Deputies with a North Carolina sheriff’s department have been suspended for "their failures to act" during a Donald Trump rally in which a black man being escorted from the event was allegedly assaulted by a white man, officials said.
Three deputies were demoted and suspended without pay for five days and two other deputies were suspended without pay for three days for their actions, Cumberland County Sheriff Early “Moose” Butler said in a statement, calling their performance “unsatisfactory.”
All five were put on probation for 12 months.
An investigation was launched after a video surfaced showing a man wearing a cowboy hat sucker punching a black man being led from the Crown Coliseum on Wednesday, March 9.
Officials said the deputies were looking at the stairs when protestor Rakeem Jones, 26, was punched.
“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,” Butler said in a statement.
The Trump supporter, identified as 78-year-old John McGraw, told INSIDE EDITION the protester deserved to be hit.
“Number one, we don’t know if he’s ISIS. We don’t know who he is, but we know he’s not acting like an American, cussing me … If he wants it laid out, I laid it out," he said.
“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.”
McGraw was arrested the next day and charged with assault and battery and disorderly conduct, the Cumberland County Sherriff’s office said.
Trump initially said he was considering paying McGraw’s legal fees, telling “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd last weekend that he "instructed my people to look into it."
“I don’t accept responsibility. I do not condone violence in any shape,” Trump continued. “And I will tell you from what I saw, the young man stuck his finger in the air, and the other man sort of just had it.”
Trump went on to say he would not pay McGraw's legal fees, saying on on "Good Morning America," "Nobody has asked for fees and I haven't even seen it so I never said I was going to pay for fees."
Butler noted that the deputies reprimanded for their actions at the rally have in the past proven to be “vigilant, and have shown great bravery and fortitude,” which factored in the sanctions imposed.
“We regret that any of the circumstances at the Trump rally occurred, and we regret that we have had to investigate all of these matters,” Butler said.
“Yet, it is our duty and responsibility to do justice, and to carefully examine not only the actions of others, but our own actions to ensure that the law and our policies are justly and fairly enforced based in principle and without other influences.”