An armed former Republican candidate for the North Carolina House of Representatives was arrested Tuesday after returning to a polling site he was banned from hours earlier for “possibly intimidating other voters,” authorities said.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department said 36-year-old Justin Dunn was arrested and charged with second-degree trespassing at the polling station in North Mecklenburg County he had voted at earlier Tuesday morning.
In a video of the arrest obtained by The Charlotte Observer, Dunn can be seen wearing camouflage and a Trump hat—with an American flag rim—and no mask. In 2016, the 36-year-old unsuccessfully ran for the state’s House of Representatives as a Republican, according to BuzzFeed News.
“To combat what I thought was intimidation, I said a prayer,” Dunn told BuzzFeed, denying that he was trying to intimidate voters. “I thought it was good to go back there to let everyone know I was there legally.”
The instance of alleged voter suppression comes as North Carolina—a swing state that could be critical to both President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden—said it would delay releasing voting results until 8:15 p.m. after four precincts opened late.
Police said authorities received a call around 10:34 a.m. about Justin Dunn potentially intimidating voters after he continued to loiter after casting his vote with a legally obtained unconcealed firearm. According to state law, North Carolina residents are permitted to openly carry firearms in public without a permit or license.
Dunn was asked to leave the site by a voting official and left voluntarily, knowing that he was banned from returning, police said. Two hours later, however, Dunn returned to the Charlotte polling place and was subsequently arrested. A police spokesperson told The Daily Beast Dunn was not charged with voter intimidation, a federal crime, because “based on the information provided to officers on the scene from witnesses, there was not sufficient evidence to charge him with [that].”
“The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department is committed to protecting the right of our community members to engage in safe, secure and unimpeded access to voting sites,” authorities said.
According to the Charlotte Agenda, Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC), one of several female politicians speaking outside precinct 212 was "whisked away" from the polling site after reports of an armed maskless man, and Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles left shortly thereafter. The man also prompted several other people to leave without voting.
“I wasn’t intimidated. The polls are safe,” city councilwoman Renee Perkins Johnson told the outlet. “If they saw a Black man with a gun they would have emptied the whole damn precinct,” added poll watcher Tim Carmichael, a retired Navy veteran.
The 36-year-old defended carrying his weapon, telling BuzzFeed he always has a gun on him out of concern over the murder rate in Charlotte.
Across North Carolina, voters lined up hours before the polls opened at 6:30 a.m. to cast their vote for president as well as key Senate races that could shift the balance of power in Congress. Both the Biden and Trump campaigns have spent heavily in the state, where nearly 4.6 million ballots were cast early. Several states, including Florida and North Carolina, have been processing these mail-in ballots for weeks.
“Most paths to the White House go through North Carolina,” Chris Cooper, professor of political science at Western Carolina University, previously told CNBC. “It’s particularly true for President Trump.”
To make up for the delay in several polling sites, which included staffing and printer issues, the North Carolina State Board of Elections voted to extend voting at an additional four precincts.