The Army veteran seen shoving a young black woman during a Donald Trump rally last week in Louisville, Kentucky, says he was not motivated by racism but overreacted after being pushed to the floor during the chaos.
Alvin Bamberger, a member of the Korean War Veterans Association, said he "was caught up in the frenzy" of being surrounded by Trump supporters, including those he said were white supremacists, and of hearing the presidential candidate himself shout, "Get them out! Get them out!" in reference to the protesters, according to a statement he submitted to the organization.
"I physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit, an action I sincerely regret," Bamberger said in a letter to Larry Kinard, president of the Korean War Veterans Association.
The organization didn't release a copy of the letter, but one was acquired by radio station WSCH in Lawrence, Kansas, and officials with the group confirmed its authenticity to Military.com.
Bamberger, 75, is a member of the association and was wearing its barracks cap and shirt during the incident, which was caught on video. Initial reports indicated he belong to a KWVA chapter in Cincinnati, Ohio, though he said in his letter he belongs to the chapter in Aurora, Indiana.
The veteran said he deeply regrets his actions at the rally.
"I have embarrassed myself, my family, and Veterans," he wrote. "This was a very unfortunate incident and it is my sincere hope that I can be forgiven for my actions."
Military.com was unable to reach Bamberger or the woman he shoved, University of Louisville student Shiya Nwanguma. Bamberger's letter doesn't indicate if he has contacted Nwanguma since the incident to personally apologize.
In a previous statement to Military.com, Kinard said Bamberger was not at the rally representing the association and that the group "does not, in any way, condone his actions." He said the association will determine after weighing all the facts whether it should take any action regarding Bamberger.
The organization's code stipulates that members won't engage in unlawful or unethical conduct, will be responsible to the organization for their actions, will respect the rights of others in regard to politics, sex, race, religion, and ethnic background, will conduct themselves with proper decorum and dignity and will do nothing to dishonor the KWVA.
In a video that quickly went viral Bamberger is seen getting into Nwanguma's face and shouting "Get out of here! We don't want you here!" He then follows her through the crowd, shoving her.
Bamberger insists in his letter that he is not a racist, does not belong to any racist organizations and did not push her because she is black. He said he attended the March 1 rally because he enjoys attending political events, and was thrilled to see Trump "since he is so supportive of Veterans."
At first, he wrote, "everything seemed to be under control and mostly orderly. All that changed when Trump got to the stage. Protestors in the crowd became vocal and began pushing and shoving their way toward the stage. At one point I was physically knocked down and fell to the ground, losing my jacket (which was eventually returned to me). The protestors were holding up signs, chanting ‘black lives matter' and pushing and shoving Trump supporters.
"Trump kept saying ‘get them out, get them out' and people in the crowd began pushing and shoving the protestors," Bamberger said. "Unfortunately a lot of this behavior was happening right next to where I was standing and having been pushed to the floor myself, my emotions got the best of me, and I was caught up in the frenzy. I physically pushed a young woman down the aisle toward the exit, an action I sincerely regret."
Bamberger said he learned only afterwards that some of the Trump supporters "standing right next to me" were members of a white supremacist group.
"Unfortunately my state of mind after being knocked down and hurt myself, and being caught between a group of white supremacists and Black Lives Matter protestors contributed to my behavior however, there is no excuse for my actions," he wrote.
Bamberger told radio station WSCH in Lawrence, Kansas that he has been staying with family in Colorado since the incident.