Man in Trump-shaped flotation device charged with assault after breathing on protesters

Tim Fitzsimons and Mohammed Syed

A supporter of President Donald Trump was charged with misdemeanor assault on Sunday in Loudon County, Virginia, for allegedly breathing heavily on protesters outside Trump National Golf Club.

"Please help," Kathy Beynett wrote in Saturday a tweet that went viral, showing a video of a man — identified by the Loudon County Sheriff's Office as Raymond Deskins — coming toward her without a face covering as she said "get away from me" and "you don't have a mask." It is unclear what exactly happened before the video was recorded.

Deskins, 61, then inhales and exhales deeply and blows his breath toward the protesters. In the video he can be seen wearing an inflatable flotation device around his waist in the shape of Trump.

"He crossed street to assault 2 senior citizens," Beynett, 67, wrote in her tweet. "Want to identify n case contact tracing becomes necessary.think name Ray. Virginia res. Drives Cadillac. Occurred trump golf." She refers to Deskins in later tweets as "the Covid monster."

Michele Bowman, public information officer at the Loudon County Sheriff, confirmed the incident in an email to NBC News.

"On November 21, 2020, two separate parties reported they were assaulted during a verbal argument outside of Trump National Golf Club, located at 20391 Lowes Island Boulevard," Bowman said.

"As the incident was not witnessed by law enforcement and the video did not capture the entire interaction, an investigation was conducted on scene and both parties were advised they could go to a Loudoun County Magistrate and seek a citizen obtained warrant."

Bowman said the protesters did seek a citizen-obtained warrant and that Deskins was served with a charge of simple assault, a misdemeanor, on Sunday at his home in Sterling, Virginia, and was released on a summons. Deskins did not immediately respond to an NBC News request for comment.

Beynett, of Leesburg, Virginia, said she has been protesting outside Trump's golf course during his visits for nearly four years.

She said it was the first time she had captured Deskins on camera, describing him as a "bully" who had challenged several anti-Trump protesters to physical fights during prior protests at the golf course.

Beynett said when she and her protesting partner went to the Loudon County magistrate to ask for an assault charge, there was "a lot of laughing." She said she was eventually given "a number to go to the health department to complain that people aren't wearing masks."

"And we said, 'No, you know very well, we asked to charge him with assault'," Beynett recalled. "And finally, he had to do his job."

Beynett said protesting at the golf course is getting too dangerous: "I'm not going near those people again," Beynett said. "They're too violent. I'll have a target on me worse than ever now."