A man is facing an assault charge after Montana authorities say he threw a 13-year-old boy to the ground at a rodeo because the teenager didn’t remove his hat when the national anthem was played.
The boy was taken to a hospital in Spokane, Washington, but details about his condition were not released. Court documents filed by Mineral County Attorney Ellen Donohue said the boy was flown to the hospital for a possible concussion and fractured skull.
Curt James Brockway, 39, told a sheriff’s deputy that he asked the boy to remove his hat out of respect for the national anthem playing before the start of the county rodeo on Saturday, Donohue wrote in the document describing the alleged attack.
The boy cursed at Brockway in response, and the man grabbed him by the throat, “lifted him into the air and slammed the boy into the ground,” Donohue wrote.
A witness, Taylor Hennick, told the Missoulian she was at the rodeo on Saturday when she heard a “pop” and saw the boy on the ground, bleeding from his ears. The assailant justified his actions by saying the boy “was disrespecting the national anthem so he had every right to do that,” Hennick said.
Donohue wrote in her description that a witness she did not name agreed with most of Brockway’s description of what happened, but did not hear Brockway ask the boy to take off his hat.
Brockway, of Superior, Montana, made an initial court appearance Monday on a charge of assault on a minor. Prosecutors recommended his bail be set at $100,000. Court officials said Brockway’s attorney was working Tuesday to recommend conditions that might allow Brockway be released without posting bond.
Within minutes after dropping her son off at the fairgrounds, Megan Keeler says she received a phone call stating her son was on his way to the hospital.
“Dude come up and grabbed him by his neck, picked him up and threw him to the ground head first,” Keeler told KPAX in Missoula.
“He’s deathly afraid of strangers. He doesn’t remember anything. All the witnesses I have talked to said this was completely random,” Keeler said.
“There was no exchange – nothing! He targeted Wally and took him down,” she added.
Keeler says her son was bleeding from his ear for nearly six hours after the incident. He’s since been released from the hospital and is back home where he will continue healing.
“I want to know Curt is put away and I would like compensation for the damages and bills,” Keeler said. “But most of all, my son to heals.”
Brockway is a registered violent offender after being convicted of a 2010 charge of assault with a weapon. District Judge John Larson gave him a 10-year suspended sentence. Brockway is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 14, when he’ll be asked to enter a plea.
Brockway’s attorney, Lance Jasper, was not in the office Tuesday and did not return a phone call or an email seeking comment.
Conduct during the playing of the national anthem has been an issue in recent years, with some NFL players kneeling to protest police brutality. President Donald Trump once called for NFL owners to fire players who kneel or engage in other acts of protest during the anthem.
The U.S. flag code says people should face the flag during the national anthem. Military members in uniform should salute while those out of uniform may do so. Men not in uniform should remove their hats and civilians should put their right hand over their heart, according to the code.
There was no indication the boy in this case was protesting in any way.