Correctional officer accused of driving into crowd at Wyatt protest resigns

Blackstone Valley

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — A correctional officer at the Wyatt Detention Center has resigned amid an investigation into an incident that occurred during a protest outside the facility Wednesday night.

Captain Thomas Woodworth resigned Friday afternoon, according to a spokesperson from the facility, after initially being placed on leave on Thursday.

In a photo sent to Eyewitness News from the organizer of the protest, Woodworth was seen behind the wheel of a pickup truck that drove into a crowd of protesters.

The Jewish activist group that started the protest, Never Again Action, released a statement that they are glad Woodworth resigned.

“We hope that will not be the end of an effort to hold him accountable for attempting to run over multiple Jewish youth and elders peacefully protesting,” the organization said in a statement.

The group also called on authorities to punish the correctional officers that used pepper spray on the crowd of protesters surrounding the truck.

“If these officers felt empowered to attack a group of protesters in front of the public and the media, imagine what kind of violence must be taking place inside the prison, out of sight, against vulnerable immigrants and people of color,” the statement continued.

The detention center, owned by a municipal quasi-public agency, has been under scrutiny for months after entering an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to house detainees while they await trial. At last check, approximately 139 federal immigration detainees are currently being housed at Wyatt.

On Wednesday night, protesters stood in front of the entrance to the facility, holding hands to form a chain. Another group of protesters sat on the ground, blocking off access to a staff parking lot.

A few hours into the protest, video showed a pickup truck driving into the seated protesters, hitting some and sending others running. The protest group says one person has a broken leg.

The truck stopped and honked at the protesters surrounding it, before continuing to drive forward. Several officers were seen on video misting the crowd with what appears to be pepper spray after asking them to move away from the truck.

A spokesperson says the Wyatt is conducting its own “top to bottom” review of what happened, and the correctional officers’ response during the incident.

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said his office is working with Rhode Island State Police to conduct an investigation into the incident.

“Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans.” Neronha said Thursday. “It is unfortunate last night’s situation unfolded as it did.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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