Corrections Officer On Leave After Truck Drives Toward Protesters At R.I. Detention Facility

A video posted to Facebook by a group of protesters at a Rhode Island detention facility depicts a truck driving toward a crowd of demonstrators. (Screenshot via Never Again Action on Facebook)
A video posted to Facebook by a group of protesters at a Rhode Island detention facility depicts a truck driving toward a crowd of demonstrators. (Screenshot via Never Again Action on Facebook)

A corrections officer at a Rhode Island prison is on leave after a truck drove at a group of people protesting outside the facility.

The warden at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls says Capt. Thomas Woodworth is suspended as they do a "top-to-bottom review" of Wednesday night's incident.

Warden Daniel Martin didn't say specifically that Woodworth was the driver. Woodworth is on leave pending an investigation by the Rhode Island State Police, and an internal investigation by the Wyatt facility.

"The Wyatt supports the First Amendment right of citizens to peacefully protest on public property surrounding the facility, and the First Amendment right of journalists to report on the facility," Martin said in a statement.

Never Again Action, a Jewish youth organization, held a protest Wednesday night in front of the Wyatt, which is used by federal immigration officials. Just before 10 p.m., the group, which was recording its march to the facility and protest outside live on Facebook, captured video that shows a black pickup truck driving quickly toward the crowd of protesters, before stopping and then moving forward again.

In the live video post, the group also claimed the driver of the truck was a corrections officer at the detention center.

On Twitter Thursday morning, the group said two protesters were "hit by the truck" and hospitalized with injuries that were not life-threatening.

Warning: The video below contains explicit language and may be disturbing to some viewers.

The video shows uniformed police officers surround the truck while ordering protesters to "back up." The protesters then begin chanting, "shame" and "the whole world is watching." Someone in the crowd can be seen spraying a substance that appears to be pepper spray at the demonstrators. The group said that person was a police officer and that three other people were taken to the hospital due to "severe pepper spray exposure." The group also later criticized police reaction to the truck incident, saying officers "stood by and watched, doing nothing."

In addition to state police, the Rhode Island attorney general's office is also investigating.

Gov. Gina Raimondo tweeted Thursday morning that she was in communication with state police regarding the incident. "I share the outrage Rhode Islanders are feeling," she said.

Central Falls Mayor James Diossa in a tweet characterized the incident as "disturbing."

The Rhode Island attorney general's office said state police are assisting in its investigation of the incident. Central Falls police encouraged anyone with information to reach out to them or state police.

"Once we have a full understanding of the relevant facts, we will determine how to proceed," the attorney general's office said in a statement. "Peaceful protest is a fundamental right of all Americans; it is unfortunate last night’s situation unfolded as it did. We urge all to exercise restraint as our investigation proceeds."

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. 

This article was originally published on August 15, 2019.

Headshot of Laney Ruckstuhl

Laney Ruckstuhl Field Producer
Laney Ruckstuhl is the field producer for Morning Edition. She was formerly a digital producer.



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