if you want to run your mouth about him some more tomorrow,” Salmons said. He later called Sanchez a “[expletive]-ass state rep,” according to the video.
Perez told The Globe he wasn’t aware of Sanchez attending any late-night establishments, but he was informed about the two incidents in question.
As Providence Police Chief, I interact with elected officials and members of our community to improve public safety and the quality of life in our community to the best of my ability,” Perez told 12 News in a statement. “I am not in a position to comment on the social activities that individuals engage in on their personal time.”
Sanchez issued a long statement in response to what happened, reiterating that it was important to him that he not forget his community once he got elected.
“To me, that means not abandoning my working class Latino friends or the working class Latino social scene,” he said. “Because of the volume of political work, I have very little time for a social life, but I do not want to abandon it.”
Sanchez is serving his first time in the General Assembly after defeating longtime state Rep. Anastasia Williams in last year’s Democratic primary.
While he largely defended his actions in April, Sanchez acknowledged there are downsides to social events.
“I am very careful about this kind of thing,” he said. “My father has struggled with alcoholism. I keep my alcohol consumption limited. Often, I avoid drinking at all at social events, as was the case on this night. I also believe in exercising judgment about social events, and I leave if I do not think it is a good environment.”
He also noted that in retrospect “it probably wasn’t the best decision” to mention the FBI investigation, even though he was just trying to underscore the point that there are “negative associations” found in many places.
“I should have been more appreciative that the members of law enforcement were, in fact, giving me good advice, advice that I agreed with and followed,” he said. “I felt certain negative insinuations that did not sit right with me, but it probably would have been better to not respond to it.”
Sanchez also expressed some confusion about the rules surrounding closing times for bars, describing them as “obscure.” He apologized for not knowing all the rules, and asked for his constituents’ indulgence for his lack of understanding.
“There is an immense amount to learn,” he said. “I have learned so much since getting elected, and one thing I have learned is just how much more I have to learn. I am doing my best, but I cannot promise to always be aware of every detail of public policy. I can only promise to do my best to learn as much as I can so that I do not make more mistakes due to being unaware of a policy detail.”