A 78-year-old local man was arrested by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for assaulting a protester at a Fayetteville, N.C. rally for presidential-hopeful Donald Trump. Using cell phone video recorded at the rally, authorities were able to identify John Franklin McGraw. McGraw was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault and battery and disorderly conduct Thursday morning, WRAL reports.
McGraw is next scheduled to appear in court April 6. A magistrate set his bail at $2,500.
Viral cell phone video shows a black man, Rakeem Jones being led out of the Crown Coliseum by sheriff’s deputies. As they make their way up the stairs, McGraw reaches out of the aisle and punches Jones hard in the face. The officers escorting Jones do not react.
“No one should be subjected to such a cowardly, unprovoked act as that committed by McGraw. Regardless of political affiliation, speech, race, national origin, color, gender, bad reputation, prior acts, or political demonstration, no other citizen has the right to assault another person or to act in such a way as this defendant did,” said Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler to WRAL.
A spokesman for the CCSO said that the officers did not see the punch take place. It had happened too quickly.
“He came from a couple of sections over and walked across the rows to hit me,” Jones said today in an interview. “I got a glimpse before he hit me. He didn’t say nothing. He just hit me.”
Jones can be seen reeling backward and then kicks upward with his right leg after the punch. Authorities continued to lead the victim up the steps inside the Crown, the videos show.
“He went back to his seat,” Jones said.
Jones told the press that he was not at the rally as a protester, rather as a “social experiment.” He attended the rally with three friends, one of whom, a white female was dissenting vocally against Trump.
“Our friend was talking along the lines of, ‘Trump is disgusting.’ That was her opinion,” he said, “and she was saying it out loud. People around us were like, ‘Ya’ll need to shut up.’ Then it got to the point where the police were called in and escorted us out.
According to Jones, Trump had only been speaking for about three minutes when the police began to escort him out. On the way up the stairs, McGraw’s punch came out of nowhere.
“We went in and got in our seats,” he said. “He came out about 7:05 and, by 7:08, I was out. It happened so fast. My friend was trying to get his pro camera to film. By the time he got the camera to film, the police were there escorting us out.”
When asked if he liked the rally, he said: “You bet I liked it. Knocking the hell out of that big mouth.”
And when asked why he punched the protester, he said: “Number one, we don’t know if he’s ISIS. We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American, cussing me… If he wants it laid out, I laid it out.”
He added: “Yes, he deserved it. 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.”