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R.I. prison captain resigns after allegedly driving truck into protesters

Truck drives through protesters at a Rhode Island detention center
A pickup truck, allegedly driven by a guard, tried to drive through protesters in a crosswalk near the Wyatt Detention Center in Rhode Island. (Courtesy of Sam Eilertsen, Mark Gartsbeyn / Globe Correspondent)

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. — The captain at a nonprofit prison here resigned Friday, two days after he allegedly drove his pickup truck into a line of demonstrators protesting the detention of immigrants for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Captain Thomas Woodworth’s resignation from the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility comes as the Rhode Island State Police and office of Attorney General Peter Neronha conduct an investigation into the incident. Several protesters were injured when they were struck by the truck and when other correctional officers used pepper spray to force the crowd to disperse.

A spokesman for Wyatt, which announced Woodworth’s resignation Friday, said the incident remains under internal investigation.


Wednesday’s protest was part of a nationwide series of demonstrations coordinated by Jewish activists in Never Again Action and was held outside the Wyatt because it is the only detention facility in Rhode Island that accepts ICE detainees. The nonprofit prison is run by the quasipublic Central Falls Detention Facility Corporation, with a board of directors appointed by the mayor.

ICE detainees are housed there through an intergovernmental service agreement with that city corporation.

An ICE spokesman said in a statement Friday that the agency “fully respects the Constitutional rights of all people to peacefully and lawfully express their opinions; however, the agency will continue to perform its immigration enforcement mission consistent with federal law and agency policy.”

The Never Again Action group in Rhode Island said it was glad to hear about Woodworth’s resignation.

“We hope that will not be the end of an effort to hold him accountable for attempting to run over multiple Jewish youth and elders peacefully protesting,” the organization said in a statement.

Woodworth’s truck swerved toward the protesters blocking the entrance to the prison parking lot, hesistated, then accelerated forward into them, witnesses said. The incident was captured on video.


Never Again Action said Woodworth should face criminal charges and said the officers who used pepper spray on the crowd should also be held accountable.

“If these officers felt empowered to attack a group of protesters in front of the public and the media, imagine what kind of violence must be taking place inside the prison, out of [sight], against vulnerable immigrants and people of color,” the activists said in a statement.

Amanda Milkovits can be reached at