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Trump Supporter Who Punched and Kicked Arizona Protester Is in Air Force

by Erin Calabrese and Associated Press /

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A Donald Trump supporter who kicked and punched an Arizona protester at a rally on Saturday is a 14-year veteran of the Air Force, authorities confirmed Monday.

Staff Sgt. Tony Pettway, who is stationed in Tucson's Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, was arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault with injury, after he attacked Bryan Sanders, who was protesting the event, officials said.

A member of the audience throws a punch at a protester during a campaign event for as Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in Tucson, Arizona on March 19.SAM MIRCOVICH / Reuters

Sanders told NBC News that he was being escorted from the event when Pettway grabbed his sign, depicting Trump with the words, "Bad for America" scrolled across it, and threw it to the ground before unleashing a wave of punches and kicks on him.

"I stumble back, sucker punch.. and then you saw all hell break loose," Sanders said. "He's stomping me."

Sanders found himself on the ground at the mercy of his attacker.

"What was going through my mind was: Put your arms over your head, because this political movement has gotten to the point where you may get beat to death inside of a rally," Sanders told NBC New's Jacob Rascon.

The incident, which was caught on video, marks yet another instance of violence breaking out at the GOP front-runner's rallies.

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Base spokesman Lt. Sydney Smith said they are reviewing the incident. "I can confirm the individual depicted in these videos is an Airman assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. We are reviewing the situation, fully cooperating with local authorities, and will take appropriate action," Smith said in a statement.

"All DOD members are authorized to participate in the political process in their personal capacity without implying any endorsement from the DOD. 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."

Pettway was released without being booked into jail and had no apparent lawyer.

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