A Jan. 6 participant has been harassing police officers at a Capitol attack trial
WASHINGTON — A man who was at the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol but has not been arrested confronted two law enforcement officers this week who were witnesses at the trial of another man facing felony charges related to the insurrection.
The man, Tommy Tatum, of Mississippi, who has posted extensively online about Jan. 6 and refers to himself as an independent investigative journalist, has been posting videos of himself harassing officers who fought off the mob on Jan. 6.
“Do you think you honored your father’s memory by trying to kill me that day?” Tatum asked a D.C. Metropolitan Police officer in one video as he followed him down the street outside the courthouse following the officer’s testimony on Tuesday. “How does that make you feel as a man, does that bring your Vietnamese father honor? … I hope you take this dishonor to your family to the grave.”
The officer testified earlier Tuesday about how he had wanted to join the U.S. Marines when he turned 18, but ended up honoring the wishes of his family by continuing his education before becoming a police officer. He and other members of law enforcement have been testifying in the trial of Kyle Fitzsimons, a Maine man facing several felony charges, including of assaulting an officer during the brutal siege on the western tunnel, where some of the worst attacks on police took place that day.
Tatum himself has not been charged in connection with Jan. 6, although he posted videos he has said he recorded at the Capitol that day and even videos of a purported phone call he claims he got from the FBI about the Capitol attack (NBC News is not able to confirm whether the call is authentic). Tatum has said in online posts that he was right next to Rosanne Boyland when she collapsed at the western tunnel amid the fighting between Trump supporters and police; Boyland died. There is no evidence that he went inside the Capitol itself.
Tatum also tried to confront another officer, this one with the Capitol Police, in a courthouse elevator on Wednesday. He recorded and posted clips of both exchanges with the officers and identified himself outside the courthouse.
U.S. Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, who is also testifying in the trial, said that Tatum told him that he should be ashamed of himself in an exchange near the bathroom inside the courthouse on Wednesday. Shortly after, Tatum got into an expletive-laden confrontation with David Laufman, an attorney for Gonell, after he tried to get into an elevator with Gonell, Laufman and an NBC News reporter.
NBC News separately heard Tatum make negative comments inside the courthouse about how he believed Gonell was acting. Outside the courthouse, Tatum recorded himself accusing Gonell of committing perjury.
The confrontations with Gonell came before the conclusion of his testimony in the case against Fitzsimons, who is accused of assaulting Gonell inside the tunnel. Gonell’s cross-examination by Fitzsimons’ federal public defender will continue on Thursday morning.
“For Sgt. Gonell to be accosted like that, within the courthouse and while he remains a live witness at trial, was outrageous and amounts to witness intimidation that promptly should be addressed by the court as well as the FBI and the Department of Justice,” Laufman, who is representing Gonell pro bono, told NBC News on Wednesday night.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting Jan. 6 cases, declined to comment. A federal prosecutor said in court Thursday that they had asked U.S. Marshals to remove Tatum from court, adding that “any further action by the U.S. Department of Justice is to be determined.” A court official took a report about the harassment from Gonell’s lawyer on Thursday morning.
The FBI did not respond to a request for comment.
After he was ordered removed, Tatum posted on a blog he writes for, denying that he had harassed Gonell and accused Gonell’s lawyer of lying about him.
In an interview after this story was published, Tatum said that he did make a comment when he passed Gonell in the courthouse hallway but claimed he was praying and said something “to the effect off … let them be ashamed of themselves or something like that.”
He also acknowledged that he recorded a video posted under his name in which he yelled at officers being attacked at the Capitol on Jan. 6, telling them they were going to go to “eternal damnation” and that the mob had God on their side.
In the video, recorded at the front of the inauguration platform, Tatum cheers as officers come under attack.
“Take their helmets! Take their helmets! Take their helmets,” Tatum says in the video.
He explained to NBC News Thursday, “That’s because they were spraying us with that deadly gas, and in my mind, I’m thinking if they take their helmets off maybe they’ll stop spraying.”
Gonell, during his testimony Wednesday during Fitzsimons’ trial before Judge Rudolph Contreras, testified that he was upset that some Jan. 6 defendants were allowed to plead to low-level misdemeanors, like parading.
“It wasn’t a parade, because I didn’t get hugs and kisses. I got injured by your defendant,” Gonell said.
Gonell has offered victim impact statements in other Jan. 6 cases, but his testimony on Wednesday was the first time he had testified in a Jan. 6 case, or any criminal case since he joined the Capitol Police in 2008. He told the court that he emigrated from the Dominican Republic, served overseas in Iraq and felt called to be a police officer.
An injury he sustained on Jan. 6, he said, led to his planned medical retirement from the Capitol Police.
Tatum has been sitting inside the courtroom during the trial with other supporters of Jan. 6 defendants, including the mother of Ashli Babbitt. Babbitt was killed on Jan. 6 after she jumped through a broken window and into the Speaker’s Lobby as lawmakers evacuated the House floor and the mob of rioters smashed in windows to the chamber.