JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hours after a van plowed through a Republican Party tent where volunteers were registering voters, Jacksonville police arrested a 27-year-old man on two counts of aggravated assault on a person over 65 years old, criminal mischief and driving without a license.
The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office identified Gregory William Loel Timm as the person behind the wheel of the van that struck the tent set up the parking lot of a Walmart Superstore at the corner of Atlantic and Kernan boulevards about 3:50 p.m. Saturday.
Timm is accused of pulling up, driving through the tent and striking their tables.
“It happened so quickly,” said Nina Williams, a volunteer. “I just barely got out of the way.”
Lt. Larry Gayle said after driving through the tent, the driver, now identified as Timm, stopped, took a video and “flipped off” the people who were inside the tent before driving away. Investigators have been monitoring social media to see if the video shows up.
No injuries were reported. One of the volunteers provided photos of the older brown Chevrolet driving away.
“We don’t know if this is politically motivated,” Gayle said.
While police weren’t ready to make that connection, the incident was quickly condemned as a political attack by both Republican and Democratic leaders in Jacksonville, Florida’s two U.S. Senators, and even President Donald Trump.
Law Enforcement has been notified. Be careful tough guys who you play with! https://t.co/1Pq0hOrzy2— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 9, 2020
Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott both called the attack “politically motivated," with Rubio tweeting, “Thanking God that no one was injured.” Scott echoed that in his own tweet, adding, " @DuvalGOP will not be silenced or intimidated. They will redouble their efforts to support strong Republicans in NE Florida and around the state!"
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry’s tweet emphasized that while thankfully no one was hurt, “the hate is toxic and dangerous.”
Sadly, this happened. I spoke to the GOP chair. This is outrageous. The hate is toxic and dangerous. Thankfully no one was injured but certainly they are shaken after being targeted because they were registering voters. I’ve spoken to the Sheriff & of course his team is on this https://t.co/dRENZi0Bxq— Lenny Curry (@lennycurry) February 8, 2020
The Duval County Executive Committee also condemned, “this cowardly act of violence. No one’s life should be placed in danger for exercising their first amendment rights,” @DuvalDEC tweeted. “We look forward to @JSOPIO’s arrest of the perpetrator.”
Today in Jacksonville, Florida six Trump Campaign volunteers were intentionally targeted while registering voters. pic.twitter.com/0wzaCYh5ut— Duval County GOP (@DuvalGOP) February 8, 2020
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel also released a statement, which reads: "As law enforcement continues to investigate this senseless and politically motivated attack, we are incredibly grateful that our volunteers were not hurt. This act of cowardice will not silence us and we remain resilient.”
On Sunday, Timm made his first appearance before a judge on the charges and was ordered held on $530,000 bond. His next court date was set for March 3.
The International Stage Employees Alliance Local Union 115 said Timm was not an employee of but was referred for job placement through the local union.
Trump Victory and the Republican Party of Duval County will host a news conference at 11 a.m. Monday about the incident.