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Rhode Island officer arrested in alleged assault of Senate opponent at abortion rally

Jennifer Rourke said she was attacked after speaking at the state house in Providence. Officer Jeann Lugo was arrested on assault and disorderly conduct charges.

An off-duty Rhode Island police officer who was running for state Senate was arrested on an assault charge after allegedly attacking his female opponent during an abortion rights protest Friday night.

Providence police patrolman Jeann Lugo, 35, was arrested on charges of simple assault and disorderly conduct, state police said Saturday. Lugo turned himself in, was arraigned and released, it said.

Jennifer Rourke, who is running for the state’s 29th District, said she had finished speaking at a rally outside the state house in Providence on Friday when she was attacked by Lugo.

The assault was partially captured on video by journalist Bill Bartholomew with the Bartholomewtown Podcast.

“I’m a reproductive rights organizer & State Senate candidate. Last night, after speaking at our Roe rally, my Republican opponent — a police officer — violently attacked me,” Rourke wrote in a Twitter post that included the video.

“This is what it is to be a Black woman running for office. I won’t give up.”

The video appears to show a man throwing two punches at a woman, hitting her once in the head. A campaign spokesperson told CNBC that Rourke went to the hospital for a CT scan.

The Providence Police Department said it launched a criminal investigation into the incident and placed Lugo on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation and an administrative review.

After turning himself in on the charges, Lugo was arraigned in front of a justice of the peace and released on his own recognizance, state police said in Saturday’s statement.

He is due in district court July 8 for re-arraignment, police said. Online court records did not appear to show the case, and it was not clear if Lugo had an attorney late Saturday.

Lugo, who has been with the department for three years, briefly addressed the incident on Twitter.

“I will not be running for any office this fall,” he posted. He was running for District 29 as a Republican. The account did not appear to exist later Saturday.

Lugo and Rourke could not immediately be reached Saturday for comment.

Lugo said in a statement to CNBC that he was in “a situation that no individual should see themselves in” and tried to “protect someone that a group of agitators was attacking.”

“At this moment, there’s a pending internal investigation, and as the facts of the incident come to light, I request that my family and I have privacy,” he said then.

Providence was just one of many cities in the nation that saw protesters take to the streets after the Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion. 

This article first appeared on NBCNews.com.

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