Jan. 16—Ongoing investigations of the Capitol Riot are focusing in part on officials who are trained and entrusted to protect the nation and its government — police officers and other first responders.
Two Capitol Police officers, members of the department that protects the national seat of government, have been suspended, and others are under investigation for their actions during the January 6 assault by supporters of President Donald Trump that left five dead.
The fatalities include Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was struck in the head with a fire extinguisher during the riot, law enforcement authorities said.
Among those facing charges or disciplinary action:
—A pair of off-duty Virginia police officers stand accused of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and other charges.
—A Maryland police officer was suspended with pay, pending the results of an investigation of the officer’s potential involvement with the riot.
—A recently-retired firefighter from Pennsylvania was arrested Thursday on charges he threw a fire extinguisher at Capitol Police officers who were trying to stop rioters from storming the building.
—A Sheriff’s Office lieutenant from Texas is under investigation for a social media post that showed her near the Capitol.
—A Florida firefighter/medic has been placed on administrative leave after a photograph showed him among the mob inside the Capitol.
—Police departments in Las Vegas and other U.S. jurisdictions are investigating whether department personnel had any part in the attack.
Other law enforcement officers from around the nation are under investigation for their suspected or confirmed attendance at the Trump rally in Washington D.C. that preceded the riot.
The number of police officers and first responders investigated and or charged to date represent just a fraction of the thousands involved in the riot.
The law enforcement officers are among the roughly 200 riot suspects in the tally that FBI Director Christopher Ray gave to Vice President Mike Pence this week. As of Friday afternoon EST, 46 people were listed in a U.S. Department of Justice tally of suspects charged for their alleged roles in the riot.
Trump, who was hit with an unprecedented second impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives on a charge that he incited the mob, historically has enjoyed strong support with law enforcement agencies and officers.
The 355,000-member Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, in September endorsed Trump’s losing re-election campaign against Joe Biden for a second White House term.
“Our members know that he listens to the concerns of our brothers and sisters in uniform and is able to make tough decisions on the issues most important to law enforcement. President Trump is committed to keeping our communities and families safe,” said Patrick Yoes, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police in a statement at the time.
However, any police officers or other first responders who pushed beyond personal or union support of Trump and took part in an attack that threatened U.S. democracy face face charges of criminally overstepping.
“This was simply violations of the law,” said Maria Haberfeld, a John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor of police science who has specialized in researching police integrity issues. “People expect police officers to uphold and enforce the law, not violate the law.”
That police officers and other law enforcement officials were on their own time and may have been acting on personal and political beliefs doesn’t matter, she said.
“I don’t think any police officer should have been in the proximity of the place,” said Haberfeld. “They represent the law enforcement profession and they have to uphold that profession at all times, even when they are off duty.”
Here are summaries of some of the law enforcement officers and other first responders who have been accused:
Capitol Police Department
Two Capitol Police officers have been suspended from duty over their suspected roles in the riot, and at least 10 others are under investigation, said Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, the chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees the law enforcement agency.
One of the suspended officers is suspected of wearing a Trump “Make America Great Again” hat and joining the rioters, while another was videotaped apparently taking a selfie photo with the attackers.
Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda Pittman said the department “will investigate these behaviors for disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination. Several USCP officers have already been suspended pending the outcome of their investigations.”
Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker
Off-duty officers from Virginia’s Rocky Mountain Police Department, Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker were photographed in the Capitol during the riot, according to a federal court record. At the time, the two were allegedly making an obscene statement as they stood before a statue of John Stark, a Continental Army general from New Hampshire during the American Revolution.
The officers said they had done nothing wrong.
In social media posts, Robertson was quoted as saying: “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us,” the court record said.
Robertson also stated that he was “proud” of the photo in an Instagram Post that was shared to Facebook, because he was “willing to put skin in the game,” the court record said.
A deleted Facebook post that was captured and included with the filing quoted Fracker as saying: “Lol to anyone who’s possibly concerned about the picture of me going around… Sorry I hate freedom? …Not like I did anything illegal…y’all do what you feel you need to…”
Federal authorities charged Robertson and Fracker with violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. The officers were placed on administrative leave.
Robertson denied that he and Fracker had done anything wrong in a report published by The Roanoke Times. He also said he did not support the violence that occurred in the Capitol.
“Absolutely not,” Robertson said in the report. “For it to go like that is absolutely ridiculous.”
The Bexar County Sheriff ‘s Department in Texas placed Lieutenant Roxanne Mathai under investigation after she posted a Facebook video that showed her near the Capitol. However, Mathai said she would not enter the Capitol, The New York Times reported.
Sheriff Javier Salazar said in the report the investigation would determine whether law enforcement authorities at the Capitol had declared the gathering illegal. If they had “and she remained on scene and began filming and began making challenging statements, that means breaking the law,” said Salazar.
Hector Cortes, an attorney who spoke on behalf of Mathai, said she had been hundreds of feet behind the rioters and was unaware of what happened in the Capitol, according to a KSAT report.
Maryland Police Officer
An Anne Arundel County, Maryland police officer has been placed on leave amid an investigation into whether the officer had any role in the riot.
Police officials have declined to make public any information about the investigation. “The Anne Arundel County Police Department is committed to the highest level of ethical standards by its sworn and civilian members, whether on or off duty. The Anne Arundel County Police Department also supports all lawful expressions of freedom of speech and assembly,” the agency said in a formal statement.
Seattle Police Officers
At least two Seattle Police Department officers face an internal investigation of whether they had any role in the riot. The officers, who were not publicly identified, were place on administrative leave.
The department’s Office of Police Accountability “will investigate whether any … policies were violated and if any potential illegal activities need to be referred for criminal investigation. If any SPD officers were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, I will immediately terminate them,” Chief Adrian Diaz said in a statement issued by the department.
A recently retired member of Pennsylvania’s Chester County Fire Department was arrested and charged Thursday for assaulting, civil disorder and other federal criminal counts for his alleged role in the riot.
Robert Sanford, wearing what appeared to be a Chester Fire Department cap, allegedly struck three Capitol Police officers with a fire extinguisher he tossed during the riot, the U.S. Department of Justice announcement said.
A video taken by someone who was in the crowd showed that an object that appeared to be the fire extinguisher “appears to strike one officer, who was wearing a helmet, in the head,” a federal court filing said.
“The object then ricochets and strikes another officer, who was not wearing a helmet, in the head,” the filing said. “The object then ricochets a third time and strikes a third officer, wearing a helmet, in the head.”
The officers who were struck by the object did not include Sicknick, the Capitol Police officer who died.
Federal authorities arrested and charged Florida firefighter Andrew Williams with unlawful entry of a restricted building and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds for his alleged role in the riot.
A federal court affidavit alleges that a video made by a cell phone or other portable device recorded someone saying, “We are storming the Capitol! Yeah baby!”
“Immediately after that statement, the camera was flipped around and Williams, who appears to be holding the device, was recorded uttering an additional ‘Yeah!'” in what appeared to be the same voice that made the statement about the assault, the affidavit said.
Williams is a Sanford firefighter and paramedic. A statement by the Sanford Fire Department said the department “has begun an administrative Investigation into the information.”
Police officials in Nevada, Pennsylvania and elsewhere are investigating whether officers from their departments had any role in the riot. The investigations focus on employees of the Metro Police in Las Vegas, and seven transit officers from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA).
Contributing: Matthew Brown, Dinah Voyles Pulver,
(c)2021 USA Today
Visit USA Today at www.usatoday.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.