He had been on a drive through Salt Lake City with his daughter on May 30 when he started to see the protesters gathering in the streets.
Then he heard someone yell, “All Lives Matter!”
That’s when Reggie Wilson spotted a man waving a knife at the crowd, which was part of hundreds of protesters who had gathered near City Hall and the downtown library that day to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and against racism and police violence.
“I told him he needed to get back into his vehicle and leave,” Wilson testified Tuesday at a preliminary hearing. “He was aggravating the situation.”
But Wilson said the man wouldn’t leave — and instead pulled a compound bow from his vehicle after two protesters hit him. He continued to threaten the crowd, Wilson testified, yelling racial slurs and threatening to fire arrows at them.
“I felt that he was a threat,” Wilson recalled. “I thought he was a threat from the minute I started hearing his voice. Just his actions. He was very threatening.”
Wilson said he honked his horn to get the attention of police — and the man, who police later identified as Brandon McCormick, was pulled from the melee by officers as the crowd responded by attacking him and flipping his car. McCormick’s vehicle was also burned.
He was not arrested that day. But prosecutors charged him with three felonies for, as widely shared video has shown, aiming his weapon at protesters.
After hearing testimony from Wilson, 3rd District Judge Paul Parker ruled there was sufficient evidence for McCormick’s case to move forward to trial.
He faces up to five years in prison on each count if convicted.
Parker also decided that McCormick would stay in jail — where he’s been since he turned himself in in early June — despite McCormick’s pleas that he be allowed to leave.
The 57-year-old man said he was in need of shoulder surgery, and he was worried about getting the coronavirus while incarcerated.
“In the past, I was a jackass,” McCormick told the judge. “I was a drug addict and made poor choices. But I’ve been doing good for almost five years. I’ve really been proud of myself … I did some bad things that I’ve regretted ever since.”
But Parker sided with prosecutors, who argued that because McCormick has a long criminal history and could go back to threaten more protesters, he should stay behind bars.
McCormick has been sentenced to prison seven times, according to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The first was in 1989, when he was convicted of first-degree burglary in San Bernardino County and was sentenced to six years. He was paroled in April 1992 but returned to prison twice later that year for parole violations.
The next 22 years brought a cycle of bouncing in and out of California prisons on parole and parole violations along with a mix of new convictions.
McCormick was last in a California prison in 2014. In all, he served 18½ years in penitentiaries.
He also has another pending case in Utah in connection to an alleged road rage incident.
McCormick is expected to be in court again for charges related to the protest Aug. 17.