WESTERLY — Reports of a stabbing along Canal Street on Sunday evening were disseminated quickly through a third-party mobile app, but police warn that the information released through the app was not quite accurate.
Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey said the incident, which occurred around 7:40 p.m. Sunday, involved a physical dispute between two roommates that involved threats made with a folding knife, but that no one was stabbed and there was never a danger to the public.
"The information released through a third-party app, the Ring mobile app, was presumptive and it was put out prior to our officers having a chance to investigate," Lacey said. "There was a report of a stabbing, but there were no serious injuries or public threats, and the scene itself was secured in literally just a few minutes."
William J. Bennett, 53, of 45 Canal St., was charged Sunday evening with domestic felony assault and domestic disorderly conduct. Police said he was compliant with officers when they arrived and was taken into custody quickly and without incident.
According to Lacey, Westerly officers and ambulance personal were called to Bennett's apartment after a 29-year-old woman, who lives there with her 32-year-old boyfriend, called frantically to report that Bennett was threatening to stab her boyfriend. Lacey said the case is considered a domestic and took place entirely within their apartment. The two roommates were not identified.
A police investigation determined that the woman and Bennett had started fighting verbally when the boyfriend attempted to intervene. Bennett then pulled out a black folding knife, which was later seized by police, and threatened to stab him before the two got into a scuffle.
The 32-year-old suffered minor cuts, likely as a result of fingernails, and a bruise to the neck. Bennett's roommates told police at one point, he held the knife to the 32-year-old's throat, but police said there was no evidence of any stab wounds.
An officer arrived on scene within 3 minutes of the emergency call, according to police, and within 10 minutes of the call, Bennett was already detained and the scene was determined to be secure.
"Even the neighbors likely wouldn't have known about this if not for that app," Lacey said.
Early reports of the stabbing were released through the Ring mobile app, a smart home and security alert app associated with the Amazon Ring Doorbell products. The app is not affiliated with the Westerly Police Department in any way.
Lacey said the department was concerned after the inaccurate information was spread through social media and the department issued a Facebook message Sunday night to clarify a stabbing did not occur. He said the agency was still actively investigating the details and could not release additional info at that time.
He noted that with today's technology, such apps are unlikely to go away. The department will try and work with companies such as Amazon to prevent inaccurate information from being released and urged residents to remain aware that police will contact you in the event of an emergency.
"We have systems in place so that if anything is to occur, we are able to quickly and effectively reach out to neighbors and make sure everyone remains safe," Lacey said.