FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – A man arrested for punching a protester at Donald Trump’s rally in Fayetteville this week later said he “might have to kill” the demonstrator the next time he saw him.
The punch was captured on video and tweeted by New York Daily News writer Shaun King. The video shows a man later identified as John McGraw punching a protester as he was being escorted out by security at Wednesday’s Trump rally at the Crown Coliseum.
McGraw, 78, of Linden, is charged with assault and battery, disorderly conduct and communicating threats for his involvement in the incident.
In a video later posted by Inside Edition, McGraw defended his actions.
“He deserved it,” McGraw said of the protester, Rakeem Jones. “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.”
McGraw showed little remorse for the attack.
“You bet I liked it. Knocking the hell out of that big mouth,” McGraw continued. “No. 1, 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.”
McCraw was originally charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office later charged him with communicating threats after investigators learned of the statements he made on video.
When he was arrested, McGraw refused to talk with deputies and invoked his Miranda rights, demanding an attorney, the sheriff’s office said.
Jones was the first of nearly 30 protesters kicked out of the rally. He said he and a diverse group of friends went just to observe and had no plans to protest.
“I saw a guy come from beside me, because I looked behind me, and then when I turned around he elbowed me,” Jones recalled.
He said the moment seemed surreal and happened quickly.
“I was more pissed off at the police more than anything,” he continued. “He hit me, so I’m more pissed off with them but of course if somebody [is] putting their hands on me, it could have gone a whole different way.”
Jones said he was upset at hearing Trump say “Go home to mom” as he was leaving. Jones’ mother died eight years ago.
“I get real offended by that, even with regular people,” he said.
At the end of the video tweeted by King, Jones is seen being tackled to the ground.
Sgt. Sean Swain of the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said there was “a miscommunication at the top of the stairs as to what was going on.” He said Jones tripped at the top of the stairs, but a deputy thought he had assaulted an officer.
The department is investigating.
Cumberland County Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler released the following statement:
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. I hope that the courts will handle this matter with the appropriate severity for McGraw’s severe and gross violation of this victim’s rights.
CBS North Carolina went to McGraw’s home Friday but no one was home.
Neighbors said he was home earlier on Friday after bonding out of jail, but then drove to Virginia visit family members.
Neighbors said McGraw was previously a boxer while in the military. They called him a huge Trump supporter and said they were surprised at what happened.
“It was pretty surprising,” said Tony Jaynard. “I didn’t expect him to actually sit there and punch somebody when I looked at that video.”
“I was surprised because to me, that’s not him,” added Peggy Esola. “It makes me sad because I didn’t think he was capable of doing that.”
When asked his later comments about killing the protester, Jaynard replied, “He’s a character, but I couldn’t believe he even said that. That’s pretty bad.”
McGraw is schedule to appear in court on April 6.