Federal authorities continue to churn out criminal complaints against individuals who allegedly took part in the storming of the Capitol earlier this month. Over the weekend, some familiar faces got wrapped up by the feds.
“Cowboys For Trump” Founder Couy Griffin
Perhaps most recognizable of the group — no offense to the others — was Cowboys for Trump founder Couy Griffin. Griffin, who’s also an elected commissioner in Otero County, New Mexico, led the mob of Trump supporters in prayer just outside the Capitol building, on the Capitol steps. In a subsequent, and since deleted, Facebook video, he mused about a potential Second Amendment rally at the same location. If such an event were to occur, Griffin said, “There’s going to be blood running out of that building.”
Griffin was charged with entering a restricted building or grounds and arrested Sunday.
Per FBI: Couy Griffin, founder of Cowboys for Trump, from New Mexico was arrested this afternoon in DC. He had an arrest warrant for his participation in the January 6 Capitol riots. He said rioters will come back to the Capitol for inauguration. This is the moment of his arrest. pic.twitter.com/3LoXXsYVFD
— Alberto Pimienta (@apimientaDC) January 17, 2021
Capitol A Metropolitan Police Department detective cited that Facebook video and others in an affidavit dated Friday. Griffin, the detective said, told FBI agents in a Jan. 11 interview that he’d been “caught up” in the crowd that breached the barricades surrounding the Capitol. But Griffin denied entering the building itself. A Cowboys for Trump videographer who accompanied Griffin allegedly acknowledged to authorities that the pair may have committed some “minor trespassing.”
Griffin also told FBI agents that he intended to return to D.C. for a rally on Wednesday, and that while he hoped to effect a change in leadership without violence, there was “no option that’s off the table for the sake of freedom.”
The Cowboys for Trump leader has a knack for getting his name out there through violent and racist remarks. In May last year, the President retweeted a video from the Cowboys for Trump account showing Griffin saying in part, “I’ve come to a conclusion where the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” “Thank you Cowboys,” Trump wrote of the video.
A couple months later — responding to reports that the NFL would play the “Black national anthem,” “Lift Ev’ry Voice And Sing,” before several games — Griffin said Black Lives Matter supporters should “go back to Africa.”
Metal Guitarist Jon Schaffer
Even non-metalheads have probably seen Jon Schaffer’s mug by now. He was photographed (see above) in the Capitol wearing a hat bearing the emblem of the Oath Keepers, the national anti-government militia group.
According to an FBI special agent’s affidavit, Schaffer was among the Capitol rioters who attacked police with bear spray.
Music industry publications recognized Schaffer in the photo pretty quickly after the Capitol attack. Schaffer’s bandmates in the group Iced Earth issued a statement denouncing the attack, saying they hoped “that all those involved that day are brought to justice to be investigated and answer for their actions.” Well, it appears that day has come for their guitarist.
Schaffer was arrested Sunday, the FBI announced, and now faces six charges: Entering a restricted building; disrupting the orderly conduct of government business; engaging in an act of violence on restricted grounds; violent entry and disorderly conduct in the Capitol building; violence in the Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating or picketing in the Capitol building.
Several members of armed militia groups
Among the highlights from the weekend’s criminal complaints were several members of militia groups whose actions had bolstered the belief that many in the mob had made plans ahead of time to storm the building.
Jessica Watkins, for example, was identified in press reports as being a leader of the militia group Ohio State Regulars. Reporters uncovered audio of Watkins on the walkie talkie app Zello narrating the invasion as it happened.
The Washington Post reported early Monday that Watkins and fellow militia member Donovan Crowl had been arrested. The Post quoted an FBI affidavit that said Watkins and Crowl were among those in a group of roughly 10 people who “move[d] in an organized and practiced fashion and force[d] their way to the front of the crowd.” The FBI also reportedly cited a post on the social media site Parler from Watkins, in which she posted a picture of herself in uniform on Jan. 6 and wrote: “Me before forcing entry into the Capitol Building. #stopthesteal #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia.”
The actions of another man, Robert Gieswein, were detailed in an FBI agent’s 14-page affidavit. Gieswein is allegedly a member of the Three Percenter movement, a loosely-affiliated network of far-right militia groups.
Among other things, the agent alleged, “Gieswein assaulted federal officers outside of the Capitol; observed and encouraged other rioters as they broke a window of the Capitol building; entered the building through that broken window; and then charged through the Capitol building.”
The FBI agent cited a well-known photo of Gieswein brandishing a baseball bat outside the Capitol. Gieswein faces five charges, including assault on a federal officer; aiding and abetting destruction of federal property; obstruction of a federal proceeding; violent entry or disorderly conduct; and entering a restricted building.
The white supremacist who feds tracked using his GPS monitor
Bryan Betancur is no celebrity, but the story of the criminal complaint against him is dumbfounding.
According to an FBI agent’s affidavit, Betancur is a self-professed white supremacist who’s spoken openly in the past about his desire to murder people.
Betancur was out on probation for a fourth degree burglary conviction when the Capitol attack occurred. Per the FBI, he’d already continued to engage in racist extremist groups online and spoken about his desire to be a “lone wolf killer.” Yet Betancur asked for, and was granted, permission from his probation officer to travel to D.C. to “distribute bibles” with the group Gideon International.
Betancur’s probation officer subsequently told authorities that Betancur’s mandatory GPS monitor gave away the game: The device tracked him as he allegedly scaled the Capitol steps. Authorities subsequently determined that Betancur has posed with a Confederate flag on the steps.
Betancur now faces charges for entering restricted grounds, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and unlawful display of flags on Capitol grounds.