Police investigate reports of looting at flooded Branch Ave. plaza

PROVIDENCE MAYOR BRETT P. SMILEY says looters that took advantage of the flooding at a shopping plaza on Branch Avenue Monday night will held accountable.
PROVIDENCE MAYOR BRETT P. SMILEY says looters that took advantage of the flooding at a shopping plaza on Branch Avenue Monday night will held accountable. "There's no world in which we give a pass to anyone who may have acted illegally,” Smiley said Tuesday. / PBN FILE PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO

PROVIDENCE – The local police are investigating reports of looting after widespread flooding destroyed a shopping plaza on Branch Avenue, numerous media outlets reported.

The plaza is located along Route 146 and sits on the bank of the West River – a small tributary to the Moshassuck River – which overflowed following 6 inches of rainfall on Monday night. The water flooded the parking lot and storefronts, apparently giving thieves an opportunity to take merchandise in the stores.

“I was on the other side of the parking lot watching just watching people take whole tote bags of clothing and shoes,” Yackeline Catu, manager of the retail clothing store Citi Trends, told WPRI-TV CBS 12. “There were a lot of people coming in and out … and parents sending their children in to loot the stores.”

Providence Deputy Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Jutras said the floodwater peaked at 4 feet high, trapping people inside cars and businesses. Firefighters in wetsuits rescued more than two dozen people via inflatable rafts, according to WPRI.

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The shopping plaza is home to a number of stores, including Citi Trends, Dollar General, Urban Wine & Spirits, and Expressions.

Tang Chan, manager of the Crazy Crab restaurant in the plaza, told The Providence Journal thieves broke in and stole the cash register. Scott Brady of Urban Wine & Spirits told the newspaper that an employee caught an intruder trying to break in just before police arrived.

Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from inside the stores, according to WPRI,  as well as from the R.I. Department of Transportation camera on the Route 146 overpass near the shopping plaza.

“If it’s determined that there was looting that took place, those responsible will be held accountable.” Mayor Brett P. Smiley said Tuesday. “There’s no world in which we give a pass to anyone who may have acted illegally.”

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