Rhode Island cop charged after allegedly punching Senate rival at abortion protest

Francis Akhalbey June 27, 2022
Providence patrolman Jeann Lugo allegedly punched Jennifer Rourke at least twice in the face -- Photos via Twitter

Authorities in Rhode Island have charged a police officer with assault after he was allegedly seen punching a Black female senate rival at an abortion protest. According to the Associated Press, Providence patrolman Jeann Lugo, 35, was off-duty when he allegedly assaulted Jennifer Rourke on Friday.

Rourke, who is the chair of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, is vying for the state senate seat on the ticket of the Democratic Party. She claimed Lugo punched her at least twice in the face. The incident happened while the accused police officer was also vying for the nomination for the same seat on the ticket of the Republican Party. Lugo, who was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct, stopped his campaign in the aftermath of the incident.

The accused officer has also been placed on suspension with pay pending the outcome of the investigation into the incident. The alleged assault occurred during a protest at the Rhode Island State House, and it was triggered by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the Roe v. Wade case. The 1973 landmark decision made the right to abortion constitutional.

A video of the alleged assault shows a woman being hit during a physical confrontation at the protest. Rourke told the Associated Press that she was repeatedly punched in the face while she was trying to escort a counterprotester who had consented to leave the scene of the protest. Rourke said she filed charges against the accused police officer.

Lugo was arraigned before court after he turned himself in to authorities on Saturday. His next court date is scheduled for July 8. In an interview with the Boston Globe, the accused officer claimed he “stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking.”

He also told the Providence Journal that he wasn’t “going to deny” allegedly punching Rourke. He claimed “everything happened very fast.”

But Rourke claimed she had never come into contact with Lugo and she was unaware he’ll be present at 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,” Rourke told the Associated Press.

Rourke went to a medical facility and underwent a CT scan in the aftermath of the incident. She also said that though she was fine, she was suffering from some effects of the alleged assault. 

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: June 27, 2022


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