Federal officials announced that they arrested and charged a 19-year-old man this week for his actions during the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot -- but not before he enlisted and shipped off to basic training for the Air Force.
Aiden Bilyard, 19, was arrested in Raleigh, North Carolina, on Monday and charged with engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, civil disorder, and assaulting officers with a dangerous weapon, among other charges, according to a statement from the Department of Justice.
Court documents say that on Jan. 6, Bilyard sprayed officers with a chemical irritant that they believe was bear spray while he was on the Capitol steps. Court documents say video footage from a few hours later shows Bilyard using a bat to break a window above a door into the building and climb inside.
Prosecutors noted that Bilyard was initially identified by online detectives who have been pouring over videos and still images that were uploaded to the internet and social media in the days after Jan. 6.
Bilyard "was given the hashtag name of '#HarvardSweats,' based upon the grey Harvard sweatshirt under his black 'puffer' style jacket that was visible in many images captured on January 6, 2021," the court document read.
When agents later interviewed Bilyard's mother, she "recognized the Harvard sweatshirt ... retrieved the sweatshirt and voluntarily gave it" to the FBI, according to the court filing. Agents also cited Facebook photos with his mother in which Bilyard was wearing the same hoodie.
Agents interviewed Bilyard himself on Aug. 4. At the time, he was at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, undergoing basic training for the branch, the document said.
Initially, the man "admitted that he was on and around the U.S. Capitol Building grounds [but he] claimed that he only participated in lawful activities," an agent told the court. However, after he was shown videos appearing to include "his apparent participation in criminal acts," Bilyard "terminated the interview, stating, 'I think this is where I take my leave,'" the agent added in the documents.
Court records say Bilyard "has since separated from the Air Force and moved back home to Cary, North Carolina." However, they do not make clear the reason for his separation.
Military.com reached out to the Air Force for comment on Bilyard's enlistment and details on his separation but did not immediately hear back before publication.
Bilyard is not the first military member to find themselves in legal trouble over their actions at the Capitol that day. At least five service members are currently in some state of legal jeopardy with both civil and military authorities.
An Air Force veteran, retired Lt. Col. Larry Brock Jr., was one of the early notable figures to be identified and charged after Jan. 6 when images of him wearing military-style gear and carrying flexible handcuffs on the floor of the Senate chamber surfaced.
A former Air Force Security Forces airman, Ashli Babbitt, 35, also died that day after she was shot while trying to climb through a broken window of the Speaker's Lobby inside the building.
-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.