John McGraw, of Linden, was arrested Thursday and charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct, the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office said in a press release.
McGraw is accused of punching protester Rakeem Jones in the face as Jones was being led out of the rally by police.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. McGraw Told a Reporter ‘Next Time, We Might Have to Kill Him’
“You bet I liked it,” McGraw, wearing a cowboy hat, told the reporter. “Knocking hell out of that big mouth. We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American.”
The reporter asked McGraw if he deserved it and the 78-year-old responded, “every bit of it.”
McGraw 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.”
“Number one, we don’t know if he’s ISIS,” McGraw said.
2. He Puts on Firearms Demonstrations & Goes By the Nickname ‘Quick Draw’
Police told the New York Times that McGraw is known by the nickname “Quick Draw” and often puts on firearm demonstrations. He is also known for making holsters.
McGraw was booked into the county jail and his bail was set at $2,500. His next court appearance is set for April 6.
He appeared before a magistrate on Thursday. It is not clear if McGraw has an attorney and he could not be reached for comment after his arrest.
3. Jones Says He Was at the Trump Rally as a ‘Social Experiment’
Rakeem Jones, the victim, told the Washington Post, “Boom, he caught me. After I get it, before I could even gain my thoughts, I’m on the ground getting escorted out. Now I’m waking up this morning looking at the news and seeing me getting hit again.”
Jones told the Post he was at the rally with a “diverse” group of friends that included a white woman, a Muslim and a gay man, and that they went to the rally as a “social experiment.” He said the woman in their group began shouting a Trump during the speech, but they never got physical.”
4. Police Tackled Jones to the Ground & Did Not Detain McGraw
A video taken by Jones’ friend shows that sheriff’s deputies escorting Jones and the other protesters out of the arena tackled Jones to the ground, but did not detain McGraw.
“It’s happening at all these rallies now and they’re letting it ride,” Jones told the Washington Post. “The police jumped on me like I was the one swinging My eye still hurts. It’s just shocking. The shock of it all is starting to set in. It’s like this dude really hit me and they let him get away with it. I was basically in police custody and got hit.”
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office did not in fact witness the punch.
“The deputies who did not see the assault continued up the steps with the victim, who was ultimately escorted from the Coliseum,” the sheriff’s office said.
“Following these events, McGraw could not be located. Ultimately, cell phone video was posted on social media, and upon reviewing it, Sheriff Butler directed an investigation to locate the perpetrator of the assault and to effect his arrest,” the press release says. “In addition, the Sheriff directed an internal investigation to review the entire incident and the policies and procedures related to it.”
5. The Sheriff Called the Punch ‘Cowardly’ & ‘Unprovoked,’ But Trump Supporters Say He Was Provoked
The Cumberland County Sheriff Earl “Moose” Butler issued a strong statement against the assault after McGraw was arrested:
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.
But many Trump supporters defended McGraw on social media, saying he was in fact provoked. Jeffrey Lord, a Trump surrogate, was among them.
“We are talking about people who show up at rallies, Donald Trump or whatever, to provoke,” Lord said on CNN, in a video you can watch above or by clicking here. “They are in search of violence. That’s what their objective is.”
Trump’s campaign says they aren’t able control the people who come to the rallies. But Trump has made statements at past events that some say encourage the violence.
In February, he said he wanted to punch a protester in the face, according to the Washington Post.
That same night he told the crowd, “Look, see, he’s smiling. See, he’s having a good time. You know what I hate? There’s a guy, totally disruptive, throwing punches, we’re not allowed to punch back anymore. I love the old days. You know what they used to do to guys like that when they were in a place like this? They’d be carried out on a stretcher, folks.”
“We obviously discourage any kind of physical contact or engagement with protesters,” campaign spokesperson Hope Hicks told the New York Times after McGraw’s arrest.
The incident came on the same day that the Trump campaign battled accusations that campaign manager Corey Lewandowski assaulted a Breitbart.com reporter, Michelle Fields, during a press conference Tuesday night.