Nearly one in five of the pro-Trump rioters charged in the Capitol siege earlier this month have either served or are still serving in the military, a new report has revealed.
A violent mob of MAGA supporters descended on the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6 as Congress convened to certify the results of the Electoral College. Five people died amid the chaos, including Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt who was shot dead as she attempted to leap over a barricade.
So far, around 140 people have been arrested and charged in connection with the insurrection.
According to analysis conducted by NPR, 27 of those suspects – or nearly 20 percent – have served or are currently serving in the military, records show.
To put that number into perspective, only around seven percent of all American adults are military veterans, data from the US Census Bureau indicates.
So far, around 140 people have been arrested and charged in connection with the insurrection. According to analysis conducted by NPR, nearly 20 percent of those suspects have military backgrounds or are still serving
This photo taken on the steps of the US Capitol shows a line of men wearing combat helmets and body armor in a formation known as ‘ranger file’. It is standard operating procedure for a combat team that is ‘stacking up’ to breach a building and is instantly recognizable to any US soldier or Marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
Several veterans have been charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Among them is Larry Rendall Brock Jr., an Air Force veteran, who was photographed donning a tactical helmet and vest while carrying flex cuffs inside the Capitol.
In a post to Facebook, Brock said he was gearing up for a ‘Second Civil War’ ahead of the riot, court documents say. In the weeks following Biden’s victory, he also wrote: ‘We are now under the occupation of a hostile governing force.’
‘I see no distinction between a group of Americans seizing power and governing with complete disregard to the Constitution and an invading force of Chinese communists accomplishing the same objective,’ Brock wrote, in an apparent allusion to unfounded claims of election fraud.
Concluding his post, the Air Force veteran referenced his military oath, writing: ‘Against all enemies foreign and domestic.’
Brock, 53, was released to home confinement last week after a prosecutor alleged the former fighter pilot had zip-tie handcuffs on the Senate floor because he planned to take hostages.
‘He means to kidnap, restrain, perhaps try, perhaps execute members of the U.S. government,’ Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Weimer said. ‘His prior experience and training make him all the more dangerous.’
RETIRED AIR FORCE: Larry Rendall Brock Jr, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and decorated combat veteran from Texas, was arrested after he was photographed wearing a helmet and body armor on the floor of the Senate, holding a pair of zip-tie handcuffs
Brock was photographed on the Senate floor during the deadly riot wearing a helmet and heavy vest and carrying plastic zip-tie handcuffs
Some veterans who’re accused of laying siege to the Capitol are still serving in some capacity, NPR found.
Jacob Fracker was an infantry rifleman in the Marine Corps and deployed to Afghanistan twice, according to the Pentagon.
The 29-year-old is now serving in the Virginia National Guard, though he was not among those deployed to Washington ahead of Inauguration Day. Fracker is also a police officer in Rocky Mount.
He was reportedly accompanied to the riot by fellow Rocky Mount PD officer Thomas Robertson, 47, an Army veteran who is also facing charges.
They have both been placed on leave after an image posted to Facebook showed them posing in front of a statue of John Stark, a general during the American Revolution, which stands inside the Capitol.
According to federal prosecutors, many members of the right-wing extremist group the Oath Keepers took part in the January 6 insurrection.
The group, a self-styled militia, often targets and recruits active-duty members of the military and veterans to enlist in its ranks, mainly for their specialized skills.
An alleged leader of the Oath Keepers, Thomas Edward Caldwell, who is also a Navy Veteran, has been charged in the riots, as has Donovan Ray Crowl, a Marine Corps veteran.
Both Caldwell and Crowl have been charged with conspiracy to obstruct the Electoral College vote, among other crimes.
Jacob Fracker was an infantry rifleman in the Marine Corps and deployed to Afghanistan twice, according to the Pentagon
Fracker was reportedly accompanied to the riot by fellow Rocky Mount PD officer Thomas Robertson (left, and right with Fracker), 47, who is an Army veteran also facing charges.
An alleged leader of the Oath Keepers, Thomas Edward Caldwell, who is also a Navy veteran, has been charged in the riots, as has Donovan Ray Crowl (above), a Marine Corps veteran
Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran from San Diego, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to leap through a barricade near the House chamber.
AIR FORCE VETERAN: Ashli Babbitt, a Air Force veteran from San Diego, was shot and killed by a Capitol Police officer as she tried to leap through a barricade near the House chamber
At least one individual charged in connection with the assault on the Capitol was found to have embraced extremist ideology.
Timothy Louis Hale-Cusanelli, 30, is a Navy contractor who has worked at a naval weapons station with a secret security clearance, according to court documents.
He is also an Army Reserve sergeant in the 174th Infantry Brigade and an ‘avowed white supremacist and Nazi sympathizer,’ according to court documents.
The review of hundreds of videos and photos from the insurrectionist riot shows scores of people mixed in the crowd who were wearing military-style gear, including helmets, body armor, rucksacks and two-way radios.
Dozens carried canisters of bear spray, baseball bats, hockey sticks and pro-Trump flags attached to stout poles later used to bash police officers.
A DC police officer told CBS News that he witnessed rioters using military hand signals inside the Capitol.
A close examination of the group marching up the steps to help breach the Capitol shows they wore military-style patches that read ‘MILITIA’ and ‘OATHKEEPER’.
Others were wearing patches and insignia representing far-right militant groups, including the Proud Boys, the Three Percenters and various self-styled state militias.
Experts in homegrown extremism have warned for years about efforts by far-right militants and white-supremacist groups to radicalize and recruit people with military and law enforcement training, and they say the Capitol siege saw some of their worst fears realized.
‘ISIS and al-Qaida would drool over having someone with the training and experience of a U.S. military officer,’ said Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.
‘These people have training and capabilities that far exceed what any foreign terrorist group can do. Foreign terrorist groups don’t have any members who have badges.’
The review of hundreds of videos and photos from the insurrectionist riot shows scores of people mixed in the crowd who were wearing military-style gear, including helmets, body armor, rucksacks and two-way radios
Pro-Trump protesters storm the Capitol Building, January 6
Brian Harrell, who served as the assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the Department of Homeland Security until last year, said it is ‘obviously problematic’ when ‘extremist bad actors’ have military and law enforcement backgrounds.
‘Many have specialized training, some have seen combat, and nearly all have been fed disinformation and propaganda from illegitimate sources,’ Harrell said. ‘They are fueled by conspiracy theories, feel as if something is being stolen from them, and they are not interested in debate. This is a powder keg cocktail waiting to blow.’
It comes as the Defense Department said on Thursday that far-right and white supremacist extremists are actively recruiting in the US military and have gained more support over the past year.
In the aftermath of the siege, the Pentagon said it will launch an investigation into the extent of extremism in US military ranks.
A senior defense official who declined to be named told reporters that there was an increase in far-right activity among the military over the past year, though he noted that it paralleled similar growth in society at large.
‘We know that some groups actively attempt to recruit our personnel into their cause, or actually encourage their members to join the military for the purpose of acquiring skills and experience our military force,’ the official told reporters.
‘We recognize that those skills are prized by some of these groups, not only for the capability it offers them, but it also brings legitimacy in their mind to their cause.’
The military has been aware of the problem for some time.
But it was underscored by the involvement of serving and retired force members, as well as police officers, among the pro-Trump protesters who violently forced their way into the Capitol building last week.
More suspects are still being sought in relation to the riot.