A former cop accused of taking part in the Capitol riot was granted a pre-trial release in the weeks after his arrest, on the condition that he not own any guns.
But in the months since, he has secretly bought at least 34 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition—including armor-penetrating rounds—and tried to disguise some of the payments as being for “wedding photos,” according to an FBI search warrant affidavit filed Friday.
Now prosecutors are asking a judge to revoke Thomas Robertson’s bail, and arrest him for violating his pretrial release conditions for the second time in six months.
Robertson, who was a sergeant with the Rocky Mount, Virginia Police Department until he was fired in late January for his alleged role in the sacking of the Capitol, has pleaded not guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding, aiding and abetting, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, and disorderly conduct in the Capitol building. His attorney, Mark Rollins, did not immediately respond to The Daily Beast’s request for comment.
The day after the insurrection, Robertson wrote on Facebook, “Being nice, polite, writing letters and sending emails hasn't worked. Peaceful protests haven't worked. Millions of FB posts, tweets ,and other social media hasn't worked. All thats [sic] left is violence and YOU and your ‘Friends on the other side of the isle [sic]’ have pushed Americans into that corner. The picture of Senators cowering on the floor with genuine fear on their faces is the most American thing I have seen in my life. Once....for real....you people ACTUALLY realized who you work for.”
Robertson also insisted he would do whatever it took to disrupt then-President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, posting a Facebook message on Jan. 10 saying he would be “going to fight the cocksuckers who stole our country,” in “DC on the 20th for sure.” “By bullet or ballot restoration of the republic is coming,” he wrote.
After his Jan. 13 arrest, Robertson—whose alleged partner in crime at the insurrection boasted that he “pissed in Nancy P’s toilet”—was released pending trial. Among the conditions set by Judge G. Michael Harvey: Robertson was forbidden from owning any guns or destructive devices while his case worked its way through the system. Any guns he already had were to be relocated by Jan. 15, the affidavit states.
On Jan. 19, law enforcement executed a search warrant at Robertson’s Ferrum, Virginia home. There, they seized eight firearms in Robertson’s possession, including three Glock handguns. During a search of a shed on the property, officers found “large amounts of ammunition, as well as what appeared to be equipment used for re-loading ammunition,” according to the affidavit.
Cops hauled Robertson back into court that day, where Harvey gave him a second chance and once again instructed him “not to possess a firearm, destructive device, or other dangerous weapon,” states the affidavit.
Ten days later, Robertson was indicted by a Washington, D.C. grand jury. Less than three weeks after that, the FBI received “information indicating that Robertson was involved in the purchase, sale, and possession of firearms and ammunition,” and got a warrant to search his email account.
“On February 13, 2021, the [redacted]@yahoo.com account received an email that was “Generated from: ar15.com,” the affidavit states.
“Hey Tom…I sold you the M855A1,” it read, apparently referring to a powerful 5.56mm round used by the U.S. military. “[I]f you’re interested, or know anyone that is, I have more M85561 available as well as M80A1.”
“I absolutely am interested,” Robertson replied, according to the affidavit. “Price and quantity?”
After a bit of back-and-forth between Robertson and the seller, whose name is redacted in court documents, Robertson replied that he would take 2,000 rounds of M855A1 ammo for $3,600, and that he “can do venmo, zelle, or MO.” Robertson explained in a follow-up email that he couldn’t use PayPal as the company had “suspended [his] account because someone felt the need to put gun stuff in an email,” states the affidavit.
Robertson allegedly sent the money via Venmo, whose records the FBI subpoenaed. They showed that Robertson marked the $3,600 payment as “Wedding Photos.” According to the affidavit, he then sent the seller a screenshot of the transaction, which read, “You paid [redacted],” and a debit from Robertson’s account showing “-$3,600.”
When spring rolled around, Robertson—whose release conditions were never modified to allow him to own guns while out on bail—allegedly upped his game.
On April 12, Robertson paid $530 for “Armor Piercing Ap/Black Tip 192 Round Sealed Spam Can,” which was to be shipped from Texas to his home in Virginia, according to the affidavit. The next day, Robertson allegedly ordered an “Inland General Motors U.S. Military M1 Carbine 30us Semi-auto Rifle” for $995. A “CMP M1 Garand Unissued” for $1,500 followed, a “Bandolier of US Spec AYR Armor Piercing Ammunition,” and more, for a grand total of 34 firearms the FBI says Robertson illicitly procured after he was indicted.
On June 29, the FBI raided Robertson’s home for a second time. This time, they found “an arsenal of 34 firearms... a loaded M4 rifle, ammunition, and a partially assembled pipe bomb,” the affidavit states. In the outbuilding where Robertson allegedly stored his ammunition, agents found a box labeled with the words “Booby Trap.” Inside the box, agents found “a metal pipe with two ends caps, with a fuse inserted into a hole that had been drilled into the device; epoxy had been used around the sides of the fuse to secure it.” It did not contain explosive powder, but agents say they found a cache of it nearby. They also found a loaded M4 on his bed.
What they didn’t find at Robertson’s home, however, were the newly purchased guns—or Robertson. When they tracked him down that same day, Robertson told agents that he had bought the weapons online, but that they had been shipped to licensed dealers and he hadn’t picked them up yet.
“The owner of Tactical Operations, a Federal Firearms License broker in Roanoke that serves as an intermediary for online gun purchases, told agents in an interview that Robertson had 34 firearms waiting for him at the store,” according to a motion filed Wednesday by prosecutors seeking to revoke Robertson’s bail.
It continues: “Defendant Robertson’s extensive and flagrant violations of the terms of his release order, including numerous violations of the federal firearms laws, strongly support revocation of his pretrial release in this case. This conduct, coupled with his calls for future violence, shows that no condition or combination of conditions can adequately protect the public from the defendant, and warrants immediate action by the court through the issuance of an arrest warrant.”
Robertson is due back in court on Aug. 3.