Recently, Scott MacFarlane, an NBC4 reporter in Washington who covers the Capitol riot prosecutions, tweeted, "As of tonight at least 65 of the Jan. 6 defendants have been charged with 'entering a restricted area with a dangerous or deadly weapon.' A counterpunch to those who argued this didn't appear like 'an armed insurrection.'"
It was just a tweet, which, by definition, can't contain much information, but it left open the question: What weapons did they have? What were the arms in the "armed insurrection"?
The Justice Department maintains a website listing the defendants and the federal charges against them in the sprawling Jan. 6 investigation. At this moment, about 670 people have been charged, many of them with misdemeanors such as "Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in a Capitol Building."
Of the cases involving weapons, there are four main charges: "Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers Using a Dangerous Weapon"; "Entering and Remaining in a Restricted Building with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon"; "Disorderly and Disruptive Conduct in a Restricted Building with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon"; and "Engaging in Physical Violence in a Restricted Building with a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon."
Going through the Justice Department site, as well as some media databases, I counted 82 defendants who have been charged with at least one of those offenses. It's possible I missed a few, but I think they represent the vast majority of those who face weapons-related charges in the Capitol riot investigation. In each charge, prosecutors have specified the weapon the defendant is accused of using. Below is a list of all the defendants, and all the weapons:
A few observations on the list. First, on the issue of guns. Five suspects — Christopher Michael Alberts, Lonnie Leroy Coffman, Mark Sami Ibrahim, Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr., and Guy Wesley Reffitt — are charged with possessing firearms. But none are charged with using them during the riot.
Alberts was arrested at 7:25 p.m., after the riot was over, when police enforcing the District of Columbia curfew suspected he had a handgun under his coat as he was leaving.
Coffman was arrested at about 6:30 p.m. after he told police that he was trying to get to his parked pickup truck. Officers found two handguns on Coffman's person and two more guns, along with possible bomb-making materials, in the truck.
Ibrahim was a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who had given his notice to resign and was on personal leave on Jan. 6; at the riot, he was carrying his DEA-issued badge and pistol.
Meredith was not in Washington at all for the riot. He arrived later that evening after allegedly texting a threatening message about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Meredith told police that "he had two firearms in his truck, and he knew that he was not supposed to have the firearms in Washington, DC. Therefore, he moved the firearms to his trailer," according to court documents. Officers found a handgun, a rifle, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in the trailer.
Finally, court papers say Reffitt had a handgun on his person on Jan. 6.
So, those are the gun cases. Many observers have pointed out that other rioters surely had guns. Since so few were arrested and searched at the scene, that is impossible to know. But it's certainly possible. What is more certain is that none of the suspects fired any guns at any point during the riot. The only shot that was fired during that time was by Capitol Police Lt. Michael Byrd, who shot and killed rioter Ashli Babbitt as she tried to force her way into an area near the House chamber.
As for the rest of the weapons, six defendants are charged with having a knife, although none are accused of using the weapon on another person. Five defendants are accused of having a Taser or stun gun. Three are charged with having an ax. Four are charged with having a baseball bat. Seven are charged with having a crutch. Eleven are charged with having a baton of some sort. Thirteen are accused of having some sort of pepper or other irritant spray. Nineteen are charged with having a pole, usually a pole for the flags they carried. Eight are accused of having a shield, several of them police shields they apparently took at the scene.
Some of the weapons were obviously brought with the intention of being in a fight. Others were clearly improvised on the spur of the moment; in one case, the deadly or dangerous weapon used was a desk drawer. In another, it was a traffic barrier. In yet another, it was a helmet. That doesn't mean those objects could not be dangerous; one could beat a person to death with a desk drawer. But it does suggest the rioter did not arrive at the Capitol bent on armed insurrection.
In addition, the overall numbers are relatively small. Eighty-two people charged with weapons-related offenses, out of how many? That is about 12% of the 670 or so currently charged. And 670 is smaller than the total number of rioters on the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6. Does that amount to an "armed insurrection"? Especially when just five people have been charged with possessing firearms, the weapon of choice for modern armed insurrectionists, and one of them didn't arrive until after it was all over, and none of them fired the weapons, even in the intensity of the physical struggle that day?
And that is the problem with the "armed insurrection" talking point. By any current American standard of civil disorder, what happened on Jan. 6 was a riot. There were some instigators, and there were many more followers. A small number were anticipating a fight, probably with antifa. And as the day went on, some people lost their heads and did things they should regret for a very long time. But a look at the Justice Department prosecutions simply does not make the case that it was an "armed insurrection."
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Original Author: Byron York
Original Location: 'Armed insurrection': What weapons did the Capitol rioters carry?