Five North Carolina sheriff’s deputies have been disciplined after video footage of their conduct at a Donald Trump campaign rally showed that they ignored one of the attendees who punched a protestor they were escorting out of the rally.
John Franklin McGraw, 78, was arrested on March 10 and charged with assault and disorderly conduct after he punched Rakeem Jones, 26, in the face while Jones was being escorted out of a Trump rally on March 9.
While video footage of McGraw’s actions showed his assault on Jones, it also showed that the deputies escorting Jones out of the event did nothing to reprimand McGraw at the time.
Jones told NBC affiliate WRAL that he thought he was being arrested after he was punched, and he was surprised to see McGraw returned to his seat. “I thought I was being arrested, to be honest,” Jones said. “I saw, later on, that [McGraw] went back to his seat so I am trying to figure out why was he able to go back to his seat.”
At the end of the rally, McGraw told Inside Edition that his favorite part of the rally was “knocking the hell out of that big mouth.”
“Yes, he deserved it,” McGraw said. “The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”
During an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet The Press on Sunday, Trump said he does not condone violence. When asked if he would consider paying McGraw’s legal fees, he said, “I’ve actually instructed my people to look into it, yes.”
When asked a similar question by George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday, Trump said, “I didn’t say I would pay for his fees.”
“Nobody has asked me for fees and I haven’t even seen it so I never said I was going to pay for fees,” Trump insisted.
Sheriff Earl Butler of Cumberland County, North Carolina, released a statement on Facebook confirming that two deputies were suspended for a period of three days, and three deputies were suspended for a period of five days and demoted in rank, following a Donald Trump rally at the Crown Coliseum in Fayetteville on March 9.
Three deputies were demoted in rank, and they were suspended for a period of five days each without pay for unsatisfactory performance and failing to discharge the duties and policies of the Office of Sheriff. Two other deputies were suspended for a period of three days without pay for unsatisfactory performance and the failure to discharge their duties.
Butler wrote that in the past, the deputies “have been vigilant, and have shown great bravery and fortitude,” including in July 2014, when some of the deputies in question encountered Andrew Michaelis, “who was on a deadly shooting spree, killing his father-in-law and nephew and assaulting deputies with an assault rifle in Cumberland County.”
“I have taken into account the past bravery and exemplary conduct, including the life-saving and other actions of these deputies in assessing the discipline, and in imposing the sanctions. We regret that any of the circumstances at the Trump rally occurred, and we regret that we have had to investigate all of these matters. Yet, it is our duty and responsibility to do justice, and to carefully examine not only the actions of others, but our own actions to ensure that the law and our policies are justly and fairly enforced based in principle and without other influences.”