Rioters who stormed the US Capitol are being turned in by their family and friends

As the FBI investigates an insurrection that shocked the world, many tip-offs are coming from suspects’ nearest and dearest. Justin Vallejo reports

Thursday 28 January 2021 16:51
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Trump supporters storm the US Capitol in his name
Trump supporters storm the US Capitol in his name
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"Even your friends and family are tipping us off. So you might want to consider turning yourself in instead of wondering when we're going to come knocking on your door--because we will."

That was the stark warning from Steven D'Antuono, the FBI's Washington field office assistant director, to the hundreds of Trump supporters who stormed the US Capitol on 6 January in an attempted insurrection that left five people, including a police officer, dead and a nation in shock.

And sure enough, some of the highest profile alleged rioters have been turned in by sons and daughters, ex-lovers, work colleagues, friends and fellow athletes – a sobering illustration of how America's bitter political divide reaches down to everyday family life.

The FBI has received at least 140,000 photos, videos and tips in the weeks since the 6 January insurrection with acting attorney general Jeffrey Rosen saying many were "notably from friends, co-workers and other acquaintances". 

As a result, the bureau has opened about 270 case files and arrested 183 suspects for their role in the attack at the Capitol.

Here is what we know so far about the alleged insurrectionists turned in by those closest to them.

The son

The father of Jackson Reffitt, 18, allegedly threatened to shoot him and his sister if they went to the FBI.

“If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot,” Guy Reffitt, 48, said to his son and daughter, according to an affidavit filed in court.  

The FBI says Mr Reffitt can be seen in a Reuters clip washing his eye with a bottle of water wearing tactical-style equipment outside the Capitol building.

A photo allegedly showing Jackson Reffitt

Jackson told authorities that his dad went armed to Washington DC thinking he would "protect the country". When Mr Reffitt returned home, he allegedly told his son he recorded storming the Capitol and needed to "erase everything" because the FBI was watching.

In an interview with Texas broadcaster NBCDFW, Jackson Reffitt said his father became obsessed with politics during the Trump presidency and joined the self-styled militia group "the Three Percenters".

"I love him, but I hate him," he said.  "I say he (Trump) has just manipulated even my own family members."

Asked if he thinks his father is dangerous, Reffitt said he didn't think so, but added: "I don't really know him anymore."

The unidentified family member

Brandon Straka is founder of the "WalkAway Campaign", which seeks to encourage former liberals to leave the Democratic party in an inverse to Never Trumpers encouraging Republicans to abandon the GOP.

While the FBI alleged in court documents that it received multiple tips identifying Mr Straka at the US Capitol, it was apparently a tip from a family member that underpinned his arrest.

Brandon Straka, founder of the ‘WalkAway’ movement, attends a rally in support of U.S. President Donald Trump near Trump Tower on 23 March, 2019

In an interview with the FBI, the witness said they were a relative of Mr Straka and that they saw a video showing him on the "cusp" of entering the US Capitol in which he can be heard saying "We're going in. We're going in".

While the video had been deleted from Twitter, the family found a copy on YouTube and sent it to the FBI.

Mr Straka has been charged with impeding law enforcement during a civil disorder, entering restricted grounds, and disorderly conduct with intent to disturb a hearing before Congress.

The ex-lover

Riley June Williams, 22, was already facing charges of trespassing, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds until her ex-lover came back in the picture.

The "former romantic partner" is the FBI's key witness to updated charges alleging Ms Williams stole Nancy Pelosi's laptop and planned to give it to Russian spies.

Riley June Williams is seen in a booking photograph from the Dauphin County Prison

The new charges of theft of government property and obstruction, courtesy of the tip from her ex, could see her face 20 years in prison if she is convicted.

According to a Justice Department affidavit, the ex-lover made several phone calls to the FBI's tip line identifying Ms Riley directing crowds around the Capitol in video footage from 6 January.  

"[Witness 1] stated that Williams intended to send the computer device to a friend in Russia, who then planned to sell the device to SVR, Russia’s foreign intelligence service," the affidavit said.

"According to W1, the transfer of the computer device to Russia fell through for unknown reasons and WILLIAMS still has the computer device or destroyed it."

The ex-wife  

Larry Rendall Brock, 55, was featured heavily in an ITV News report dressed in tactical gear on the floor of the Senate, and in areas near the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,  while carrying zip ties.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Larry Rendall Brock, Jr., a Texas-based Air Force Academy graduate and combat veteran wearing combat helmet

Two days later, his ex-wife of 18 years called the FBI National Threat Operations Centre to say she recognised him in the military-style helmet, khaki trousers, grey and black fatigues over a military vest, and a patch from his military service – the 706th Fighter Squadron.

“I just know that when I saw this was happening I was afraid he would be there,” she said, according to an affidavit. “I think you already know he was there. It is such a good picture of him and I recognise his patch.”

The old friend who broke off contact

Mr Brock's ex-wife wasn't the only one to recognise the retired lieutenant colonel and father of three.  

Bill Leake identified his old friend to The New Yorker reporter Ronan Farrow, who was following a lead from a university researcher using facial recognition to identify rioters at the Capitol.

The two flew together in the Air Force for a decade when Mr Brock went by the call-sign "Torch". But they fell out of touch after Mr Leake felt his former brother in arms had "gotten extreme".  

"Torch got all-in on Trump,” Mr Leake told the outlet. “He went all-in on the alternative-news-source world. He actually believes liberals and Democrats are a threat to the country. You can see how the logical conclusion to that is, We’ve gotta take over.”

When confronted by Mr Farrow, Mr Brock confirmed he was the man in the pictures. Two days after the story was published on 9 January, Mr Brock was arrested in Texas. He was charged with misdemeanours, but prosecutors have said more serious charges are coming.

The childhood friend

Patrick Edward McCaughey, 23, was charged with assaulting the police officer Daniel Hodges, seen in video screaming in pain while being crushed in a door during the riots.

Images from the widely shared footage, described by Judge Andrew Krause as "extraordinarily disturbing", were distributed by police on 15 January in a Twitter call for tips. That same day, a friend who had known Mr McCaughey for years responded. 

Allegedly Patrick McCaughey, identified in a Department of Justice affidavit as being at the US Capitol

"[The witness] reported having known McCaughey since they were children. [The witness] last saw McCaughey in person approximately one year ago. [The witness] heard from mutual friends that McCaughey attended the events at the United States Capitol," the affidavit said.

The friend later turned over photos and videos Mr McCaughey allegedly shared with a group of their mutual friends that showed him at the US Capitol.  

When asked by the FBI how certain he was that Mr Caughey was the same man seen at the Capitol, he left no doubt, saying he "100 per cent certain".

The niece

Alison Lopez, 42, reported her uncle's sister after she allegedly bragged about being inside the Capitol to take "back the election".

Ms Lopez told The Guardian she had "no qualms" about reporting her in-law.

“If I saw my grandmother making bombs in her basement, or my aunt breaking into a home, I would have to intervene as well – it’s just about doing what’s right,” she said.

 “These are people who never really identified with politics before, and now they have just let this consume their lives."

The girlfriend's brother

Thomas Fee, 53, came undone after allegedly texting a selfie while storming the Capitol building – captioned "tip of the spear" – to his girlfriend's brother, who happened to be a special agent with the US Diplomatic Secret Service.

The retired New York City firefighter also sent video where the mob can be heard yelling “tyranny” and the name "Pelosi", according to court documents reported by Law & Crime.

Former New York firefighter Thomas Fee taking a selfie during the US Capitol riot, according to court documents

The girlfriend's brother, who works for the law enforcement arm of the State Department, turned over the photo and video evidence to the FBI.

It was Mr Fee's girlfriend who first tipped off the FBI’s special agent by posting his participation on her Facebook page.

According to WABC, Mr Fee was hailed a hero for saving 13 people during Hurricane Sandy, and he served during the September 11 attacks in 2001. He was suspended in 2014 for yelling racial slurs.

The friend of a friend

Allan Mestel put an end to the viral internet search for "Podium Guy" Adam Johnson.

The two men from Southwest Florida ran in the same social circle, attended the same events among mutual friends, and they popped up on social media feeds, Mr Mestel told USA Today.

Adam Johnson was pictured stealing Nancy Pelosi’s lectern during the Capital riots

“He spends all of his time trolling the alt-right websites,” Mr Mestel said. “His social (media) was very much pro-conspiracy theory, anti-Black Lives Matter and anti-liberal. It seemed to be pretty much the focus of what made him tick and took up most of his time."

When he saw Mr Johnson walking with Nancy Pelosi's podium on 6 January, he told the outlet it was his patriotic duty to report everything he knew. That same day he filled out a form on the FBI website, and said he spoke to three investigators before Mr Johnson appeared in court. Mr Mestel’s account is supported in the arrest affidavit.

For his efforts, Mr Mestel says he's been called a “rat,” “snitch,” and “scum”.  

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, faces three felony charges: entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority, theft of government property, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

The Facebook friend

Scott Kevin Fairlamb, a former MMA fighter and gym owner from New Jersey, was arrested after four "concerned citizens" identified him to the FBI, according to an arrest affidavit.

Key among them was a friend who said they "grew up" together and saw videos posted to Mr Fairlamb's Facebook page in which he allegedly said he was going to "storm the capital".

Multiple videos were shared with the FBI that allegedly showed Mr Fairlamb shove and punch an officer, climb scaffolding outside the Capitol, pick up and carry a baton, and enter the Capitol building before coughing as chemical agents were deployed inside.

He was charged various counts of civil disorder, assaulting a federal officer, knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, carrying a dangerous weapon, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

The alleged co-offender

College friends Robert Lyon and Dustin Thompson, both from Ohio, were waiting for an Uber when police recognised a coat rack that belonged in the Capitol building, according to court documents.

After an agent told Mr Thompson to drop the coat rack, he allegedly fled the scene while Mr Lyon stayed behind.

Dustin Thompson allegedly posing with a coat rack from the US Capitol, according to a Department of Justice affidavit

When questioned on the scene and later in Ohio, Mr Lyon allegedly said it was Mr Thompson's idea to drive together to the rally, and provided his friend's identity, phone number, home address, photos and text messages shared between the two.

"Lyon stated that he has known Thompson for a few years and advised that they met at a university in Ohio," the affidavit said.

"Ultimately, Lyon reiterated that he had not been inside of the Capitol, but he believed that Thompson had been inside of the Capitol because Thompson later approached Lyon carrying a wood and bronze coat rack," it continued.

Both men were charged with violent entry, disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds and knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority. Mr Thompson was also charged with theft of government property.

The co-workers

Kevin Strong, 44, was identified by a co-worker at the Federal Aviation Administration in California, according to court documents.

A day after the QAnon supporter allegedly stormed the Capitol, a member of the FAA's internal investigations department told FBI they recognised Mr Strong on a news broadcast.

"Strong confessed to being in the US Capitol rotunda following the breach," an arrest affidavit said.

"When asked why he went to Washington DC, Strong explained that he went to see Trump speak and walk in the ‘Million Maga March’. Strong strongly adheres to QAnon ideology, admitting to having ‘Q Clearance’."

Mr Strong, who works for the FAA in San Bernardino, was already under investigation by the FBI after he allegedly sent messages claiming "World War 3 is going to occur on January 6".

A witness familiar with Mr Strong said he "had been showing signs of behavioural changes over the last few months including stockpiling items and telling others to get ready for martial law, rioting, and protesting".  

The former classmates

Samuel Camargo, 26, was arrested after two former classmates allegedly saw his posts to Facebook and Instagram participating in different parts of the Capitol riot.

The pair saved images and video from "story" posts that automatically deleted, turning them over the FBI, who otherwise may not have seen the self-deleting content.

"The last video clip of the ‘story’ shows what your affiant believes to be Camargo at one of the doorways to the US Capitol Building, using his mobile phone to videotape his struggle with the US Capitol Police over opening a door to the US. Capitol Building," court documents said.

When the FBI interviewed Mr Camargo at his home in Florida, on a phone number provided by his classmate, he allegedly became uncooperative and questioned the FBI's "loyalty to the constitution".

A few hours later, Mr Camargo posted to Facebook that he had been "cleared" after speaking to an FBI agent. In an image shared in the court documents, commentators on Mr Camargo's Facebook page didn't share his views:  

"You vandalized our Capitol, posted about it like you were proud, said you were sorry and now you're announcing that you're cleared publically after you said you'd be off social media? Dude get a grip."

The US Olympic swim team

Klete Keller, 38, was identified by "at least a dozen people within the sport" to popular swimming website SwimSwam, which was first to report the gold medalist's identity after he appeared in a video from reporter Julio Rosas.

Days later, federal prosecutors charged Mr Keller with violent entry, obstructing law enforcement and disorderly conduct. In his arrest affidavit, investigators cited SwimSwam’s reporting as one of the key moments in determining his identity.

Klete Keller reacts at the 2008 Beijing Olympic games

Mr Keller is a five-time medalist and former teammate of Michael Phelps, representing the United States in the 2000, 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympic games.

Two former teammates and officials confirmed his identity to the Washington Post, while the criminal complaint filed in the US District Court said they relied heavily on the footage of the 6' 6" tall swimmer in a USA Olympic jacket.  

USA Swimming disavowed: "Mr Keller’s actions in no way represent the values or mission of USA Swimming. And while once a swimmer at the highest levels of our sport – representing the country and democracy he so willfully attacked – Mr Keller has not been a member of this organization since 2008.”

The daughters

While rioters who stormed the Capitol were reported to federal authorities, the division hasn’t stopped there.

Two daughters have publically shamed mothers who did not directly participate in the riot, but who they are nonetheless ashamed of being related to.

In a first-person story for The Washington Post, Danielle Marshall wrote an extended account of how her wife is a US Capitol Police officer and her mother is a Trump supporter. On the day of the riots, her mother was not at the Capitol but “in the crowd”… “just down the street, at President Donald Trump’s rally near the White House.”

“She and I don’t keep in touch — our differences are too great, and that gulf has only widened as she got into the far-right Internet — but I wondered whether she, who lives 1,450 miles away in Texas, might be among the marchers,” Ms Marshall wrote.

“From what I could tell, she stayed a few blocks away from the Capitol building, her videos panning the massive crowds on and around the Capitol grounds,” she added.

Helena Duke, 18, turned in her mother, Therese Duke and put her uncle, Richard Lorenz, and aunt, Annie Lorenz, on public blast after seeing them in a viral Twitter video from Freedom News TV.

In response to her mother being punched in the face the night before the Capitol Riot, she tweeted: "Hi mom remember the time you told me I shouldn’t go to BLM protests bc they could get violent ... this you?"

 

 

Helena Duke told Good Morning America it was an emotional choice to make. "But, at the same time, if I did nothing I felt that I was as bad as them," she said.

The woman charged with allegedly punching Ms Duke in the face has been charged with assault and has raised almost $250,000 on GoFundMe for her legal fees.  Ms Duke, meanwhile, has also been charged with assault and been fired from her job at UMass Hospital.

Helena, whose parents are divorced, is now living with her father. 

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