A Donald Trump supporter has been charged with assault after multiple videos showed him sucker-punching a protester at a campaign rally in Fayetteville, N.C.
The videos, which appeared on social media early Thursday and are shot from different perspectives, show an African American with long hair wearing a white T-shirt leaving Trump’s Wednesday-night rally as the audience boos. He is being led out by men in uniforms that read “Sheriff’s Office.” The man extends a middle finger to the audience on his way out.
Then, out of nowhere, the man is punched in the face by a pony-tailed man, who appears to be white, in a cowboy hat, black vest and pink shirt as the crowd begins to cheer. The protester stumbles away, and then is detained by a number of the men in uniforms.
“Chill, chill!” an onlooker says. “You don’t gotta grab him like that!”
Rakeem Jones, the man who was hit, said the punch came out of nowhere.
“Boom, he caught me,” Jones told The Washington Post in a telephone interview. “After I get it, before I could even gain my thoughts, I’m on the ground getting escorted out. Now I’m waking up this morning looking at the news and seeing me getting hit again.”
John McGraw, 78, was charged with assault and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Sean Swain told The Post on Thursday.
McGraw is due in court in April, Swain said. It was not immediately clear if he already has an attorney.
“We did the mission last night, we’re doing the follow-up, we’ve got the guy in custody,” said Swain, who also added: “People here in Cumberland Country realize what this sheriff does, and they didn’t have a complaint about what happened last night.”
Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton addressed the incident during an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
“Count me among those who are truly distraught and even appalled by a lot of what I see going on, what I hear being said,” Clinton said. “You know, you don’t make America great by, you know, dumping on everything that made America great, like freedom of speech and assembly and, you know, the right of people to protest.”
She added: “As the campaign goes further, more and more Americans are going to be really disturbed by the kind of campaign he’s running.”
Jones said he and four friends — a “diverse” group that included a white woman, a Muslim, and a gay man, had gone to the rally as a “social experiment.” He said the woman with them started shouting once Trump’s speech began.
“She shouted, but at the same time, they were shouting too,” Jones, a 26-year-old inventory associate, said. “Everyone was shouting, too. … No one in our group attempted to get physical.”
Jones blamed the Cumberland County officers escorting him from the rally for failing to protect him — then detaining him instead of the man who attacked him.
“It’s happening at all these rallies now and they’re letting it ride,” Jones said. “The police jumped on me like I was the one swinging.” He added: “My eye still hurts. It’s just shocking. The shock of it all is starting to set in. It’s like this dude really hit me and they let him get away with it. I was basically in police custody and got hit.”
Swain, however, said he didn’t think the officers who were filmed coming up the stairs saw what happened to Jones.
The incident is now the subject of an internal review, Swain said. Authorities are combing through video footage of the rally and conducting interviews to try to determine what happened.