PROVIDENCE — Providence Police Chief Hugh T. Clements is recommending that Jeann Lugo, the off-duty Providence officer who punched his political opponent in the face at an abortion rights rally on Friday, be fired.
“Based on the facts and circumstances presented to me, I have lost confidence in your capacity and ability to exercise self-control and to conduct yourself in a civil, respectful, and professional manner,” wrote Clements in a document that outlined the findings of the department’s internal investigation.
Lugo, a right-wing Republican, was arrested on Saturday afternoon and charged with simple assault and disorderly conduct after he punched Jennifer Rourke, 40, the progressive candidate running for state Senate. But he now faces internal charges for violating Providence Police Department rules and regulations. Those rules include standard of conduct, courtesy, rules governing conduct, obedience to laws and rules, and demeanor.
“Your... misconduct has been prominently reported in the print and electronic media, bringing dishonor, discredit, embarrassment, and reputational harm to the Providence Police Department,” said one of the internal documents from the department that was obtained by the Globe.
Under the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, also known as LEOBOR, Lugo remains suspended with pay as the investigation proceeds. Lugo could waive his right to hearing before a LEOBOR committee on this complaint and notice and resign from the department. He’d have to turn in his badge, identification card, portable radio, weapon, and all other equipment and uniforms that were issued to him.
“Your disturbing, egregious, assaultive, and unprofessional behavior while off duty has brought discredit to your name and has tarnished the proud reputation of the Providence Police Department,” wrote Clements.
It’s unclear if Lugo will resign or go through a LEOBOR hearing. Dan Griffin, Lugo’s lawyer, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Lindsay Lague, a spokeswoman for Providence Police, said Lugo had not been named in “any any civilian complaints since he was hired” three years ago.
As previously reported by The Boston Globe, Lugo was off-duty at the time of the alleged assault. Hundreds of abortion rights advocates had gathered on the plaza at the bottom of the Rhode Island State House steps Friday night for a rally after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
“You, while off duty, were involved in a disturbance in which you were observed on video striking [Rourke] on the left side of her face with your right hand,” read the department’s documents regarding the investigation. “You then struck Jennifer Rourke a second time in the area of her face with your left hand and then walked away.”
At the time, Rourke was seen in video footage, which was captured by a Globe reporter and others, as trying to defuse another assault that did not involve her or Lugo.
“Why attack me? I was the one trying to prevent this. It’s disappointing,” Rourke, a board member of The Womxn Project (who organized the demonstration) and co-founder of the Rhode Island Political Cooperative, said in the phone interview over the weekend. “I am a survivor of domestic violence and I just froze.”
Rourke filed an assault report as well as a civilian complaint. She was also treated for a concussion over the weekend.
Lugo, the morning after the assault, had responded to questions from the Globe by email and said as an officer, he saw himself in “a situation that no individual should see themselves in. I stepped in to protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking.”
He did not respond to further questions by the Globe.
Griffin wrote in a statement Monday that the press “hastily published a story and condemned Officer Lugo based on seconds of edited video devoid of any context.”
Lugo “has been a tremendous police officer in his time with the City of Providence. He is a dedicated father and husband and a real asset to his community,” wrote Griffin, Lugo’s defense lawyer. “He trusts the process and believes the actual facts will exonerate him.”
Griffin did not offer additional “facts” to what Lugo claimed occurred.
Videos posted by the Globe and other local reporters received national coverage and have been viewed by millions on social media.