'I believed I was going to die': Trump supporter sentenced to prison for shooting after rally that injured Black teen
A shooting that injured a teenage girl after a rally for then-President Donald Trump could have been much worse, prosecutor Olu Salami said Friday.
Michael McKinney, 26, of St. Charles was charged with attempted murder and other crimes for the shooting, in which the 15-year-old girl was struck in the leg. He later pleaded guilty to lesser offenses. At McKinney's sentencing hearing Monday, Salami noted that the victim, who had been exchanging insults with pro-Trump rally-goers, was standing in the car's open sunroof when she was struck.
"Had she been seated, rather than standing, she could have been 16 and forever remained 16, had she been struck," he said.
The Dec. 6 shooting happened in the parking lot of a state office building just east of the Iowa Capitol. It followed a rally on the city's south side organized by the pro-Trump group Women for America First for supporters who believed that Trump had rightfully won November's election. Minnesota entrepreneur Mike Lindell, a major advocate of the so-called "Stop the Steal" movement, was among the speakers.
After the rally, some supporters formed a parade to the Capitol complex. According to search warrants filed afterward by police, four juveniles in another car traveled along with the parade, exchanging profanities.
One parade-goer told the Associated Press that the teens accused those in the parade of being white supremacists, while those in the parade asked if they were on welfare.
At least some of the teens, including the one eventually shot, were Black, while McKinney and most of the other Trump supporters were white. Polk County Attorney John Sarcone declined to pursue hate crime charges for the shooting, noting to the AP that a state hate crime charge would have carried a much shorter sentence than the other charges filed.
When the parade ended, according to police reports, the teens in their car became surrounded in the parking lot by vocal Trump supporters, and reversed and struck a pickup truck behind them.
At that point, McKinney, an army veteran who police say was wearing body armor and carrying several firearms, approached and shot into the car, striking the girl in the leg. He later told police he "shot because he felt he was in danger and was protecting himself," according to a search warrant.
McKinney was arrested at the scene and pleaded guilty in June to two charges: intimidation with a dangerous weapon, and willful injury. Both carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, and the first charge must carry a sentence of prison time, rather than probation or being deferred, under Iowa law.
Prosecutors asked Judge Scott Beattie to make the two terms consecutive, for a total maximum of 20 years.
"For those trying to argue this was deserved, what they do not realize is that bullet could have ricocheted and killed somebody — not just the victim and those in the car but anyone around," he said, noting that the crime is "A day that forever changes the life of the young victim in this case."
In a statement read to the court, the victim described the physical and mental scars she carries from the shooting.
"I believed I was going to die the day I was shot. I didn’t know if I would be able to walk again," she wrote, adding later "I’m a 16-year-old young lady and would love to love myself, but it’s hard when I look at my scars and remember the events of Dec. 6, 2020."
McKinney, who has been in custody since his arrest, also addressed the court, apologizing to the victim and saying he wished he could undo what had happened.
"I used poor judgment on this matter," he said. "I want to truly and deeply express how sorry I am."
The judge noted McKinney's complete lack of criminal history and honorable discharge from the military as among the facts weighing in his favor.
"I will be quite honest: I’m still perplexed as to how this happened," Beattie said. "I understand you’ve taken responsibility for it, and that’s an important factor."
Beattie chose to make the two sentences run concurrently, for a total maximum of 10 years. There is no mandatory minimum to serve before McKinney becomes eligible for parole.
William Morris covers courts for the Des Moines Register. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, 715-573-8166 or on Twitter at @DMRMorris.