Capitol Rioters Keep Outing Themselves on Social Media

Justin Rohrlich
·10 min read
Getty
Getty

A fresh cohort of pro-Trump rioters involved in the Jan. 6 sacking of the U.S. Capitol have been arrested, many of whom were largely undone by their own ill-advised social-media posts, according to a series of newly filed criminal complaints.

Some uploaded selfies to Facebook that placed them at the scene, along with vivid descriptions of breaking into and being inside of the Capitol building during the attempted insurrection. Others implicated themselves online, then sealed the deal with the active tracking apps they had had open on their phones, which the FBI subsequently used to recreate their precise whereabouts that day.

The latest round of arrests come as the Department of Justice intensifies its search for participants in the violent Capitol siege, which left a Capitol Police officer and four others dead. More than 125 arrests related to the riots have been made so far, according to the FBI, which says it has some 200 cases open.

Edward Jacob Lang, 25, was charged with assault for attacking a police officer with a bat, and faces additional charges for civil disorder, unlawfully entering the Capitol, and disorderly conduct. The Upstate New York man outed himself on Instagram, posting a picture of himself storming the Capitol with the words “THIS IS ME” emblazoned across it. If that wasn’t enough to do it, Lang’s post also included a finger icon pointing directly to himself. In addition to the Instagram post, Lang posted a video with a caption that read, “I was the leader of Liberty today. Arrest me. You are on the wrong side of history.” “Decisions have consequences,’’ FBI official William Sweeney Jr. posted on Twitter in announcing the arrest. “Edward Lang is in custody for the ones he made during the assault on our Capitol.”

Unemployed grocery store clerk Brandon Fellows, 26, posted a video on Snapchat of himself sitting with his feet up on Oregon Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley’s desk during the Capitol riot, after which he told a Bloomberg News reporter that he had “no regrets” for what he had done, which Fellows said included smoking marijuana in Merkley’s office. “[C]ops are very cool, they were like hey guys have a goodnight, some of them, which is crazy, it’s really weird, you can see that some of them were on our side,” he said in the interview with Bloomberg, which is cited verbatim in court documents charging him with trespassing and disorderly conduct. Fellows also used Facebook to boast of his involvement in the MAGA mob (“We took the Capitol and it was glorious,” he wrote), as well as posting pictures on Instagram of himself sitting on a police motorcycle outside the Capitol.

Gracyn Dawn Courtright’s own social-media feeds gave the FBI enough evidence to arrest the University of Kentucky mathematical economics major on trespassing and civil disorder charges. Courtright, who traveled to the Capitol riot from her father’s home in West Virginia, posted incriminating photos and videos to Instagram and Twitter of herself inside the Capitol during the siege, which was flagged in an article the following day by the university’s student newspaper, the Kentucky Kernel. “One video shows her with a crowd inside the Capitol chanting ‘USA,’” says a criminal complaint filed January 16 in federal court. “Another video shows her and others approaching a line of law enforcement officers inside the Capitol chanting ‘whose house, our house.’” A photo she posted to her now-deleted Instagram feed was captioned: “can’t wait to tell my grandkids I was here.” In another, she wrote, “Infamy is just as good as fame. Either way I end up more known. XOXO.”

Couy Griffin, a New Mexico county commissioner who also serves as the president of a group called Cowboys for Trump, was arrested Sunday for his role in the Capitol riot, the FBI announced. Although he at first claimed to have gone to D.C. only to hear Trump speak at the Ellipse prior to the riot kicking off, Griffin in fact had posted footage of himself at the riot on social media. He then admitted to FBI agents that he did participate but was not involved in any violence. On Thursday, Griffin announced at a county commissioners’ meeting Thursday that he was headed back to D.C. for president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration—and that he was bringing guns to “embrace my second amendment.”

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A tipster exposed Andrew Hatley of South Carolina to the FBI almost in real time as the Capitol was taken Jan. 6. “On January 6, 2021, at approximately 4:18 p.m., a tip was received from a witness (W1), who identified one of the subjects who had entered the Capitol,” says a complaint charging Hatley with trespassing and civil disorder. According to the filing, Hatley seems to have gotten cold feet about the riot after it was over. “It has come to my attention that there was someone who looks like me at the Capitol,” he wrote on Facebook. “I’d like to set the record straight. I don't have that kind of motivation for lost causes. I just don't care enough anymore, certainly not enough for all that.” However, investigators saw Hatley on surveillance footage from inside the building, and used data from a tracking app Hatley had installed on his phone to definitively place him at the scene, says the complaint.

Chad Barrett Jones of Cox’s Creek, Kentucky, was turned in to authorities by a relative two days after the Capitol riot. The unidentified family member saw Jones among the rioters in TV news footage, and submitted a tip to the FBI’s National Threat Operation Center. The relative described Jones as the man “wearing a red hooded jacket and gray sock cap” who was “using a rolled up Trump flag to attempt to break the glass on an interior door...to the left of Ashli Babbit[t]”—the pro-Trump rioter who was shot and killed by Capitol Police—according to an FBI affidavit. As per usual, social media played a role in Jones’ eventual arrest. The affidavit says Jones had previously posted an announcement to Facebook that he would be going to the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Repairing the glass Jones allegedly destroyed will cost more than $1,000, say prosecutors.

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A family member also led to Valerie Elaine Ehrke’s arrest, after a friend they told about video footage on the California woman’s Facebook page from inside the Capitol on January 6 contacted the FBI. The footage, which is described in a complaint charging Ehrke with trespassing and disorderly conduct offenses, shows “a group of people entering the U.S. Capitol building with a caption reading, ‘We made it inside, right before they shoved us all out. I took off when I felt pepper spray in my throat! Lol.’” In a Jan. 13 interview with FBI agents, Ehrke admitted going to the Capitol riot because “she wanted to be part of the crowd.”

On Jan. 6, Blake A. Reed of Nashville, Tennessee, posted to Facebook: "We The People have spoken and we are pissed! No antifa, no BLM… We The People took the Capitol! Every American ethnicity was here. Democratic tyranny WILL NOT STAND! WE HAVE SPOKEN!!” On Jan. 17, Reed, 35, was arrested by the FBI. Agents had gotten a tip that included a photo of Reed that appeared to have been taken inside the Capitol, according to court filings. The FBI says the “unusual outfit choice” Reed was seen wearing during the Capitol sacking—that is, mirrored ski goggles and a gas mask-style respirator—also helped investigators easily identify him.

Timothy Louis Hale-Cusanelli of Colts Neck, N.J., a U.S. Army reservist and Navy contractor with a secret-level security clearance and “access to a variety of munitions,” didn’t out himself on social media but his loose lips still sank him. Hale-Cusanelli, who works at Naval Weapons Station Earle, which is also in Colts Neck, is an alleged white supremacist who hosts a neo-Nazi show online under the name “Based Hermes.” After returning from D.C., Hale-Cusanelli met with an associate who was secretly recording their conversation during which the reservist allegedly admitted to taking a flag and flagpole that another rioter threw “like a javelin,” which Hale-Cusanelli described as a “murder weapon,” at a Capitol Police officer. Hale-Cusanelli now faces five federal counts: knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority; disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; disrupting the orderly conduct of government business; parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building; and obstructing a law enforcement officer.

Andrew Wrigley, of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, posted various pieces of evidence against himself to Facebook on January 6, say authorities. “At the protest in DC at the capitol building #stopthesteal,” reads one. “At the protest in DC. I went inside the capitol building and got tear gassed,” says another. Investigators matched a selfie from the Upper West Terrace door of the Capitol that Wrigley posted to Facebook with his driver’s license, confirming it was him. He now faces trespassing and disorderly conduct charges.

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Florida man Samuel Camargo posted video to Facebook of himself allegedly storming the Capitol, then apparently reconsidered, say prosecutors. “To all my friends, family, and people of the United States of America I apologize for my actions today at the Capitol in D.C. I was involved in the events that transpired earlier today. I will be getting off all social media for the foreseeable future and will cooperate with all investigations that may arise from my involvement. I’m sorry to all the people I’ve disappointed as this is not who I am nor what I stand for.” He apparently thought it would be enough: “Just finished speaking to an FBI agent,” Samuel Camargo wrote on Facebook on Jan. 8, according to court filings. “I believe I’ve been cleared.” He was arrested exactly seven days later.

A Louisiana man, Cody Connell, and his cousin, Daniel Adams, of East Texas, were arrested Jan. 16 for their combined role in breaching the Capitol ten days prior. An informant contacted the FBI the day after the riot, according to an affidavit filed in federal court, with information about postings on Connell’s Facebook page that implicated him personally, as well as a video he allegedly sent to a friend that implicated Adams. “4 of us breached the cops blockade and us same 4 breached the Capitol,” he allegedly wrote in reference to the video. “That’s my cousin. When we stormed the cops there was [sic] 8 of them and 4 of us so he got clubbed and shot with rubber bullet [sic]. But we pushed the cops against the wall, they dropped all their gear and left. That’s when we went to doors [sic] of Capitol building [sic] and breached it.” The FBI says they have reason to believe Connell planned to return to D.C. two days before the Biden-Harris inauguration. He “explained that he was not returning to Louisiana unless he was in a body bag,” says the criminal complaint against Connell. “Your affiant understood that to mean CONNELL intended to travel to Washington D.C. to cause violence that may result in the end of his life.”

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Heavy metal guitar player and Indiana native Jon Schaffer turned himself in to FBI agents in Indianapolis on Sunday to face a raft of charges related to his involvement in the Capitol riot. Schaffer, who is a member of the band Iced Earth, was allegedly part of a group of rioters who used bear spray against Capitol Police officers. He will now also long be known as “Photograph #25” on a wanted poster distributed after the riot by the FBI. Well-known in the metal world, Schaffer was immediately recognizable in pictures that circulated of the rioters.

Since the storming of the Capitol, law enforcement has warned of the potential for far-right violence at Wednesday’s inauguration, where Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn into office as president and vice president.

D.C. Metro police on Sunday arrested a 63-year-old Connecticut woman who attempted to get through an inauguration checkpoint by falsely claiming to be a police officer, saying she was “a part of the presidential cabinet,” and then fleeing when cops attempted to question her.

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