A police investigation is under way after an army veteran was assaulted in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Matthew Whitehurst, 23, had been spending an evening with friends at a football game before leaving to get something to eat.
“A bunch of hoodlums that are throwing their lives away punched my son from behind who is serving his country and has his stuff together,” said Todd Whitehurst, according to WBTV.
Matthew said he and his friends were walking by the Transit Center, where a Black Lives Matter protest was under way triggered by the mistrial of police officer Randall Kerrick.
Kerrick had been put on trial for voluntary manslaughter for his part in the shooting death of Jonathan Ferrell in Sept. 2013. The trial was thrown out after the jury could not reach agreement.
Matthew’s father did not blame those gathered to legally protest.
“I don't think it's anyone that blended into the crowd,” Todd Whitehurst said, WBTV reported. “I think it's a group of gangs. And there are valid protesters in their opinion that have the right to do whatever they want to. But I think some of these gang elements get in there and think it's an excuse to do something when they don't have a right to.”
Todd added that his son told him that he “turned around, saw a black male with a red bandana and dreadlocks as the one he said hit him. And there was probably 15 to 20 of them that looked like that.”
Police confirmed that surveillance footage is being reviewed to determine who carried out the assault and added that they do not know if a protester carried out the attack.
Matthew was taken to hospital and underwent surgery on Tuesday.
“I just drove my son home who has his jaw wired shut, and a mandible fracture in two with a plate and his jaw wired shut,” his dad told WBTV. "And he threw up on the way home with his mouth shut.”
Matthew has served in the army in the Middle East and South Korea. He was due to be deployed to Europe next month, but it now looks as though it will be put on hold.
“I'm angry and I want whoever did this to pay for what they did,” said Todd.