An explosion caused by police ammunition is seen as supporters of then-President Donald Trump gather outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington DC on Jan. 6. Leah Millis / Reuters hide the caption
Leah Millis / Reuters
Leah Millis / Reuters
Editor’s Note: This story was first published on February 9, 2021. It is updated regularly and contains an explicit language.
Almost every day since insurgents stormed the US Capitol, the list of accused has grown. The government has now identified more than 230 suspects in the January 6 riot, in which five people died, including a U.S. Capitol police officer.
As Congress is considering impeaching the president in response to the attack, these criminal cases provide clues to key questions related to the violation of the Capitol: Who exactly joined the mob? What have you done? And why?
To answer these questions, NPR is investigating criminal cases related to the Capitol uprising using court documents, public records, news reports and social media.
Such a large group defies generalization. The defendants are predominantly white and male, although there were exceptions. Federal prosecutors say a former member of the Latin Kings gang joined the mob, as did two Virginia police officers. A man in a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt took part, as did a messianic rabbi. Right-wing militiamen in tactical gear rioted alongside a county commissioner, a New York plumbing worker and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
However, NPR’s investigation found certain similarities.
There were those with connections to extremist groups or fringe ideas. At least 13 defendants appear to have voiced their support for QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory.
At least 15 of the defendants appear to have ties to the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist gang. The group was recently declared a terrorist group in America. Their values have been widely described as racist, misogynistic, anti-immigrant and hateful towards other minority groups.
At least four of the defendants allegedly have ties to the Oath Guards, whom the Anti-Defamation League describes as an “anti-government fringe right-wing organization”.
The group is known to target and recruit current and former law enforcement officers and military veterans. At least three of the accused are allegedly affiliated with the Three Percenters, another anti-government extremist organization.
This is a project by NPR’s Investigations and News Apps teams. Tom Dreisbach from NPR, Dina Temple-Raston, Arezou Rezvani, Meg Anderson, Monika Evstatieva, Barbara Van Woerkom, Austin Fast and Emine Yücel contributed to this project. Connie Hanzhang Jin and Alyson Hurt from NPR created the database. NPR’s Emily Bogle and Di’Amond Moore identified photos.
The presence of current and past law enforcement officers, as well as members of the military and veterans, has particularly alarmed government officials. NPR found that at least 14% of the defendants may have had links with the military or law enforcement.
Experts say there’s little evidence that current or former military personnel are more vulnerable to radicalization, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has made fighting extremism a top priority in the ranks.
Legislators who support the charges against former President Donald Trump argue that he “incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol”. There is some evidence of this in court documents: some who allegedly stormed the Capitol explicitly said they were inspired by Trump.
“IF TRUMP TELLS US TO STORM THE F *** IN UPPERCASE, THEN DO IT!” a defendant wrote. “I thought I was going to follow my president,” said another.
Most of the people charged in connection with the storming of the Capitol have faced allegations, primarily related to the violation of the building. However, a smaller number face more serious charges and a greater risk of jail time if convicted.
Sixteen are charged with conspiracy, one of the most serious charges. 28 people are accused of having committed acts of violence, particularly against the Capitol Police. At least 32 are suspected of causing property damage, e.g. Breaking windows or doors to gain entry to the building, or stealing, such as the man photographed with Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern or a woman who allegedly took a laptop from Pelosi’s office.