A man drove a sport-utility vehicle into six people in North Carolina who were described as migrant workers in what “appears to be an intentional assault”, police have said.

All six victims were taken to hospital after the apparent attack, and have since been released.

Investigators in Lincolnton – about 35 miles north-west of Charlotte – had been hunting the driver of the car, who fled the scene, until Monday evening when a person of interest came forward. Law enforcement took that person into custody after he came into the police department with a family member, authorities told local media. They have not yet disclosed the man’s identity.

Police made it a point to say the motive for the reported assault, which unfolded at a Walmart parking lot on Sunday, remained under investigation.

Nonetheless, it came at a time of intense political rhetoric related to immigrants and immigrant workers. A hardline stance on immigration has become essential among Republican candidates for president, and 2024 White House hopefuls – including Donald Trump – repeatedly rail against migrants in campaign speeches.

In a statement, Lincolnton police department said six people were struck by a car at about 1.17pm local time Sunday.

“All six were transported to Atrium Health – Lincoln with various injuries,” police said. “None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.”

The workers had arrived at the Walmart parking lot late Sunday morning from Knob Creek Orchard in Lawndale, where they tend to the farmland. Brian Greene, the interim police chief, said they make the same trip once a week and use a shaded lawn at the bottom of the parking lot as their regular meeting place to board buses. The men were standing under trees when an SUV pulled up next to the bus.

“It turns right in front of the bus and appears like it’s almost going to park,” Greene said, describing security footage of the incident. “And then it appears to accelerate at the last minute, jumping the curb, hitting the individuals and the trees and going through the area into the other side of the parking lot and exits the same way it came.”

The victims’ injuries included broken legs and ankles as well as concussions, the Charlotte Observer reported.

Police had appealed for the public to help track down the driver and the car.

“The vehicle is an older model mid-size black [SUV] with a luggage rack,” police said. “The driver was described as an older white male.”

In May, a man was charged with manslaughter after plowing into a crowd outside a migrant center in Brownsville, Texas, a community on the border with Mexico.

Witnesses reported that the driver in the Texas case shouted anti-immigration sentiments, including that immigrants were invading the US.

“He said, ‘Damn your mother, immigrants’,” Freddy Granadillo, who migrated to Texas from Venezuela, told the Guardian.

“Leave my country,” he recalled the driver saying.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *