Five sheriff's deputies in North Carolina have been suspended without pay following a Donald Trump rally where a protester was sucker-punched as he was being escorted out, the Cumberland County Sheriff said.
The March 10 rally in Fayetteville, North Carolina, was caught on videos that showed a Trump supporter assaulting an anti-Trump protester, who was then detained by numerous uniformed men.
"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," Sheriff Earl Butler said.
Deputies were escorting an African-American anti-Trump protester, later identified as Rakeem Jones, out of the arena. The audience booed and the protester extended his middle finger.
As Jones walked toward the exit, a man, who appeared to be white, emerged and punched him in the face.
"Boom, he caught me," Jones told the Washington Post in a telephone interview. "After I get it, before I could even gain my thoughts, I'm on the ground getting escorted out."
John Franklin McGraw, 78, was charged with assault and disorderly conduct.
Earlier in the week, the sheriff's office announced that after reviewing evidence, it would not file charges of inciting a riot against the Republican front-runner.
Three of the deputies have been demoted in rank and suspended for five days. The two others were suspended for three days. Butler said the deputies were being disciplined for "unsatisfactory performance and failing to discharge the duties and policies" of the department.
"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."
Butler added that he took into account "past bravery and exemplary conduct" of these deputies, some of whom responded to a 2014 killing spree in the county.
The five deputies will remain in a probationary status for the next 12 months, according to the sheriff.