Michael McKinney, 25, remains in Polk County Jail following his arrest (Picture: Iowa Department of Public Safety)
A white army veteran has been charged with attempted murder after shooting a 15-year-old black girl at a Trump rally.
Michael McKinney, 25, was heavily armed and wearing body armor when he allegedly fired his gun into a car carrying four black teenagers in Des Moines, Iowa, last month.
Mckinney, from St Charles, Iowa, was arrested by Iowa State Police the day after the shooting on December 6 and told police he shot at the minors in self defense.
The shooting happened during a tense confrontation at a Trump rally near the Iowa Capitol building, reports AP.
McKinney, who remains in jail pending court proceedings, is accused of firing a single bullet at the car which hit one of the girls in the leg. She suffered non life-threating injuries but did require hospital treatment.
Initial police reports described the shooting as ‘traffic-related’, but an investigation by AP has revealed the shooting was sparked by a political argument between a group of white Trump supporters and four unarmed black girls all aged 16 and under.
The teen driver’s mother said the girls were arguing with the Trump supporters about politics and were blamed by those at the rally with starting the confrontation, saying they were harassing and threatening the crowd.
The girls’ car ended up surrounded by Trump supporters, it’s claimed, who were yelling and honking horns before the driver went in reverse and struck a pickup. It’s unclear whether the collision was accidental.
McKinney told police he fired at that point to protect himself.
According to court documents McKinney did not appear to be among those at the rally who exchanged words with the girls before the shooting.
Bystander video obtained by police shows McKinney approaching the vehicle, pulling a handgun from his waistband and firing into the car from 15 feet (4.5 meters) away, according to court documents.
US President Donald Trump speaking to supporters during a campaign stop in Des Moines, Iowa on October 14, 2020 (Picture: Alamy Live News)
The bullet hit the leg of a girl who had been arguing with members of the crowd through the vehicle’s sunroof.
After the shooting, McKinney apparently tried to cover his tracks, putting the now-empty shell casing in the trunk of his car and not initially coming forward as the shooter, court documents say.
After being identified as the shooter, McKinney admitted his involvement in the incident and surrendered his pistol.
Police say he was carrying two loaded magazines in his pants and had another firearm in his vehicle, which was outfitted with Trump decals.
McKinney’s attorney, Kent Balducci, argued that the ‘political factors are extraneous’ and that McKinney’s actions should be viewed as self-defense. The teenage driver may have been using the vehicle as a weapon instead of merely trying to flee the angry crowd, he said.
Balducci added that McKinney wore body armor because he ‘had been threatened’ during previous Trump rallies, and therefore feared for his safety when the car reversed.
Trump supporters have jumped to McKinney’s defense and have blasted authorities for charging him following the shooting. Some have argued that his gunshot protected rallygoers.
McKinney, who left the Iowa National Guard in 2017 after a five-year military career, faces 25 years in prison if convicted. He remains in Polk County Jail after a judge last month rejected his request to reduce a $500,000 bond.
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