A Montana man is facing assault charges after throwing a 13-year-old boy to the ground when he refused to take his hat off during the national anthem. Curt James Brockway, a 39-year-old with a history of violence, told police the teen was disrespectful.
The incident occurred on Saturday, August 2 at the Mineral County Fair just before the start of the rodeo. Mineral County is located in northwestern Montana and has a population of approximately 4,200 residents.
The fair’s Facebook page describes itself as “an old-fashioned country fair with lots of cowboy spirit and homespun charm. NRA-sanctioned evening rodeos for westerners, plus shows and livestock competition for the ‘kid’ in us all.”
Here’s what you need to know about Curt Brockway and his 13-year-old victim:
1. Brockway Said He Assaulted the Teen After the Boy Cursed at Him
According to documents filed by Mineral County Attorney Ellen Donohue, Brockway said he asked the boy, only identified as Wally, to remove his hat at the start of the national anthem. He went on to say the boy responded by cursing at him.
Wally’s mother, Megan Keeler, refuted Brockway’s claim. “There was no exchange – nothing! He targeted Wally and took him down,” she revealed, adding, “All of the witnesses I have talked to said this was just completely random.”
Keeler told KPAX the attack occurred right after dropping Wally off at the fair. According to Keeler, she received a call within minutes that her son was being transported to the hospital.
Donahue wrote that Brockway grabbed Wally by the throat, lifted the boy in the air and slammed him onto the ground.
“Dude come up and grabbed him by his neck, picked him up and threw him to the ground, head first,” Megan Keeler told MTN News.
Taylor Hennick was about to watch the rodeo when she suddenly heard a “pop” and saw the teenager laying on the ground with blood flowing from his ear. Hennick said Brockway attempted to justify the assault by telling the crowd that the boy “was disrespecting the national anthem so [Brockway] had every right to do that.”
Mineral County Sheriff Michael Boone confirmed in a news release that witnesses identified Brockway as the assailant and he was detained at the fair. Brockway appeared in court on August 5 and was formally charged with assault on a minor.
Prosecutors asked that bail be set at $100,000, but Brockway was released on his own recognizance on Tuesday, August 6. Brockway’s arraignment is scheduled for August 14 with Judge John Larsen presiding.
2. Wally Was Airlifted to a Hospital in Spokane, Washington
Boone said the teen was initially transported to a local hospital but was later flown to Sacred Heart Children’s Hospital in Spokane. Megan Keeler told MTN News her son was bleeding from his ear for nearly six hours after the incident.
The assault resulted in Wally sustaining temporal skull fractures. Temporal fractures occur on the side of the skull and can cause hearing loss, vertigo, balance disturbance, or facial paralysis. The teen was released from the hospital and is currently at home recovering from his injuries.
“It’s just a lot of pain in my head. I don’t remember anything – the rodeo – the helicopter – nothing,” Wally told MTN News.
Keeler said her first priority is Wally’s recovery but added, “I want to know Curt is put away and I would like compensation for the damages and bills.”
3. Brockway’s Defense Attorney Says His Client Is an Army Veteran & Was Following His Commander-in-Chief’s Rhetoric When He Attacked the Boy
Curt Brockway’s defense attorney, Lance Jasper, told The Missoulian that his client is a U.S. Army veteran. He said Brockway was influenced by President Donald Trump’s “rhetoric” surrounding the national anthem.
“His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished,” Jasper told the newspaper. “He certainly didn’t understand it was a crime.”
Jasper also told the newspaper he will seek a mental health evaluation for his client. He said his client suffered a brain injury in the past and has trouble with judgment. He said Brockway was not thinking for himself, but was responding to a presidential order to stop those who disrespect the national anthem and America.
“Obviously he (Brockway) owes a big portion of accountability for what took place, but it’s certain that there was other things at work here that definitely contributed,” he told The Missoulian. “Trump never necessarily says go hurt somebody, but the message is absolutely clear. I am certain of the fact that (Brockway) was doing what he believed he was told to do, essentially, by the president.”
U.S. Code 36, Chapter 10 details proper etiquette during the national anthem. The chapter uses the word “should” rather than “must” throughout the text and does not mention punishment. The chapter states that men not in uniform should “remove their headdress with their right hand and hold it at the left shoulder, the hand being over the heart.”
Over the last few years, addressing the flag and the national anthem has been a controversial topic, with some athletes “taking a knee” as a sign of protest against racial inequality and police brutality. It is not known if the boy forgot to remove his hat or left it on intentionally. There’s no indication from authorities that he was protesting.
4. Brockway Was Convicted of Assault With a Weapon After He Was Accused of Pulling a Gun on a Family in 2010
The incident at the fairground was not Brockway’s first run-in with the law. In 2010, he was charged with Assault with a Weapon after he pulled up to a parked vehicle, got out of his vehicle and pulled a gun on a family.
KPAX reported that Brockway then stated he was going to kill them. Brockway’s friend was able to persuade him to put the gun down and leave.
Brockway was sentenced in July 2011 to 10-year suspended sentence. A victim notification request for the 2010 offense is noted on his record. His probation was ended after seven years because of good behavior.
His attorney, Lance Jasper, told The Missoulian, that Brockway suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2000 in a Jeep crash while driving home to visit his family from Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was stationed at the time in the Army. He was honorably discharged from the military because of his disability, his attorney told the newspaper.
Jasper told the newspaper that his client’s brain injury also played a role in the 2010 case and his condition was taken into account during his sentencing, which is why he did not spend any time in prison.
“Obviously it’s a tragedy whenever someone is injured, especially a young kid, but with my client being a veteran with a traumatic brain injury, it is absolutely fair to say he got caught up in a heightened animosity and a heightened rhetoric that too many people are engaged in,” Jasper told The Missoulian. “Everyone should learn to dial it down a little bit, from the president to Mineral County.”
5. The Victim’s Family Are Asking for Donations to Help With Medical Expenses
Megan Keeler’s friend, Cassie Bennett, wrote on Facebook that the family needs help paying for medical expenses.
“As many of you know my best friends son was brutally attacked by an adult Saturday evening in Superior MT while he was entering the rodeo for No reason at all. He received several temporal skull fractures, The trama that is just coming up is absolutely heartbreaking for this little boy, he has a very long road of recovery,” she wrote. “With that his mother will not be working at this time and has finances they must keep up with not to mention the medical bills, special foods, gas lawyer fee’s etc. Please if you can make any donations they are being accepted at any Trail West Bank in his Name Wally Crosby. This family is so helpful and giving and could really use the community’s help Please and Thank you all.”
A GoFundMe has also been set up to collect donations and had raised $485 of a $10,000 goal by the evening of August 7. The fundraiser is titled, “Boy Assaulted by Nationalist Needs Our Help,” and previously called Wally a victim of “forced patriotism.”
“A 13 year old boy in Montana was brutally slammed to the ground, fracturing his skull and causing him to bleed from the ears for hours on end. The reason for this vicious assault? A 39 year old man named Curt Brockway took issue with the boy not removing his hat for the national anthem,” Brad Jackson, who set up the fundraiser, wrote. Family members say the money is going to them and the fundraiser is legitimate. “The boy, Wally, has a very long road to recovery. His mother, Megan, will be with him the entire time and is therefore unable to work. Every dime from this fundraiser will go to the family to help them seek justice and pay their bills while their brave boy heals.”
Jackson added, “Democratic dissent is the right of every American, and whether intentional or not, this young man should be applauded and supported for his bravery in the face of forced patriotism. Nobody gets to mete out punishment in order to enforce patriotism, and this man should be locked away for his crimes. Help us help this family, and help us ensure this reality.”
He later said, “We are off to a phenomenal start! Megan, Wally’s mother, is incredibly grateful for the donations, and she has been listed as the sole beneficiary of the funds raised here. This is going to do a lot for this family. Please keep sharing, and encourage your friends to donate! Thank you!”