RI police officer on leave after allegedly attacking female political opponent at abortion rally
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A police officer in Providence, Rhode Island, has been placed on administrative leave after he reportedly assaulted a woman outside the Rhode Island State House Friday night.
The Providence Police Department has confirmed that Jeann Lugo, an officer who is also running for Rhode Island Senate as a Republican, was placed on paid leave Saturday morning.
Lugo, according to police, is a three-year veteran of the force and was off-duty at the time.
Rhode Island Political Cooperative co-founder Jennifer Rourke, one of Lugo’s Democratic opponents, has since identified herself as the woman he is accused of violently attacking. The attack occurred during demonstrations at Smith Hill, where hundreds of people gathered to condemn the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade on Friday night.
“Last night, after speaking at our Roe rally, my Republican opponent — a police officer — violently attacked me,” Rourke wrote in a social media post on Saturday. “This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up.”
Rourke’s tweet included footage of the alleged attack, first shared to Twitter by radio and podcast host Bill Bartholomew. Both Rourke and Bartholomew claim the video show Lugo hitting Rourke in the face at the rally.
Nexstar’s WPRI reached out to Lugo regarding the incident. In his response, Lugo said he was “in a situation that no individual should see themselves in” Friday night.
“I stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking,” he claimed in his statement.
Lugo had been seeking the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, but recently announced he would end that campaign in order to support a different candidate, Aaron Guckian.
Lugo said he would instead seek the seat currently held by Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey, D-Warwick. He said he was motivated by outrage over the steps Senate leaders took to enact a new ban on higher-capacity gun magazines.
Rourke is challenging McCaffrey in the Democratic primary.
Tensions appeared to reach a boiling point at Friday’s rally when counter-protestors entered the crowd and began shouting. The Rhode Island State Police confirmed two people were arrested, though neither have been identified.
Lugo was not arrested nor charged as of Friday night, though the department is conducting an internal investigation into his actions.
Ted Nesi, Amanda Pitts and Kim Kalunian contributed to this report.