A supporter of former President Donald Trump plead guilty on Wednesday, June 16, to felony charges after shooting a handgun into a car full of Black teenagers who were arguing with attendees of a pro-Trump rally outside the Iowa Capitol last December.
Michael McKinney, 26, faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the two charges, including intimidation with a dangerous weapon and willful injury after one of the girls, age 15, was injured when he fired his weapon.
McKinney is expected to be sentenced on Aug. 9. Before taking a plea deal he was scheduled to go to trial on June 21 and argue that he fired his weapon in self-defense as the girls’ vehicle backed into a pickup truck driven by another Trump supporter.
But the Army veteran, who’d expressed support for the Proud Boys and the “Back the Blue” movement, admitted Wednesday that he’d intentionally fired into the vehicle “causing the occupants to fear serious injury from my action,” and acknowledged that one girl was seriously injured as a result.
Under the plea deal, the state will dismiss four charges, including attempted murder, and won’t seek enhancements that would have required McKinney to serve five years on each count before being eligible for parole. One prosecutor described the deal as “generous.”
On Dec. 6 McKinney, of St. Charles, Iowa, was at a rally at the state Capitol hosted by Women for America First, a pro-Trump group, when a group of Trump supporters clashed with a group of four teenage girls all under age 16 who began following the group in a vehicle.
According to the driver’s mother, Danielle Gross, the teens and the Trump supporters argued about politics. Gross said the demonstrators hurled racial slurs at the teens.
After rallygoers surrounded the vehicle carrying the teens, the driver put the car and reverse and struck a truck, although it’s not clear whether she hit the truck intentionally.
McKinney, who wasn’t involved in the altercation that led to the shooting, according to court documents, walked toward the vehicle, pulled a gun from his waistband and shot into the car from 15 feet away.
A girl that had been arguing with the rallygoers through the sunroof of the vehicle was struck in the leg, and the driver sped off to take her to a hospital.
McKinney was wearing body armor and had two loaded magazines in his pants, along with another firearm with Trump decals in his vehicle. He tried to hide evidence by putting the shell casing in the back of his car and only confessed after others identified him.
Authorities downplayed the racial context of the shooting, and initial police reports contained no record of race or mention of Trump.
Bob Brekke Jr. the owner of the truck the driver struck, told The Associated Press he was glad McKinney fired at he teens. “I felt relieved,” he said. His vehicle was scratched during the chaos.
Assistant Polk County Attorney Olubunmi Salami pushed McKinney to accept the plea deal, as Trump supporters criticized authorities for charging him to begin with.
If convicted on all counts without the plea deal, McKinney would have served 32 years in prison.