By ALEX MALM
The ringing in her ear hasn’t gone away, Jennifer Rourke said on Monday three days after Providence Police Officer Jeann Lugo allegedly punched her in the face during a rally at …
By ALEX MALM
The ringing in her ear hasn’t gone away, Jennifer Rourke said on Monday three days after Providence Police Officer Jeann Lugo allegedly punched her in the face during a rally at the State House on Friday night.
Going into the night Lugo was running for Senate District 29 as a Republican. Rourke is running as a Democrat. Lugo has since dropped out of the race.
Rourke, who was an organizer for the rally which was protesting the decision made by the Supreme Court to strike down Roe versus Wade, said that there was an argument between counter protestors and members of the crowd.
“I had just finished speaking and I was de-escalating a disagreement,” said Rourke.
Rourke said that she was able to defuse the situation and while herself and the counter protesters were walking up the State House stairs someone was hit which led to another incident.
That's when she said that she was punched.
“Officer Lugo took it upon himself to punch me in the face multiple times,” said Rourke.
Rourke said that she had never interacted with Lugo before the incident took place.
Asked if Lugo said anything to her, Rourke said she wasn’t sure.
“I couldn’t hear because I got hit in my left ear and it was so chaotic I couldn’t hear anything,” said Rourke.
A video posted on Twitter by journalist Bill Bartholomew has 4.9 million views and has appeared across multiple national outlets including CNN, MSNBC, and others.
On Saturday Lugo turned himself in to the State Police where he was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct.
“Following the demonstration, the Rhode Island State Police and Providence Police Department received complaints of physical assaults that occurred during the demonstration,” a press release from the Rhode Island State Police reads. “As the result of a joint investigation between the two agencies, a Providence Police Patrolman, identified as Jeann Lugo, age 35, was arrested on a State Police affidavit and arrest warrant on the charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct.”
Lugo is scheduled to appear in Sixth District Court on July 8, for a re-arraignment.
Lugo’s attorney Dan Griffin said in a statement, “There is far more to what occurred regarding the incident than what is being reported.”
“We are working diligently to identify and speak to witnesses and we continue to obtain and analyze other video footage taken that night. Unfortunately, our approach is in direct contrast to the one taken by the media which, as usual, was to hastily publish a story and condemn Officer Lugo based on seconds of edited video devoid of any context,” said Griffin. “Thanks to that, the safety of Officer Lugo and his family has been threatened by extremists on social media.”
In an interview with WPRO host Gene Valicenti on Tuesday Griffin said Lugo went to the rally not to cause issues but to observe.
“He went there to the rally to observe he did not go with a group of people he wasn’t with some mob or something like that,” said Griffin.
Lugo said that he saw trouble happening on the steps of the State House, and decided to go and help. After Lugo saw someone get punched Griffin said he wanted to protect the citizen.
Then Griffin said Lugo was being pulled from behind. Griffin said that Lugo’s only focus was to help.
“He’s being pulled off while he’s trying to protect someone from being beaten badly,” said Griffin.
Griffin said that Lugo didn’t know that he was punching his political opponent or a female. Instead he claims that Lugo was simply trying to help the person who was attacked.
“It was a continuous grab, it was a continuous pull on him,” said Griffin.
Griffin also said that Lugo was attacked off camera.
“He got assaulted after that he had to go to the hospital,” said Griffin.
Law Enforcement Bill of Rights
The Rhode Island Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights dictates how police misconduct cases are handled which limits comments public officials can make until the process is played out.
The Providence Police Department said that Lugo was on paid leave.
In a statement Saturday, Providence Mayor Joge Elorza said “unfortunately, I am limited in what I can say publicly due to LEOBOR.”
“With that said, I’ve seen the video and it’s immensely disturbing. Those responsible will be held fully accountable,” said Elorza.
Griffin said that when everything shakes out that Lugo will be found innocent.
“Jeann Lugo has been a tremendous police officer in his time with the City of Providence. He is a dedicated father and husband and a real asset to his community,” said Griffin. “He trusts the process and believes that the actual facts will exonerate him.”
Rourke said that she thinks that Lugo should be held accountable like anyone else.
“I think he should be held accountable for his actions just like any other person would be held accountable,” said Rourke.
Asked Tuesday if he would support making changes to LEOBOR Mayor Frank Picozzi said that it was a longer conversation and didn’t offer an opinion.
Police calls for Lugo’s termination
On Tuesday The Providence Police Department announced that Lugo is facing departmental charges following the alleged incident including Obedience to Laws and Rules, Standard of Conduct, Courtesy, Rules Governing Conduct and Demeanor.
Police Chief Hugh Clements said in his report that he is recommending the termination of Lugo pending a LEOBOR hearing.
“Officer Lugo, your disturbing, egregious, assaultive and unprofessional behavior while off duty, has brought discredit to your name and has tarnished the proud reputation of the Providence Police Department,” said Clements. “Based on the facts and circumstances presented to me, I have lost confidence in your capacity and ability to exercise self-control, and to conduct yourself in a civil, respectful and professional manner. Accordingly, I recommend that you be terminated from employment as a Providence police officer.”
Clements in the report said that Lugo would remain suspended throughout the “LEOBOR process and any allowable appeals.”
In a statement Griffin said “We are shocked and extremely disappointed in the City's decision today. To make this decision so hastily really flies in the face of due process and fair treatment. It's unclear if the State Police has even completed the entirety of its investigation, and yet the City has moved to terminate one of its own police officers---one with an unblemished record--- just 72 hours after charges were brought.”
“Quite frankly, Officer Lugo expected more from his City,” said Griffin. “However, he remains confident that the facts of this situation will be brought to light and show that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.”
Not just here
While she said she never hoped or expected it to happen in Rhode Island, Rourke said Monday that there is political violence happening against Black and brown candidates across the country.
“This is actually an indication of what has been happening nationwide,” she said.
On Saturday Senate Majority Leader Michael McCaffrey, who faced challenge from Rourke in the past two elections, Tweeted, “I am repulsed and saddened by the violent events that took place at the State House last night. For the second campaign in a row @JenRourke29 has been subject to abuse - this time physical. Violence of any kind has no place in our democracy.”
In an unexpected turn of events, McCaffrey announced Monday he won’t seek reelection to the seat he has held for 28 years. In an interview, he said the incident Friday had no bearing on his decision.
While she hasn’t been checking social media often due to her head hurting, Rourke said she has received a number of flowers and texts from her family, friends and members of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative.
Asked how much she has raised for her campaign since the incident Rourke said she wasn’t sure.
“I haven’t looked. The phone has been down unless I’m doing an interview,” said Rourke.
Aside from Lugo, Jessica Burton, age 39, and Nicholas Morrell, 31 both of Warwick were arrested during Friday’s rally. Burton was arrested for disorderly conduct and Morrell was arrested for disorderly conduct, weapons other than firearms, and resisting arrest.
A press release from the State Police said that “additional incidents from the demonstration remain under investigation.”
Asked for comment on Saturday, Lugo said “I can’t talk about it.”