PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence police officer and former Republican political candidate accused of assaulting his Democratic opponent outside the Rhode Island State House last month will face a judge Friday morning.
Jeann Lugo, 35, was charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct after video surfaced online of him punching Rhode Island Political Cooperative co-founder Jennifer Rourke during a brawl on Smith Hill as hundreds of people gathered to condemn the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Rourke, one of Lugo’s former Democratic challengers for a state Senate seat in Warwick, claims she was trying to keep the peace after an argument had broken out amongst demonstrators. Lugo, who was off duty at the time, said he “stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking.”
Lugo is currently out on personal recognizance and is scheduled to be formally arraigned Friday.
The Providence Police Department immediately placed Lugo, a three-year veteran of the force, on paid administrative leave following the incident.
Providence Police Chief Hugh Clements also recommended Lugo be terminated last week, describing his behavior as “disturbing, egregious, assaultive and unprofessional.”
Lugo can’t be fired outright because he is protected by the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights (LEOBOR).
Clements urged Lugo to resign or request a LEOBOR hearing, which wouldn’t take place until after the criminal case is adjudicated. In the meantime, LEOBOR requires he be paid during his suspension.
Dan Griffin, Lugo’s attorney, confirmed Thursday night that his client has requested a LEOBOR hearing.
“We look forward to getting the process started [Friday] so Officer Lugo’s name can be cleared sooner rather than later,” Griffin said in a statement.
Lugo had been campaigning against Rourke to represent District 29, a seat currently held by Senate Majority Leader Mike McCaffrey. (Rourke had been challenging McCaffrey in the Democratic primary until he announced his retirement.)
But soon after the incident, a message posted to Lugo’s Twitter account stated he would no longer be seeking political office this year. His account was then deactivated.
12 News plans on attending Lugo’s arraignment Friday and will provide updates from court both on air and online.