PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The criminal investigation into a confrontation between protesters and correctional officers outside the Wyatt Detention Facility last week should be completed within the upcoming weeks, according to Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha.
Neronha said while investigators are working quickly to determine the timeline of events and the officers’ response, they still need more time to ensure their review is thorough and accurate.
“I think it is a mistake for a prosecutor to leap to conclusions before they have everything,” Neronha explained.
The investigation centers around an incident that occurred during a peaceful demonstration outside the prison last week. A few hours into the protest, video obtained by Eyewitness News shows a black pickup truck driving into a group of protesters who were blocking off a staff parking lot.
Protesters then converged on the vehicle to stop it from leaving. At that point, several correctional officers utilized pepper spray in an attempt to disperse the crowd.
Police said five people were rushed to the hospital.
A photo sent to Eyewitness News by the protest’s organizer shows a correctional officer – Captain Thomas Woodworth – behind the wheel of the truck. He was immediately placed on administrative leave after the incident and later resigned from his position at the prison.
Neronha said the investigation focuses on two main points – the incident involving the truck and the circumstances surrounding the use of pepper spray.
He said investigators have interviewed 31 witnesses and need to interview approximately 20 more.
“We want to speak with anyone with information about that night,” Neronha said. “We are committed to getting it right.”
Anyone who witnessed the incident last week is asked to call one of the following numbers to provide a statement:
- Rhode Island State Police Detective Robert Hopkins: (401) 764-5539
- Central Falls Police Lieutenant Frank Rodriguez: (401) 616-2508
- Attorney General’s Office, Mark Blair: (401) 274-4400 ext. 2236