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Air Force Staff Sergeant Charged with Assault at Trump Rally

Trump protester Bryan Sanders, center left, is punched by a Trump supporter as he is escorted out of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally in downtown Tucson, Ariz., March 19, 2016. (Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star via AP)
Trump protester Bryan Sanders, center left, is punched by a Trump supporter as he is escorted out of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's rally in downtown Tucson, Ariz., March 19, 2016. (Mike Christy/Arizona Daily Star via AP)

An Air Force staff sergeant and security forces airman is being charged with assaulting a protester at a Donald Trump rally in Arizona, where officials at his base are now reviewing the incident to determine what action, if any, they will take.

During the March 19 rally in Tucson, Staff Sgt. Tony Pettway, out of uniform and wearing civilian clothes, was captured on camera punching a protester carrying an anti-Trump sign, knocking him to the floor and kicking him.

Pettway is assigned to 355th Security Force Squadron at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson.

"We are reviewing the situation, fully cooperating with local authorities, and will take appropriate action," said Capt. Casey Osborne, a spokesman for the 355th Fighter Wing.

All Defense Department members may participate in the political process "in their personal capacity without implying any endorsement from the DoD," she said.

"We believe wholeheartedly in our fellow Americans' rights to express their views on political issues, and we strongly condemn any attempt to silence those views through force or violence," Osborne said.

In the video, a protester wearing an American flag shirt and later identified as Bryant Sanders can be seen walking up the stairs as hundreds of Trump supporters booed and jeered from the sides.

A protester behind Sanders was wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood. As the two were heading up the stairs, Trump can be heard calling the hooded protester "a disgusting guy … He thinks he's cute. He's a disgusting guy," according to an article in The Washington Post.

At one point an African-American man later identified as Pettway can be seen knocking a sign out of Sanders' hands, sucker punching him, knocking him to the floor and then stomping and kicking him repeatedly.

Uniformed police officers approached Pettway, who can be seen turning and placing his hands behind his back to be handcuffed.

Pettway, 32, was charged with assault with injury, a misdemeanor, Tucson police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Bay said.

The incident was much different from an earlier Trump rally in North Carolina, where an elderly man, John McGraw, was caught on video sucker punching an African-American protester, Rakeem Jones. Police there initially ignored the 78-year-old McGraw and instead grabbed Jones and escorted him outside.

Police arrested McGraw after the video was broadcast nationally, including McGraw's comment to the television program Inside Edition afterwards that Jones "deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him."

--Bryant Jordan can be reached at bryant.jordan@military.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryantjordan.

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