A Providence, Rhode Island, police officer who had been running for state Senate as a Republican was arrested Saturday on charges related to his alleged physical assault of his female political opponent at an abortion rights rally a day earlier.
The arrest of patrolman Jeann Lugo came hours after a video of his alleged attack while off-duty on Jen Rourke outside the Rhode Island State House went viral on Twitter, his administrative suspension from the Police Department, and his quitting the Senate race.
Lugo, 35, was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct.
He was released on his own recognizance after turning himself in at a State Police barracks in Rhode Island and being arraigned before a justice of the peace. The three-year police veteran next is due to appear in court on July 8.
Courtesy Bill Bartholomew — The Bartholomewtown Podcast
State police, who have jurisdiction over the State House, said that two arrests were made at the demonstration, one of a woman for disorderly conduct, and the other of a man for that charge, as well as for weapons other than a firearm, and resisting arrest.
Rourke, a progressive running for the same seat who identifies herself as a reproductive rights organizer, said that Lugo “violently attacked me” after her speech at the rally in Providence following the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the case that had established a constitutional right to abortion in 1973.
“This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up,” Rourke wrote in a tweet that included a snippet of a video of the incident.
The five-second clip taken by local journalist Bill Bartholomew appears to show a man throwing two punches at a woman’s head, at least one of which connects with its target.
Rourke went to a hospital in Kent, Rhode Island, on Saturday for a CT scan, a campaign spokesman told CNBC.
The Providence Police Department before Lugo’s arrest earlier Saturday had tweeted that it is “criminally investigating the behavior of an off-duty officer last evening during a protest where a female was assaulted.”
Lugo was placed on paid administrative leave Saturday pending the outcome of the review, the department said.
Lugo, who was running for Senate District 29 as a Republican, dropped out of the race Saturday afternoon.
“I will not be running for any office this fall,” he wrote on Twitter, before temporarily deactivating his account.
Lugo had launched his bid for the Senate after dropping out of a race for lieutenant governor earlier this year.
Before dropping out of the state Senate race, Lugo sent a statement to CNBC appearing to justify his actions, without denying that he punched Rourke.
“As an officer that swore to protect and serve our communities, I, unfortunately, saw myself in a situation that no individual should see themselves in,” Lugo said in that statement.
“I stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking. “At this moment, there’s a pending internal investigation, and as the facts of the incident come to light, I request that my family and I have privacy.”
Bartholomew, who runs The Bartholomewtown Podcast, told CNBC, that about 1,000 people had attended the rally to protest the Supreme Court’s ruling on Roe.
About 10 members of a right-wing group known as the Freedom Fighters also showed up to the event, the reporter said.
One of those members, who was filming, appeared to be goading some members of the crowd, Bartholomew said.
After being asked to leave, the person at first refused, then started to walk away — but when he turned back toward the crowd, someone punched him in the face and stomped on him, Bartholomew said.
“A melee ensued” before he saw Rourke getting hit in the face, the reporter said.
Neither Lugo nor other members of the crowd who allegedly engaged in violence were arrested at that time, Bartholomew said.
Rourke, in a statement to CNBC from her campaign, said she was “deescalating the situation and the counter-protestor was leaving when the altercation started.”
“I was assaulted as a result of that,” she said.
“This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. All across this country, people like me are threatened or attacked when they run,” Rourke said.
“I’m not going to stop fighting – for reproductive rights, for the people in my district, or for people like me who want to run for office.”