A 13-year-old boy was attending a Montana county fair and rodeo on Saturday when he failed to remove his hat during the national anthem. Moments later, a man slammed him to the ground and fractured his skull. The boy began seizing.
The man, 39-year-old Curt James Brockway, had allegedly attacked the boy for his “disrespect,” a witness told the Missoulian. Brockway was soon arrested and charged with assault on a minor for the attack at the Mineral County Fair and Rodeo.
"He was bleeding out of his ears, seizing on the ground, just not coherent,” Taylor Hennick, a rodeo attendee, told the Missolian. As people started to surround Brockway, the man defended himself by saying the boy “was disrespecting the national anthem, so he had every right to do that,” Hennick added.
The boy was airlifted to a hospital in Spokane, Washington, where he was treated for temporal skull fractures. He’s now back home in Montana recovering, according to KPAX, a Montana CBS affiliate.
“It’s just a lot of pain in my head. I don’t remember anything – the rodeo – the helicopter – nothing,” the boy told the television station.
His attacker, it turns out, was already a registered violent offender for a 2010 assault with a weapon, according to the Missoulian. He’s on probation for that charge, but was released from jail on his own recognizance, or a promise to appear for his future court date on Aug. 14.
Failing to react to the national anthem in what’s considered a “patriotic” manner — removing your hat, placing your right hand over your heart — has been criticized by President Donald Trump and other Republicans. It’s unclear whether the Montana boy simply forgot to remove his hat, or had some personal reason not to. More traditionally, people protesting police brutality or racial inequality in America “take a knee,” or kneel during the national anthem as a political statement.
The kneeling movement, a particular target of Trump’s ire, began with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
"Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!'" Trump said during a 2017 rally, later causing even more football players to protest.
Cover: September 15, 2011: A cowboy proudly displays the American Flag just after the National Anthem at the 101st annual Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, OR. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)