JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A week after a man was arrested and accused of deliberately driving a van into a Jacksonville Republican voter registration event, members of the Duval County and national GOP organization gathered to denounce his actions.
Police 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.
Ronna McDaniel, committee chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, thanked the volunteers who had to quickly move out of the way to avoid being hit.
“I can’t imagine how terrifying that is,” said Ronna McDaniel, committee chairwoman of the Republican National Committee. “Nobody, nobody in our country, Republican or Democrat, should be in that situation.”
Timm spoke to face-to-face with News4Jax reporter Ashley Harding on Friday. He said he intentionally waited about 20 minutes in the parking lot “for people to clear out” of the voter registration tent and that he never intended for anyone to get hurt. No injuries were reported after the incident. He told Harding he was thankful no one was hurt.
“Please don’t turn him into the victim,” McDaniel told the crowd. “These are the victims,” referring to the GOP volunteers.
“One week ago, we were attacked here in Jacksonville and this sort of behavior happens all across America,” Duval GOP chairman Dean Black said. “What happened here is typical of what happens all across our country. It is wrong and it needs to stop.”
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry and McDaniel of the Republican National Committee were all at Saturday’s news conference. They were joined by Republican volunteers and voters at the GOP headquarters in Jacksonville.
“We need to send a very strong message across this country that this type of political violence is not going to be tolerated,” Rutherford, the former Jacksonville Sheriff, said. “Whether it is at a town hall meeting, whether it is at a college campus, whether it is an individual walking down the street in a restaurant wearing a hat, it must come to an end.”
Rutherford was asked it he believes the case should be prosecuted as a hate crime.
“I do hope that the State Attorney’s Office will make an example of this individual and send a message in Northeast Florida that this kind of violence -- it’s never going to be tolerated,” Rutherford responded.
The Duval County Democratic Party also condemned the act, both hours after the incident and two days later as the first GOP news conference in with Black, Curry and the Florida Republican Party chairman, Sen. Joe Gruters, called the attack an act of political violence before police had confirmed Timm’s motivation.
According to JSO investigators who tracked him down, Timm did admit to purposefully driving into the tent because “someone had to take a stand.”
As of Saturday evening, Timm remained in the Duval County jail on a $500,000 bond.
Curry told the public he was shocked when he learned what happened.
“I didn’t think it could go any lower or get any worse,” Curry said. “It’s unacceptable but I am grateful to see that people are rallying.”
“You will not deter us,” McDaniel added. “We are going to work as hard as we can. We are going to keep registering voters. We are going to keep knocking on doors and we are going to re-elect President Donald J. Trump in 2020.”