A 71-year-old MAGA supporter obsessed with baseless theories that the 2020 election was rigged has been arrested after authorities allegedly found him parked near the U.S. Capitol with a gun, 20 rounds of ammunition, “Stop the Steal” paperwork and a list of lawmakers.
Dennis Westover, of South Charleston, West Virginia, was arrested on several charges, including possession of unregistered ammunition and unlawful possession of a firearm, at 1:58 p.m. on Wednesday by U.S. Capitol Police, according to a public incident report obtained by The Daily Beast. He pleaded not guilty in D.C. Superior Court on Thursday afternoon and a judge ordered his release.
Police found Westover’s car parked “in the middle of an intersection” just a few hundred feet from where lawmakers and staffers can enter the sprawling Rayburn House Office building, authorities said.
According to court documents, Westover was walking on a roadway and was “animated” and shouting to Guardsmen behind the fence that had been erected for the inauguration. “I wanted to see the fence that was around ‘my Capitol,’” he told the officer who approached him, adding that he had driven to D.C. that morning.
The officer asked Westover if there was a gun in his car, “to which the Suspect advised there was a pistol in the center console,” Capitol Police said in a statement. Police found a 9mm black Sig Sauer and 20 rounds of 9mm ammunition.
According to court documents, Westover also had his will and birth certificate in the car, as well as “Stop the Steal paperwork that had a list of Senators and Representatives, both U.S. and West Virginia State Senators and Representatives, with contact info.”
In a police interview, Westover said “he was concerned about the honesty and integrity of the election.” But, he added that while he still believes there was “election fraud,” it is now a “moot point.” He said he was engaged in “righteousness, justice, and truth,” the court documents say. Westover told police he got the gun to protect him and his fiancee.
The incident comes just weeks after thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol building to disrupt President Biden’s election certification. Five people died during the insurrection, including a Capitol Police officer.
The U.S. House was not in session on Thursday, with lawmakers at home in their districts and staff largely working from home. Since Jan. 6, security at the Capitol complex has been ratcheted up to unprecedented levels: A barbed-wire perimeter encircles the Capitol itself and its adjacent office buildings, and thousands of U.S. Capitol Police, D.C. Metropolitan Police, military police, and National Guardsmen are patrolling the area.
The arrest of Westover grimly underscored the ongoing threat of potential violence, illustrating how close to the Capitol complex an armed person can get, even with the beefed-up security.
Capitol Hill was already on edge and concerns over safety are high ahead of the House’s return next week.
On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin warning “some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition… could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence.”
Westover appears to have worked in the elevator industry. Union documents list him as the president of the Local No. 48 in the International Union of Elevator Constructors and a LinkedIn page in his name describes him as elevator control systems tech at Thyssen Krupp Elevator company.
A January 2013 article in the Charleston Gazette lists Westover as the recipient of a concealed weapons permit from the Kanawha County Sheriff’s Department.
In the weeks leading up to President Biden’s inauguration, a Facebook page in Westover’s name advertised a series of marches for “righteousness, justice, and trust” to “stop the steal,” referring to the baseless theory that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump.
While it is not immediately clear how many of these rallies Westover actually went to, the 71-year-old appeared to attend the Jan. 6 MAGA rally in D.C. He was also photographed at another “Stop The Steal” rally three days later at the West Virginia State Capitol.
“On our way to the Trump MAGA Rally in DC with our friends - poet, ministers, contractors, and fellow Patriots,” Westover’s fiancée wrote in a Jan. 6 Facebook post along with several photos.
The West Virginia resident also appeared to be a COVID-19 denier, questioning on Facebook the ongoing pandemic’s severity. To date, 429,000 Americans have died and 25.6 million more have been infected with COVID-19.
“NOT SAYING Covid ISN’T A SERIES FLU...BUT ITS NUMBERS AND ITS GRAVITY ARE ‘COOKED’!!”Can you say George Orwell,...‘1984’...‘Group Think’...?” Westover wrote in a Nov. 29 Facebook post that included a meme. “Big Brother is covidizing (CONDITIONING)...The ‘sheeple’ to be compliant. WEAR YOUR MASK, STAY APART, DO AS YOU ARE TOLD…”
In another post, the account urges readers to “Strip off the bondage of the masks, and once again fill the churches and worship god.”
The Facebook account states Westover graduated from Grove City College, where he studied electrical engineering. Westover’s family members and fiancée did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s requests for comment.
Westover’s arrest comes just days after a Texas man was busted on White House grounds with a weapon and ammunition, telling officers he “needed information about the Oval Office,” authorities said. Macias Santiago, 37, was taken into custody on Friday in front of a parking meter on Constitution Ave.
He asked an officer if he was allowed to park his pick-up truck there, and then inquired about the Oval Office, prompting officers to search around, police said. Officers found a .40 caliber pistol, two fully loaded eight-round magazines, and a box of almost 80 rounds of ammunition inside the car, court documents state. Santiago faces several charges, including carrying a pistol without a license, unlawful possession of a firearm, unregistered ammunition, and unlawful transport of a firearm.
On Thursday, another man was arrested after allegedly trying to storm through a security checkpoint just a few hundred feet away from the Capitol. In a statement, Capitol Police state the man—who has been charged with assaulting police officers, resisting arrest, and felony destruction of property—attempted to gain access to the Capitol at around 10 a.m. while on foot.
“The officers advised the suspect that he could not enter the checkpoint, and the suspect attempted to bypass the officers,” police said. “As officers attempted to arrest the Suspect, he actively resisted arrest.”