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FBI post asking public assistance on Capitol riot investigation

Screenshot from the FBI's Twitter (@FBI)

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The arrests from the Jan. 6 insurrection continue to pile up—the most recent count had reached 212 people charged for their roles in the siege of the Capitol. And as the indictments and arresting affidavits have piled up, the public is getting a better idea of just what kind of people were so radicalized by far-right disinformation they were eager to participate in an attack on democracy itself.

The data already shows that the demographic profile of arrestees is mainly one of older, upper-middle-class whites: business owners, white-collar workers, doctors, and lawyers. More disturbingly, military veterans and law enforcement officers, many of them currently active and some with security clearances, are being arrested. One arrested Virginia man connected to the Oath Keepers reportedly had served in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

That man — 64-year-old Thomas E. Caldwell of Berryville, Virginia — was arrested Jan. 19 and charged with conspiracy and multiple other counts related to the insurrection. As The Washington Post's Katie Shepherd reports, Caldwell's attorneys filed a rejoinder this week noting that Caldwell was a decorated Navy veteran with a top secret security clearance, and after leaving the armed forces in 2009 he had served as a section chief for the FBI.

Caldwell is only one of a number of the insurrectionists who have military and police connections; six Seattle police officers are currently under investigation for having been present in Washington, D.C. that day, as are a number of others from jurisdictions around the nation. In the meantime, the Pentagon has ordered a military-wide pause across all services as commanding officers try to assess the levels of far-right extremism within their own ranks, spurred by the high numbers of military veterans engaged in the Capitol takeover.

"The presence of law enforcement officers in the riot reinforces and substantiates the greatest fears many in the public had in the nature of law enforcement in the United States," Michael German, a former FBI special agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice's Liberty and National Security Program, told Shepherd.

Other participants in the Capitol siege have been in the news this week:

  • Ethan Nordean, the violent bodybuilder from Auburn, Washington, who helped spearhead the coordinated effort by the Proud Boys to break down police barricades and enable the invasion of the Capitol, was ordered to be flown to Washington, D.C., this week after a judge briefly ordered Nordean's release pending trial. U.S. Magistrate Judge Brian Tsuchida issued an order approving Nordean's pretrial release after a morning hearing on Monday; by late afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell — chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, where Nordean faces charges—granted federal prosecutors' appeal seeking to stay the order and instead transport Nordean to Washington immediately.
  • Jason Riddle, a man from Keene, New Hampshire, who had boasted on social media about stealing a bottle of wine and a book from a Senate office, was charged with multiple counts related to his behavior at the insurrection. Prosecutors said that federal authorities became aware of Riddle's involvement after Riddle gave an interview to a Boston TV station admitting to entering the Capitol because he "just had to see it" and having no regrets about having done it, leading multiple people to contact the FBI. Riddle, a former mail carrier and former corrections officer, told FBI agents that he had merely followed the crowd of rioters into the building, where he then took an open bottle of wine and drank from it as he strolled about the Capitol, along with a reddish-brown leather book from an office titled Senate Procedure. He also told agents he sold the book outside the building to an unknown man who purchased it for $40.
  • Jenny Spencer, a woman from Pilot Mountain, North Carolina, appears to be offering a similar kind of defense for her behavior— claiming that she had just wandered inside with the crowd and then tried to leave quickly. She claims that she and her husband Christopher found themselves forced inside by the crowd in order to avoid being trampled—and then, once inside, realized "we gotta get outta here." They told investigators they were only inside the Capitol for less than 15 minutes; however, the FBI noted that Christopher Spencer streamed live videos for more than 20 minutes on Facebook showing the couple, along with others, chanting and yelling at police officers, and that the couple did not "actively appear to be searching for exits during the videos."
  • Greg Rubenacker, a Long Island man who works as a DJ, filmed himself smoking marijuana from a vaporizer inside the Capitol and also posted it on Snapchat—and was arrested Tuesday by the FBI after one of his followers forwarded incriminating screen shots to them. "Holy s--t! This is history! We took the Capitol!" he said on one of the videos he posted online. Then he filmed himself smoking from a vaping device, blowing out smoke into the Rotunda, then looking into the camera and saying: "America, baby. What a time."
  • William Merry Jr. of St. Louis County, Missouri, who was photographed holding a broken piece of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's nameplate with his 21-year-old niece, was also hit with multiple charges for his role in the insurrection. His niece had been arrested in mid-January. Merry's attorney claimed: "He believes he had a right to attend a rally and voice his political beliefs like we all do, but he does not in any way shape or form condone any type of violence or property destruction or any type of insurrection of the government."
  • Brian McCreary, 33, a Domino's Pizza deliveryman from North Adams, Massachusetts, was arrested after returning to work and boasting to his coworkers that he had "raided" the Capitol. McCreary can be seen in photo leaning against a wall and shooting video with his phone inside the Senate chambers. He is not accused of participating in the violence, but told investigators he was present when Ashli Babbit, a rioter from Texas, was fatally shot by Capitol Police, and that he had reentered the building after being ordered by security to leave.
  • Karl Dresch, a Michigan man from the Upper Peninsula who was arrested in January by the FBI, is the son of a now-deceased Republican legislator. He faces a potential 20-year sentence on a felony charge of obstructing an official proceeding, along with a bundle of misdemeanor charges related to his participation in the Capitol siege. Dresch is the son of former state Republican lawmaker Stephen Dresch of Hancock.
  • Bruno Cua, an 18-year-old from Milton, Georgia, is one of the youngest of the arrestees. Cua made it all the way to the floor of the Senate while wielding a baton with which he had menaced Capitol police officers, allegedly getting into a physical altercation with them. Cua was a heavy user of social media including Parler, TikTok, and Instagram, where he had used the handle "PatriotBruno," but after the insurrection he deleted most of his posts.

Archived messages from Parler show that Cua had referred to Trump frequently, calling his compatriots to participate on Jan. 6.

"President Trump is calling us to FIGHT!" one post read. "It's time to take our freedom back the old fashioned way."

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