Local News

Man charged with assaulting protester during Trump rally in Fayetteville

Posted March 10, 2016 1:14 p.m. EST
Updated July 12, 2018 2:13 p.m. EDT

— A 78-year-old Linden man has been charged with assaulting a protester at the rally held in Fayetteville Wednesday for Republican front-runner Donald Trump.

John Franklin McGraw was arrested Thursday morning and charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct, according to the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.

A video posted on YouTube shows McGraw hitting Rakeem Jones of Fayetteville as he was being escorted out of Crown Coliseum by authorities.

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 as deputies were looking away.

After being hit, Jones was tackled by law enforcement officials. A press release from the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said several deputies did not see the attack happen.

“I was walking up the stairs. The railing was in front of me, as a matter of fact there was two other people in front of me, they walked past and I was really not paying attention to them so I’m walking and as soon as I turned, he hit me,” said Jones. "He hit me dead in my eye."

Jones was part of a group who started shouting in protest minutes after Trump took the stage 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.

Authorities said that McGraw could not be located Wednesday night, but cell phone video of the incident that was posted online led to an investigation and arrest.

"We went to work immediately to identify this man, and we did this morning," said Sheriff Earl "Moose" Butler.

Ronnie Rouse captured the incident on camera.

"They're walking us out and they've got him prone because I thought he was getting arrested. I was like 'I know you're not taking him to jail. This is impossible'," Rouse recalled.

“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 Butler.

Thursday night, the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office announced that McGraw will face additional charges stemming from remarks he made at the event.

Authorities said that while reviewing video taken at the Crown Coliseum, they found that McGraw made statements threatening Jones and stating that he enjoyed hitting "that loudmouth who was 'not acting like an American'."

After viewing the video, detectives charged McGraw with communicating threats. His bond was increased from $2,500 to $5,000.

Deputies said that when McGraw was arrested, he was boastful and talkative to the media while refusing to speak to authorities. McGraw invoked his Miranda rights and demanded an attorney, authorities said.

The sheriff’s office said that an internal investigation reviewing the entire incident is ongoing. No further comment on the internal investigation could be made, they said.

The Trump campaign did not return a request for comment on the incident.