A man accused of slamming a 13-year-old to the ground for not removing his hat during the national anthem over the weekend did it because of President Donald Trump’s “rhetoric,” his attorney said.
At a rodeo in Superior, Montana, on Saturday, Curt Brockway, 39, grabbed Wally Crosby by his throat, picked him up, and threw him to the ground, officials alleged in court documents.
“He said [Crosby] was disrespecting the national anthem so he had every right to do that,” a witness, Taylor Hennick, told the Missoulian newspaper.
Crosby was seriously injured and had blood coming out of his ears. He suffered a fractured skull and a concussion and was airlifted to the hospital.
Brockway told police he had asked the boy to remove his hat out of respect for the national anthem, and claimed the boy had responded, “Fuck you.”
Brockway was charged with assault of a minor, a felony. He was released on his own recognizance, despite the state calling for bail to be set at $100,000, according to KPAX.
Crosby’s mother, Megan Keeler, told BuzzFeed News she couldn’t comment so as not to affect the case.
Brockway may have attacked the boy because Trump’s “rhetoric” made him believe he was following Trump’s orders, his lawyer, Lance Jasper, told the Missoulian.
“His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished. He certainly didn’t understand it was a crime,” said Jasper, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News.
“Trump never necessarily says, ‘Go hurt somebody,’ but the message is absolutely clear,” Jasper said. “I am certain of the fact that [Brockway] was doing what he believed he was told to do, essentially, by the president.”
In a car crash in 2000, Brockway suffered a major injury to the frontal lobe of his brain, which controls judgement and decision-making. He was in the military at the time of the injury and was honorably discharged because of it, Jasper said.
The brain injury was also a factor in 2010 charges Brockway faced after he pulled a gun on a family, Jasper said.
Trump has been accused numerous times of inciting violence with his racist and nationalist rhetoric. His language has been echoed in the manifestos of white supremacist shooters in El Paso, Texas; Christchurch, New Zealand; and Poway, California.
In 2018, Trump praised a Republican lawmaker who physically assaulted a journalist, saying, “Any guy that can do a bodyslam, he’s my kind.”
During a campaign rally in 2016, then-candidate Trump encouraged his supporters to “knock the crap out of” protesters who were in attendance, even saying he’d pay any associated legal fees.
And in a speech to police officers in 2017, the president encouraged them to rough up undocumented immigrants suspected of committing crimes or being in gangs, saying, “Please don’t be too nice.”
Jasper said his client’s brain injury, coupled with the president’s rhetoric, are what caused the Saturday incident.
“Obviously it’s a tragedy whenever someone is injured, especially a young kid, but with my client being a veteran with a traumatic brain injury, it is absolutely fair to say he got caught up in a heightened animosity and a heightened rhetoric that too many people are engaged in,” Jasper said.
“Everyone should learn to dial it down a little bit,” he said, “from the president to Mineral County.”