BISMARCK — A man accused of trying to handcuff demonstrators in a type of "citizen's arrest" during Bismarck's Nov. 7 rally supporting former President Donald Trump has been charged with simple assault.
Steven LaPoint, 36, was at the pro-Trump rally where he told officers he was trying to handcuff other protesters for "assault and battery, simple assault," according to court documents filed Thursday, Feb. 18.
North Dakota Highway Patrol troopers said in an affidavit that they saw a man LaPoint had allegedly tried to handcuff with a bruise on his wrist, and another man the troopers interviewed said LaPoint had also tried to handcuff him.
In an interview with The Forum on Friday, LaPoint identified himself as a Black Lives Matter protester and said he was there to guard the other Black Lives Matter demonstrators who opposed the Trump supporters. LaPoint said he originally went to the rally on the grounds of the North Dakota Capitol thinking he would simply stay in the car since officers were there, but he heard from his mother that she and other Black Lives Matter protesters were being harassed.
LaPoint said he grabbed a pair of handcuffs and he intended to restrain anyone who was harming his family or the other Black Lives Matter protesters.
"My whole intention was if anybody's going to be laying hands on my family or any other person that's there for the anti-protesting, they were going to get restrained," LaPoint told The Forum. "That was the only thing I had on my mind."
About 300 Trump supporters attended the Nov. 7 rally, along with several of the state's elected Republican officials, including Sens. John Hoeven and Kevin Cramer and Rep. Kelly Armstrong. Many attendees showed support for Trump's unfounded claims at the time that there was large-scale voter fraud in the 2020 election.
In LaPoint's version of events, one of the protesters knocked a Black Lives Matter sign out of his mother's hands, and LaPoint attempted to handcuff the man to restrain him when other pro-Trump demonstrators started jostling with him trying to take away his handcuffs. LaPoint, not wanting to lose the handcuffs, said he handcuffed himself so he would not lose them, but the protesters yanked his wrists. He said his wrist was bleeding after that and he only recently regained feeling in one of his pinkie fingers.
LaPoint said he was unaware of the misdemeanor assault charge against him until The Forum called him. He said it was unfair that he was criminally charged when "at least 10 people" were involved in the altercation.
"If what I did is simple assault, then so did those other people as well," LaPoint said.
Burleigh County State's Attorney Julie Lawyer said no other charges will be filed in connection with the events that occurred at the Nov. 7 rally.
State troopers reviewed local news coverage of the rally that they say showed LaPoint and another protester attempt to enter the podium where rally attendees were speaking, according to court documents. A group of demonstrators blocked them, and the protester accompanying LaPoint stuck her sign "in front of and touching" another protester's face.
That protester pulled the sign down, and LaPoint stepped in and tried to handcuff him, court documents said. The man resisted and both him and LaPoint fell to the ground, then "the group of people continued to struggle on the ground," according to the affidavit.
"I was there to make sure nothing got out of hand," LaPoint told The Forum.
Multiple people received minor injuries in the scuffle, and no one was arrested at the time of the rally.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.