Local News

Trump rally assault victim applauds disciplining of Cumberland deputies

Posted March 16, 2016 6:08 p.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2018 2:13 p.m. EDT

— The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said that five deputies have been disciplined in connection with the assault of Rakeem Jones at a Donald Trump rally in Fayetteville on March 9.

The sheriff’s office said the deputies witnessed the assault and did not take action. Three of the deputies were demoted and were also suspended without pay for five days. The other two were suspended without pay for three days. All five deputies face one year of probation.

"I applaud the sheriff's department for their work and finding the deputies responsible," said Jones.

In a statement, Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler said the deputies faced disciplinary action for "unsatisfactory performance and failing to discharge the duties and policies of the office of the sheriff."

"The actions of the deputies and their failures to act in situations such as that which occurred during the Trump rally at the Crown Coliseum have never been and will never be tolerated under the policies of this office," Butler said in a statement.

The sheriff's office said that several of the disciplined deputies were involved with the confrontation of Andrew Michaelis, who went on a deadly shooting spree killing family members and assaulting deputies with an assault rifle in July 2014. Their actions in that situation factored into their punishment, Butler said.

"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," he said. "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."

John Franklin McGraw, 78, was charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct in connection with the incident. McGraw also faced charges of communicating threats for comments he made about Jones following the rally.

Authorities said that Jones was being escorted out of the rally after disrupting Trump’s speech when McGraw edged his way to the end of the row and hit Jones in the head and face.

Jones was part of a group who started shouting in protest minutes after Trump took the stage last Wednesday night. He said he gave McGraw the middle finger after he and many other attendees began yelling at the protesting group. Jones' group was the first of many protesters to be thrown out of the event.

Jones said after he was elbowed by McGraw, officers moved in, but it was him- not McGraw- that they took to the ground.

"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."

Jones said the attack still isn't over for him. He lives on guard, continuing to get threats against him and the people around him.

"I can't do normal stuff anymore," he said. "What about the safety of my family?"

The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office considered charging Trump with inciting a riot after the incident at the Crown Coliseum, noting that the GOP front-runner made comments during the removal of several protesters at the event. On Monday, the sheriff’s office said "the evidence does not meet the requisites of the law as established under the relevant North Carolina statute and case law to support a conviction of the crime of inciting a riot.”