PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Democratic candidate for state Senate is recalling the moments when she says she was assaulted by her Republican challenger while attending Friday night’s State House protest against the decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
12 News spoke with Rhode Island Political Cooperative co-founder Jennifer Rourke, whose alleged assault by GOP candidate and Providence police officer Jeann Lugo has quickly drawn national attention. Lugo is now on paid leave and facing criminal charges.
“As I looked to my left that’s when Officer Lugo punched me in the face multiple times,” Rourke said.
“I had never interacted with him, ever,” she said. “That was my first and hopefully my last interaction with him.”
Video captured by radio and podcast host Bill Bartholomew shows a man who appears to be Lugo punching Rourke in the face.
Lugo, 35, is facing a charge of simple assault and disorderly conduct as a result. A three-year veteran of the force who was off-duty at the time, he has been suspended with pay pending a criminal investigation and administrative review.
The incident remains under investigation.
“I’m disappointed, I’m extremely angry, I’m sad,” Rourke said. “Not just because of the [court] decision that came out, but because he resorted to such a violent manner.”
In a statement to 12 News, Lugo said he was “in a situation that no individual should see themselves in” Friday night.
“I stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking,” he said.
Lugo initially announced that he would seek the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor this year, but recently decided to end that campaign and instead seek the seat currently held by Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey, D-Warwick. (Rourke is challenging McCaffrey in the Democratic primary.)
Lugo said he was motivated by outrage over the steps that McCaffrey and other Senate leaders took to enact a new ban on higher-capacity gun magazines earlier this month.
But on Saturday afternoon, a message posted to Lugo’s Twitter account said he would no longer be seeking political office this year. The account was then deactivated.
Rhode Island Republican Party leaders have not responded to a request for comment on Lugo.
Lugo will be arraigned again on July 8.