A QAnon-loving ex-Marine was still on parole for several crimes when he allegedly assaulted at least two police officers during the Jan. 6 Capitol riot—and fled his California sober living home for Mexico as the FBI hunted him down.
That’s according to an FBI search warrant affidavit obtained by The Daily Beast, which reveals new details about alleged insurrectionist James Burton McGrew, a Mississippi veteran and conspiracy theorist who was identified by investigators thanks to a distinctive “King James” tattoo on his abdomen that matched an old police booking photo.
“James’s [sic] loves his country,” says a fundraising appeal posted by his family on GiveSendGo, a Christian crowdfunding site. “He is a 3rd generation Marine. His Grandfather and his Father were also Marines. James’s [sic] was brought up to Love and Fear God. He is a father of one son and helps take care of an Old Mom. WE NEED JAMES HOME. We greatly appreciated all the support everyone has shown and there is still a Great America. God Bless and Thank You.” As of now, the campaign has brought in $0 of its stated $200,000 goal.
At least 57 of the more than 500 people facing charges for participating in the Jan. 6 Capitol rampage are U.S. military veterans, including a number who are still serving, according to a CBS News analysis of court filings. About 25 percent of Jan. 6 defendants with military ties are also linked to right-wing extremist groups, such as the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. McGrew is the fourth Mississippian thus far to face charges related to Jan. 6.
On Jan. 6, McGrew, who was spotted both inside and outside the Capitol building, “aggressively approached law enforcement officers, yelling statements such as ‘We’re coming in here, whether you like it or not,’ and ‘Fight with us, not against us,’” states the affidavit, which is signed by a member of the FBI San Diego Joint Terrorism Task Force. “After McGrew was pushed back with the crowd, McGrew lunged forward to strike a law enforcement officer.” He then retreated, but “within seconds” again confronted officers trying to control the violent mob, allegedly striking another cop before trying to grab his baton.
The day after the insurrection, a tipster outed McGrew to the FBI, who told agents that McGrew had spoken of traveling to Washington, D.C., to “protest” the “stolen vote,” and had purchased bear spray to bring with him, the affidavit states. This person said McGrew “did believe in some elements of the QAnon conspiracy theory, including the ‘deep state,’” adding that McGrew was a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. In February, another concerned citizen contacted the FBI with photos of McGrew inside the Capitol, according to the affidavit.
Two months went by. In late April, McGrew, who was living at a sober home in Carlsbad, California, flew to Mississippi for a hearing on prior state charges to which he had previously pleaded guilty: possession of a chemical precursor, shoplifting, and motor vehicle theft. But McGrew, who was by then off parole and on probation, never showed up for a scheduled meeting with his probation officer. McGrew’s worried mother reported him missing, and told police her son had taken off in her 2005 Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Investigators got permission from a judge to track McGrew’s cellphone. Cell tower data and the phone’s GPS showed the device traveling west from Mississippi, arriving in Gilbert, Arizona, a day later. At roughly the same time, FBI agents raided the sober home where McGrew had been residing. However, he wasn’t there.
“During the search of McGrew’s room at the sober living facility, a ‘[Columbia]’ jacket, which appeared identical to the jacket worn by McGrew while he was inside the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was seized,” the affidavit states.
According to information reviewed by investigators, McGrew’s phone remained in Arizona—although he didn’t. The day after the FBI searched McGrew’s room at the sober home in Carlsbad, McGrew appeared in his mom’s truck at a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in Pine Valley, California. There, he told agents he was en route to Carlsbad. A short time later, a worker at the sober home contacted the FBI and said McGrew was “attempting to return.”
The caller “advised the residents of the sober living facility did not want McGrew back at the facility,” and that the staff would help find another place for him to stay.
Although the affidavit doesn’t provide specifics, McGrew at some point during this period drove to Mexico. When he crossed the border back into the U.S. in San Ysidro, California, the affidavit states he was with a female passenger he told U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents he met “when she was sleeping outside of the hotel McGrew was staying at in Vista, California. McGrew explained that he was headed to Glendale, Arizona, where he planned to move in with his half-sister.
On May 25, automated license plate readers clocked McGrew’s mother’s truck around Glendale. On May 28, FBI agents arrested McGrew outside his sister’s apartment.
McGrew’s lawyer, a controversial figure who has also represented such figures as teen shooter Kyle Rittenhouse, numerous members of the Proud Boys, and former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, McGrew’s mother spoke briefly to The Daily Beast by phone.
“Everything’s, I guess, in procedure,” said Leslie McGrew. “That’s all I can say.”
McGrew’s half-sister did not respond to a message seeking comment.
McGrew is due back in D.C. federal court on Aug. 19.
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