Oct. 23 (UPI) -- A grand jury on Wednesday declined to charge prison guards at a Rhode Island correctional facility where a pickup truck drove into protesters demonstrating against the Trump administration's immigration policy.
Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha said the Providence County Grand Jury decided that "no criminal charges are warranted" after it was presented with the results of an investigation into the August incident at the Donald W. Wyatt Detention Facility in Central Falls, some 7 miles from Providence.
"The grand jury worked hard to carefully sort through all the testimony and evidence that was presented to them," Neronha said in a statement. "From my own experience, 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. Often, these are not easy issues for grand jurors or trial jurors to grapple with."
Neronha said in a press conference that the 23-member grand jury required at least 12 votes to indict but declined to do so following an "extremely thorough" investigation that included more than 70 witness testimonies.
"The criminal justice system is not a perfect instrument," he said. "Sometimes it is a blunt instrument and it is not a scalpel."
On Aug. 14, Capt. Thomas Woodworth drove his pickup truck into a group of protesters demonstrating against the facility housing immigration detainees by creating a human barrier around the building.
Two people were injured in the crash, including a 64-year-old man who suffered a broken leg.
The Rhode Island State Police also pepper-sprayed the protesters in an attempt to disperse the demonstration, which was also apart of the grand jury investigation.
Woodworth was put on administrative leave following the incident.
Never Again Action, the group that organized the protest, said it was "greatly disappointed" that neither Woodworth nor the officers who used pepper spray would be held accountable.
"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. "Mr. Woodworth should be in jail but, more importantly, the Wyatt should be shut down, the state should ban all collaboration with [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and ICE detainees at the Wyatt should be freed."
Never Again Action said it questioned the methodology used during the investigation, stating the prosecutors focused on the supposed danger the protesters posed to "justify" the actions of the prison guards.
In his statement, Neronha described that Aug. 14 crash as a peaceful protest that devolved into "an unfortunate incident" that could have been avoided.
"There is much to learn from this incident," he said. "It is my hope that we will do so."