So much for a “peaceful” protest.
Molotov cocktails. Rifles and pistols. Pipe bombs. Body armor and zip-tie handcuffs.
The MAGA mob that rolled into Washington, D.C., and invaded the U.S. Capitol showed up for a “protest” with the implements of battle—creating what one federal prosecutor called “a very dangerous situation.”
They were not stopped from sacking the home of Congress on Wednesday, but now federal authorities are filing the first charges against them for the deadly insurrection.
“We will bring the most maximum charges we can,” Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for D.C., said at a press conference on Thursday. “This is just the beginning.”
Sherwin said prosecutors are filing federal charges in 15 criminal cases related to Wednesday’s violence. They include the man arrested with his “military semi-automatic rifle” and 11 Molotov cocktails who was “ready to go,” another rioter wielding a pistol, and a third protester who repeatedly punched a police officer.
When asked whether he was planning to investigate the White House, Sherwin insisted that all options are still on the table and that his probe of the riots is ongoing. The top prosecutor added his office is also looking to bring charges against people who may have organized the riot.
“We’re trying to deal with the closest alligators to the boat right now,” Sherwin said. “Those are the people who obviously breached the Capitol, created violence and mayhem there and then exited. But yes, we are looking at all actors here, not only the people that went into the building.”
Sherwin said he would consider sedition and insurrection charges, but his office would begin with the “easiest provable” crimes. He didn’t exclude the possibility of legal action against President Donald Trump, his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, or any other speakers who riled the crowd ahead of the riot.
The Daily Beast obtained an affidavit from an officer in the Capitol Police—the force charged with defending the seat of American legislative affairs—which describes how one Mark Jefferson Leffingwell was among the hundreds of right-wing rioters who forced their way into the complex while lawmakers were attempting to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s November victory.
The officer describes how Leffingwell punched him when he attempted to stop him from joining the mob that eventually reached the Senate chamber.
“When he was deterred from advancing further into the building, Leffingwell punched me repeatedly with a closed fist,” the officer wrote in the deposition. “I was struck in the helmet that I was wearing and in the chest.”
The cop describes how he and his colleagues subdued Leffingwell after a struggle. Once in custody, the officer states that Leffingwell apologized for attacking him.
Efforts to reach Leffingwell and his family were not immediately successful. He faces charges of assaulting a federal law enforcement officer, as well as several counts of trespassing into a restricted building and committing violence inside.
In a separate complaint, a D.C. Metropolitan Police officer detailed his encounter with Christopher Michael Alberts of Maryland. While enforcing Mayor Muriel Bowser’s curfew and corralling demonstrators off the Capitol grounds, the cop reported that the bulletproof-vested Alberts attempted to linger behind.
When he accosted the 33-year-old, the officer said he realized Alberts had a pistol—and upon searching him discovered clips of ammunition, a knife, gas mask, first-aid kit, and a military ready-to-eat meal. Alberts faces federal charges of carrying an unlicensed firearm and ammo on Capitol grounds, and violation of the curfew. Attempts to contact Alberts were not successful.
While right-wing media on Wednesday afternoon repeatedly characterized the violent siege of the Capitol as “peaceful”—these charges, as well as photos from the day, show it was anything but.
A number of the rioters carried weapons and restraints in an ominous sign of their intentions. Some are visible in photos and videos carrying flex cuffs and zip ties, often used as improvised handcuffs.
One man, dressed all in black with a “Black Rifle Coffee” hat and handgun-shaped object at his hip, was seen walking through seats in the Senate with a bundle of disposable flex cuffs in hand while another man, dressed in body armor and a Navy SEAL-style MICH helmet, was on the floor of the Senate with cuffs in hand. Shortly before the siege, another man with “We Kill Commies” emblazoned on his helmet is visible outside the Capitol with a bundle of zip ties strapped to his body armor.
Others turned to irritants, handguns, and explosives.
“The violent attack on the U.S. Capitol was unlike any I have ever experienced in my 30 years in law enforcement here in Washington, D.C.,” Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund said in a statement.
“[Thousands of] individuals actively attacked [officers] with metal pipes, discharged chemical irritants, and took up other weapons against our officers. They were determined to enter into the Capitol Building by causing great damage.”
Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said on Thursday they had made 68 arrests, including several for carrying pistols without licenses, and recovered two pipe bombs placed at the Democratic and Republican National Committee headquarters.