A man who brandished an assault rifle at a Black Lives Matter protest in Lubbock on Saturday has been charged with making interstate threats, announced U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed today, Emmanuel Quinones, a 25-year-old local, allegedly brought a loaded Smith & Wesson .223 caliber semi-automatic to a protest decrying the death of George Floyd, a black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police last month.
In view of the protesters, Mr. Quinones held the rifle at “low ready,” in firing position with the muzzle pointed toward the ground, as panic rippled through the assembled crowd. (Although Texas is an open-carry state, the Texas Penal Code makes it illegal to display a firearm in a public place “in a manner calculated to alarm.”)
Mr. Quinones allegedly refused a Lubbock Police officer’s verbal commands to drop the rifle, and only did so when the officer drew his gun. A protester then tackled Mr. Quinones, who allegedly shouted, “this is a revolution” and “President Trump must die” as he was taken into custody.
During an interview, Mr. Quinones admitted that he previously made social media posts designed to “intimidate” the President and “MAGA instigators.” One such post, shared on Facebook on May 28, intimated that he planned to obtain gun parts “to off racists and MAGA people.”
In the interview, the defendant stated he attended the protest to protect demonstrators from these so-called MAGA (Make America Great Again) instigators, who he planned to shoot on sight. He claimed the police would not have been able to identify these counter-protestors, but that he could have.
“Instead of respecting citizens’ rights to respectfully voice their feelings, this defendant incited panic, putting everyone present – including those he claimed to support – in danger,” said U.S. Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “We will not tolerate attempts to instill terror or encourage violence at otherwise peaceful protests.”
“The FBI respects the rights of individuals to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights. In this case, the defendant threatened multiple lives including the President of the United States and that will not be tolerated,” said FBI Dallas Special Agent in Charge Matthew J. DeSarno. “We will continue working with our local, state, and federal partners to apprehend and charge violent instigators who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law.”
A criminal complaint is merely an allegation of unlawful conduct, not evidence. Mr. Quinones is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
He made his initial appearance Tuesday afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge D. Gordon Bryant. If convicted, the defendant could face up to five years in federal prison.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation Dallas Field Office, Lubbock Resident Agency, the United States Secret Service, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, & Explosives, and the Lubbock Police Department conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeff Haag is prosecuting the case.