Five sheriff’s deputies were disciplined Wednesday for failing to immediately arrest a man who elbowed a protester in the face at a Donald Trump rally last week in North Carolina.
Three Cumberland County sheriff’s deputies were demoted and suspended for five days without pay and two more deputies were suspended for three days without pay in connection with the incident following a week-long internal investigation, the sheriff’s office announced Wednesday.
John McGraw, a 78-year-old Trump supporter, allegedly elbowed protester Rakeem Jones in the face as a group of sheriff’s deputies escorted Jones and other protesters out of the venue. McGraw was arrested and charged with assault, disorderly conduct and communicating threats the next day.
“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 not ever be tolerated under the policies of this office,” Cumberland County Sheriff Earl Butler said in a press release, adding that his office regrets “that any of the circumstances at the Trump rally occurred.”
Sgt. Sean Swain, the county sheriff’s office’s public information officer, said the five officers were present for McGraw’s alleged assault.
“Those five officers saw or the sheriff felt they reasonably should have seen what took place and failed to take action,” Swain told CNN on Wednesday.
The sheriff’s office did not provide the names of the deputies. A follow-up message left with the sheriff’s office early Wednesday evening was not immediately returned.
The sheriff’s office had also weighed charging Trump with inciting a riot in connection with the incident, but quickly decided against doing so.
McGraw is the first person to have been arrested and charged with assaulting a protester at a Trump rally.
Trump said Sunday that he was considering paying McGraw’s legal fees, but by Tuesday had already backed off that position, saying he “never said I was going to pay for fees.”