NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) ─ Protesters gathered outside New Bedford District Court Monday, calling for an independent investigation into a violent incident at the Bristol County jail that sent three detainees to the hospital and left a unit uninhabitable.
Bristol County Sheriff Thomas Hodgson said the detainees caused $25,000 worth of damage at the C. Carlos Carreiro Immigration Detention Center Friday night after refusing to get tested for COVID-19. He said 10 had previously reported having at least two symptoms of the virus to medical personnel.
Hodgson called Monday’s protest “pretty outrageous” and said while he is open to an independent investigation, it’s clear that the demonstrators are pushing their own agenda.
“The only real injury I’m aware of is this nasty bruise on my arm that I received after one of these detainees threw a chair at me,” Hodgson said. “The detainees will be held accountable and we are not going to cower or even pay attention, frankly, to these protesters.”
But Rafael Pizarro with The Bristol County for Correctional Justice said Hodgson’s version of what happened doesn’t line up with what they’re being told by the detainees.
“What they tell us directly contradicts with what the sheriff is saying,” Pizarro said. “We want whatever the facts are about what happened Friday to be public.”
Maria, who asked Eyewitness News not to use her last name, attended the protest after speaking with her brother about what happened. Through an interpreter, she said her brother, who is currently being detained at the facility, was pleading for help while he was being attacked.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is conducting its own investigation into the incident and surveillance footage is currently under review.
Hodgson said 26 detainees are now in isolation in single cells pending disciplinary action, criminal charges and COVID-19 testing.
Gov. Charlie Baker said Monday he hasn’t spoken to anyone yet about the incident. He added that everyone should be careful when drawing conclusions about what happened, noting they’ve previously had to discipline people for not wanting to be tested.