Two off-duty police officers from Virginia were charged for allegedly participating in riots at the U.S. Capitol last week, the Justice Department (DOJ) announced.
Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson were arrested on Wednesday in Virginia after they were identified in a photo making an obscene statement in front of a statute of John Stark inside the Capitol building, prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia said. The two men are police officers with the Rocky Mountain Police Department, court documents show.
The pair have been charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
An investigation by the United States Capitol Police found social media posts allegedly authored by Robertson admitting to participating in the riots.
“CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business,” the post states, according to court documents (pdf).
Fracker has also been accused of authoring a separate social media post, which has since been deleted, alleging “Not like I did anything illegal.” Fracker also reportedly said he had been escorted “in” by the Capitol Police.
Over the past week, authorities have been identifying protesters who allegedly participated in the Capitol breach on Jan. 6 when lawmakers were counting electoral votes. A group of rioters and some protesters waving American and Trump flags illegally stormed the Capitol building. The mayhem on the grounds left at least five people dead, including a police officer, and dozens of police officers injured.
Some protesters who were arrested include Richard Barnett from Arkansas, who was allegedly photographed sitting with his foot on a desk inside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office; Derrick Evans, a Republican member of the West Virginia House of Delegates; and Adam Johnson, 36, who apparently appears in a widely circulated photo carrying Pelosi’s podium.
Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney for Washington, said in a press conference on Tuesday that the DOJ has opened at least 170 cases linked to the Jan. 6 events and have charged over 70 individuals.
Individuals are being charged with various offenses ranging from simple trespass, theft of mail, theft of digital devices, assault on local and federal officers to more serious offenses such as theft of potential national security information or national defense information and felony murder, Sherwin said.
“The gamut of cases and criminal conduct we’re looking at is really mind-blowing,” he said. “And that has really put an enormous amount of work on the plate of the FBI and field offices throughout the entire United States.”
He added that some individuals who are arrested on misdemeanors may face more serious charges after their arrest.
“After these criminal charges are filed via criminal complaints, that allows us, that allows law enforcement across the United States to arrest people from Dallas to Arkansas, to Nashville, to Cleveland to Jacksonville. That’s what’s happened over the past several days,” Sherwin said. “After those charges are filed, then we have the ability to then indict these individuals on more significant charges. And that’s exactly what has happened.”
The top prosecutor for the district also said that federal prosecutors are working to build “seditious and conspiracy charges” against some rioters, which carry a maximum prison term of 20 years.
The violence at the Capitol has been condemned by President Donald Trump, President-elect Joe Biden, as well as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle.
The event has sparked various investigations and reviews and had prompted officials to ramp up security in the upcoming inauguration on Jan. 20.
A number of media outlets, lawmakers, former officials, and other critics have blamed Trump for the U.S. Capitol breach, and the Democrat-controlled House voted to impeach Trump over the incident. Ten Republican House members joined their colleagues in that effort.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said shortly after the House’s impeachment that a second impeachment trial for Trump would not begin until after President-elect Joe Biden has been sworn in next week, formally rejecting calls for him to return the Senate to Washington early.
Meanwhile, Trump responded to the push for a second impeachment on Tuesday, saying that it was part of the Democrats’ long-running campaign against him.