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78-year-old Trump rally attendee charged for punching Black Lives Matter protester in the face

Posted at 3:51 PM, Mar 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-10 15:52:16-05

A man who attended Donald Trump’s rally in North Carolina was arrested and charged Thursday with two criminal counts of assault and disorderly conduct after multiple videos posted online appear to show him punching a protester in the face.

John McGraw, 78, was questioned and arrested by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office in connection with the incident after police identified him as the man in the video, public information officer Sgt. Sean Swain told CNN.

McGraw appears in the video to punch a black protester in the face as he was being escorted out of the venue with a group of protesters by a half-dozen police officers. The incident occurred during Trump’s rally Wednesday night in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

The department has also opened an internal investigation probing whether the officers in the video, who did not detain or arrest McGraw on site, should have done so, Swain said.

McGraw’s bond was set at $2,500 secured, and his next court date is April 6.

Donald Trump’s campaign said they were not commenting on the incident.

“That has nothing to do with us,” campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said.

Two protesters were also arrested and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest unrelated to the incident involving McGraw.

The incident comes as Trump rallies have been increasingly been the site of confrontations between protesters and supporters, though this incident appears to be the first time a rally attendee was charged with assaulting a protester.

A Black Lives Matter protester was tackled, punched and kicked by attendees at a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama, last fall, though no charges were ever issued.

Trump has drawn heat for how he has addressed violence against protesters, saying last fall that the Black Lives Matter protester maybe “should have been roughed up.”

And despite an announcement at the start of his rallies urging protesters not to be violent toward protesters, Trump in February urged his supporters to “knock the crap out of” anybody “getting ready to throw a tomato” and vowed to pay for their legal fees should they face charges.

“We are on top of this,” Swain said. “We want to see everything that we can before we make any decisions.”

“Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. OK? Just knock the hell — I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise, I promise,” Trump said.

And Trump also said he personally wanted to punch a protestor “in the face” during a rally in February.

The alleged assault Wednesday night against the protester occurred seemingly out of the blue as a group of protesters were being escorted out of the building.

Suddenly, a man police have identified as McGraw, throws a punch at one of the protesters, identified by The Washington Post as Rakeem Jones. Jones was not arrested, police said.

Moments later, video posted online shows the protester who was punched on the ground, surrounded by four police officers who then flip the man onto his stomach, before eventually lifting him up.

McGraw, though, was not questioned by police and remains at the event.

Swain did not say how police identified McGraw or whether he confessed to punching the protester.

He said police were gathering all the videos of the incident to determine if officers at the scene acted appropriately.