PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Prison guards involved in a clash outside a detention center during a protest of federal immigration policy won’t face charges, Rhode Island’s attorney general said Wednesday.
Democrat Peter Neronha announced the criminal investigation’s conclusion, with the grand jury reporting that no criminal charges are warranted.
“I am sure that they had to deal with complicated legal and factual issues, including determining the intent of those whose conduct was within the scope of their investigation and whether that intent rose to the level of criminal misconduct,” Neronha said in a statement.
Capt. Thomas Woodworth drove his truck through a group protesting Aug. 14 outside the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls. The investigation focused on the truck’s operation and the deployment of pepper spray by other prison personnel.
Woodworth resigned . His attorney, Gary Pelletier, told The Providence Journal that Woodworth didn’t hit anyone with his truck and didn’t intend to, and that he thought they were moving as he tried to drive into work. Woodworth is relieved by the outcome, Pelletier added.
The Jewish youth movement Never Again Action organized the protest and condemned Neronha for his handling of the case. The group says witnesses who testified before the grand jury said prosecutors focused only on protesters’ actions and attempted to justify the guards’ actions.
The Boston office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement started holding detainees at Wyatt again in March, a decade after a man’s death there ended the practice. Never Again Action wants Wyatt, a quasi-public institution, to be shut down.
“If these officers, acting in their official capacity, acted with such violence toward protesters, we can only imagine how they treat the immigrants and asylum-seekers in their charge on a regular basis,” the group said in a statement Wednesday.
A Peaceful protest devolved into an extremely unfortunate incident that could have been avoided had better systems been in place to ensure public safety, Neronha said.