Man accused of shooting at R.I. home had dozens of high-capacity gun magazines, thousands of rounds of ammo

Gun Rights

PROVIDENCE — A Florida man who allegedly shot at an East Providence residence Friday afternoon and fled from police with an arsenal in his Nissan Armada was arraigned Monday on more than 100 felony charges involving high-capacity magazines and guns.

Joseph Pavao, 43, who is originally from Coventry, fired a rifle-style BB gun at a vehicle parked at 140 Estrell Drive, shattering its rear window, according to police. A resident who had known Pavao for years recognized him and called police, East Providence Inspector Stephen Burns said in court.

A few minutes later, Detective Michael Sullivan saw Pavao’s Armada on Pawtucket Avenue and tried to stop it. But, for the next several minutes, Pavao led police on a high-speed chase in and out of residential neighborhoods, at speeds between 60 to 80 miles per hour, Burns said.

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Joshua Pavao, 43, of Kissimmee, Fla., faces more than 100 felony charges after a shooting and car chase in East Providence, R.I., on Friday, Dec. 1.East Providence Police Department

Pavao managed to elude police a few times, but locals flagged down the officers. Pavao’s Armada went flying past a middle school, where a crossing guard waved her arms for him to stop at the crosswalk.

Pavao hit a vehicle at an intersection of Waterman Avenue, but kept going until he crashed into three vehicles when he sped through a red light at Taunton Avenue, Burns said. Police officers tackled Pavao in the parking lot of Davenport’s restaurant as he tried to run away, Burns said. Two police cruisers also crashed into each other during the pursuit, and one struck a house.

The crash also sent numerous loaded high-capacity gun magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for long guns spilling all over the road, Burns said. Inside the Armada, police said they found three duffle bags filled with ammunition, along with loose rounds rolling around inside.

Later, video surveillance captured Pavao hurriedly dumping items out of his vehicle. Police were tipped off about a suspicious backpack off Boyd Avenue; it held three loaded Glock handguns and a pellet gun; a bulletproof vest was also found there. Police said they also found $14,250 cash inside a bag, and a gas mask.

It’s still unknown why Pavao targeted the Estrell Drive home.

East Providence Police Captain Michael Rapoza said that Pavao’s connection to the residence dates back to a relationship from more than 20 years ago.

The investigators are still trying to determine a motive for Pavao’s actions and why he had so much firepower with him, but “they are working with very little information,” Rapoza said.

Pavao entered the courtroom at 6th District Court on Monday and stared over at three women, who appeared emotional. They declined comment after the arraignment.

Pavao is charged with 106 felony counts of possessing high-capacity gun magazines, under a new state law passed by the General Assembly last year that makes it a felony to possess any semi-automatic firearm magazine capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition. A conviction is punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000.

He is also charged with three counts of carrying firearms without a license, as well as shooting a firearm from a vehicle, firing in a compact area, and other charges relating to the crash. No plea was entered on the felony charges at the District Court.

Judge Stephen Isherwood set bail at $100,000 with surety and ordered Pavao to relinquish all of his firearms and his passport. He also ordered Pavao not to trespass at the Estrell Drive residence and set no-contact orders with two women. Pavao lives with a parent in Kissimmee, Florida, and will be allowed to return after meeting with pre-trial services.

Pavao’s criminal record in multiple states largely consists of driving violations, according to court records. However, in 2017 in Winter Park, Fla., he was arrested after allegedly shoving his car door into a police officer who was trying to write him a ticket and driving off. Pavao was a tractor-trailer driver delivering wine to a restaurant and was illegally parked. The criminal case was dismissed, as was a lawsuit that Pavao filed against the officer and the police department alleging that his civil rights were violated, according to court records.

A Facebook page with his name and photos shows him in a military uniform from years ago; he claimed to have been a sniper. The extent of his service could not immediately be confirmed.

He posted photos of his weapons at a gun range down in Florida. In a separate post, Pavao wrote that Facebook restricted him for something he’d written about guns: “I might have said something about not giving the government your weapons on an NRA group. … I might have said something about how great it is to have said weapons if anybody tries to take them from you.”

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at Follow her @AmandaMilkovits.

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