Ray Epps, a 61-year-old former Marine, called for Trump supporters to march into the U.S. Capitol building the night prior to the Capitol attack, and then joined them as they entered the restricted grounds outside the Capitol on the day of the riot.
Then… he became their scapegoat, accused of being a Deep State-directed agent provocateur.
As Trump allies searched for any excuse to shift blame for the Capitol attack — It was antifa! The FBI! — they seized on videos of Epps and cast him as an undercover operative looking to entrap upstanding patriots. Epps was publicly targeted by Tucker Carlson, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), and even Donald Trump himself, accused of successfully scheming to turn innocent Trump supporters into bloodthirsty rioters.
And, well, Epps is pretty pissed about it!
After months of being the subject of a wild conspiracy theory that conveniently absolves everyday Capitol attackers of their agency, Epps finally spoke publicly to The New York Times in an article published Wednesday.
“All of this, it’s just been hell,” Epps said, presumably referring not to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack — to which he was an eager attendee — but rather the false allegations that painted him as a federal asset.
“I am at the center of this thing, and it’s the biggest farce that’s ever been,” Epps told the paper. “It’s just not right. The American people are being led down a path. I think it should be criminal.”
He told the Times that, dogged by threats and harassment, he’d been forced to sell his home and business. The Times did not disclose the location of Epps’ and his wife’s current home, a trailer. The article’s dateline stated simply, “IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.”
And the Times emphasized Epps’ role as a kinder, gentler Capitol rioter: There’s no evidence he entered the building itself. And video shows him attempting to de-escalate and calm rioters at a police line outside of the building. Like hundreds of others who breached Capitol grounds but did not enter the Capitol Building itself, Epps has not been charged for his actions.
One large part of the conspiracy theory fingering Epps is video of him whispering in the ear of rioter Ryan Samsel moments before Samsel shoved through a bike rack forming the perimeter of the Capitol grounds. But both men have said that Epps, in fact, was unsuccessfully trying to calm Samsel down: “He came up to me and he said, ‘Dude’ — his entire words were, ‘Relax, the cops are doing their job,’” Samsel later recounted.
Epps told the Times his wife discovered empty shell casings near a wedding venue they owned in Arizona, and, in January, he received a bizarre letter claiming a Mexican cartel was out to get him.
He also said he’s spoken with the FBI — after the attack, that is, when they sought him out for questioning — and with the congressional Jan. 6 Committee, which earlier this year announced Epps’ declaration that he’s never worked for the feds.
But Epps wasn’t all peacekeeper. A former member of the Oath Keepers, Epps declared on the streets of D.C. on Jan. 5: “I’m going to put it out there. I’ll probably go to jail for it. Tomorrow, we need to go into the Capitol. Into the Capitol.”
As some in the crowd accused him of being a federal agent, Epps added: “Peacefully!”
Also, per the Times, “Mr. Epps also said he regretted sending a text to his nephew, well after the violence had erupted, in which he discussed how he helped to orchestrate the movements of people who were leaving Mr. Trump’s speech near the White House by pointing them in the direction of the Capitol.”
In other words: Epps was certainly an active participant in the chaos that day.
Now, after months of being targeted by Trump supporters, falsely accused of being a federal agent and egging on the very mob that Trump himself so artfully assembled, Epps and his wife are apparently looking for a lawyer to file a defamation suit against, in the Times’ words, “several of the people who have spread the false accounts.”
Epps told the paper that he didn’t expect to ever fully clear his name.
“You can’t convince some people,” he said. “There are extremists out there that you’ll never convince them that they’re wrong.”