Off-Duty Officer Charged With Assault at Abortion Protest

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A Rhode Island police officer accused of punching a woman at an abortion protest while he was off-duty has now been charged in connection with Friday’s demonstration at the State House.

State police released a statement Saturday night stating that Jeann Lugo (35), was facing charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct.

Jennifer Rourke, the chair of the progressive Rhode Island Political Cooperative seeking the Democratic nomination for a state Senate seat, said she had been punched in the face at least twice by Lugo, who — at the time — was running for the GOP nomination for the same seat. Providence police reported earlier on Saturday that Lugo’s job was temporarily suspended and pay withheld pending investigation. Lugo ended his campaign.

Friday’s protest outside the Rhode Island State House in Providence was in response to the decision released the same day by the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had provided a constitutional right to abortion. A video posted online of the event shows a physical altercation right before Rourke, a woman claiming to be Rourke, is hit. Video does not reveal what actually happened between Rourke & Lugo prior to the incident.

Rourke claimed that she had been trying to escort a counterprotester, who was willing to leave the premises. However, another altercation broke out, during which Rourke was repeatedly punched in her face. Elle confirmed that Lugo was charged.

According to state police, Lugo surrendered Saturday and was taken before the justice of peace. He then was released. He’s due in court again on July 8. Lugo didn’t respond to requests for comment on Saturday and Sunday, but told the Boston Globe before charges were announced that he “stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking.”

Lugo had also told the Providence Journal he was “not going to deny” the punching allegation, but added that “everything happened very fast.”

Rourke stated to the AP, that she’d never spoken with Lugo in person and was unaware that he would attend the protest.

“I’m disappointed he chose to use violence in this way. As a police officer, he’s trained to deescalate. He did not do what he was trained to do,” she said.

Rourke went to the hospital and had a CT scan done on Saturday. Rourke said that she was feeling fine, but felt tender in her face. She also experienced ringing in her ears.

Following Friday’s violent event, two other individuals were also arrested. One of the two people, Nicholas Morrell, of Warwick, said in a Sunday message that he is 30, not 31 as police said, and he had “video evidence of the entire thing (and) I was arrested for standing there.”

An additional person was also arrested, but he did not reply to Sunday’s social media messages seeking clarification.

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