Providence Police Officer Jeann Lugo has been suspended after allegedly hitting Rhode Island Senate nominee Jennifer Rourke

PROVIDENCE, RI — A Rhode Island police officer accused of hitting a woman at an abortion protest while off duty was suspended from his pay job Saturday while the Providence Police Department conducts a criminal investigation into his actions .

Jennifer Rourke, chairwoman of the Rhode Island Political Co-op and nominee for the Senate, told the Providence Journal that she was slapped at least twice in the face by Jeann Lugo, who was running for the GOP nomination for a Rhode Island Senate seat.

Lugo told the Journal he would “not deny” the allegation, but added that “everything happened very quickly.”

“Unfortunately, as an officer sworn to protect and serve our communities, I found myself in a situation that no individual should see themselves in,” he told the Boston Globe in the email. “I stepped in to protect someone who was being attacked by a group of agitators.”

Lugo did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press.

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Video of the event posted online shows two other people involved in a physical altercation at the protest just before a woman, apparently Rourke, is hit. The video does not show what happened between Lugo and Rourke before Rourke was hit.

Rourke is seeking the Democratic nomination in September’s primary to run for the Rhode Island State Senate. Lugo had sought the Republican nomination to run for the same seat.

“I’m a black woman running for office,” Rourke told the Journal. “There was no need, no need for any of this. I won’t give up.”

In a call to The Associated Press, Rourke said the incident happened while she was trying to escort a counter-protester who had agreed to leave. As she led the man off the premises, another physical altercation broke out, during which she was punched multiple times in the face by Lugo.

Rourke said she had never interacted with Lugo and was unaware he would be at the protest.

“I am disappointed that he chose to use violence in this way. As a cop, he’s trained to de-escalate. He didn’t do what he was trained to do,” she said.

Rourke sought medical attention and received a CT scan Saturday afternoon. She said she was fine, but felt a lot of tenderness on her face and a ringing in her ears.

She said she filed a complaint against Lugo.

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On Saturday afternoon, Lugo tweeted that he was dropping out of the race.

“I’m not running for office this fall,” he said.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza addressed the conflict in a tweet but said he was limited in what he could say.

“I saw the video and it’s immensely disturbing,” Elorza said. “Those responsible will be held fully accountable.”

In a press release announcing the suspension, the Providence Police Department said the suspended officer was a three-year veteran.

The altercation occurred during a protest Friday outside the Rhode Island State House in Providence, in response to the US Supreme Court decision dismissing Roe v. Wade overturned the 1973 decision that provided a constitutional right to abortion.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

https://abc13.com/rhode-island-candidate-punched-jennifer-rourke-jeann-lugo-providence-police-officer/11996239/ Providence Police Officer Jeann Lugo has been suspended after allegedly hitting Rhode Island Senate nominee Jennifer Rourke

Dais Johnston

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