More than 6,000 National Guard members from D.C. and elsewhere were mobilized, and a 7-foot tall fence was erected around the U.S. Capitol in response to Wednesday’s unrest, which D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser called “acts of domestic terrorism.”
On Thursday afternoon, acting U.S. Attorney for D.C. Michael Sherwin said his office so far this week has charged dozens of people in relation to unrest in the District. That includes 40 cases in D.C. Superior Court, relating to unlawful entry and weapons charges. Some of those cases are from earlier in the week, Sherwin said.
In addition, his office is filing federal charges in 15 cases related specifically to the unrest at the Capitol, including one man arrested near the Capitol who had a semi-automatic weapon and 11 Molotov cocktails “ready to go,” Sherwin said.
“That’s a good start, but in no regard is that the end,” Sherwin said of the charges filed so far. “This is just the beginning.”
Some of the charges deal with theft of property charges, Sherwin said. There was a “large amount of pilfering” of items from the Capitol, including computers and documents, which could pose national security risks, he added.
Sherwin said more serious charges are also possible, including insurrection and seditious conspiracy.
“All of those charges are on the table. We’re not going to keep anything out of our arsenal for potential charges,” he said. “We will bring the most maximum charges we can based upon the conduct.”
When asked if his office would investigate the role of people at the rally preceding the Capitol siege at which speakers, including President Donald Trump, urged the crowd to “fight,” Sherwin said: “We’re trying to deal with the closest alligators to the boat right now, and those are the people that, obviously, breached the Capitol, created violence and mayhem, and then exited.”
But Sherwin said his office was investigating anyone who had a role, not just people who were inside the Capitol.
When asked specifically if his office is investigating Trump because of his rally statements, Sherwin said: “We’re looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role, and the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged.”
Sherwin said his office was proactive in preparing for the potential for violence in D.C. recently, pointing to the arrest of Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio earlier this week.
Court documents are available for some of the pro-Trump protesters who have been arrested so far. Outside of the Capitol, a D.C. police officer arrested a Maryland man after he was still lingering more than an hour past the 6 p.m. curfew and he was found to be carrying a handgun and spare magazine. Inside the Capitol, during the riot, another man had punched a Capitol Police officer multiple times.
6,200 National Guard, 7-foot-tall fence around Capitol
At a news conference earlier Thursday, Bowser pointed to the federal Code of Regulations in calling the storming of the Capitol building by Trump supporters “textbook terrorism.”
Four people died during the melee, including 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by a U.S. Capitol Police officer as members of the crowd attempted to force their way into the House chamber.
Three other people on the Capitol grounds died in what appeared to be medical emergencies, according to acting D.C. Police Chief Robert Contee. They were identified as Benjamin Philips, 50, of Ringtown, Pennsylvania; Kevin Greeson, 55, of Athens, Alabama; and Roseanne Boyland, 34, of Kennesaw, Georgia.
Greeson’s family said he had a history of high blood pressure and suffered a heart attack; his family also described him as a Trump supporter. Philips was the founder of a pro-Trump social media site called Trumparoo and had coordinated transportation for several dozen people from Pennsylvania to Washington.
Babbitt’s family described her as an Air Force veteran and avid supporter of Trump and his efforts to stay in office.
Bowser called the initial response by U.S. Capitol Police a “catastrophic failure” and called for an investigation.
Meanwhile, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced a total of 6,200 National Guard members were mobilized and would remain in place for at least the next 30 days to support D.C. police. The mobilization includes the entire D.C. National Guard, plus support from National Guard members from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York.
In addition, a 7-foot-tall “non-scalable” fence was built around the Capitol building, McCarthy said. The fencing is expected to stay up for the next 30 days, which includes the Jan. 20 inauguration.
Bowser has already issued a public emergency for the next two weeks. A 12-hour curfew in D.C. lifted at 6 a.m. Thursday.
Bowser said she will make a decision about future curfews on a day-to-day basis as needed and would give D.C. residents plenty of notice.
Bowser wants probe of ‘catastrophic security failures’ at Capitol
Contee said his officers arrested a total of 68 people from Wednesday evening into the early hours of Thursday. Of those, 41 arrests were on Capitol grounds, and 25 were specifically for unlawful entry.
Contee said the arrests inside the Capitol all happened after the 6 p.m. curfew ordered by the mayor. He said his officers could safely make arrests at the Capitol only after they had regained control of the chaos and restored order.
But going forward, he said police can make additional arrests based on the dozens of photos of people inside the Capitol that D.C. police have released seeking to identify them.
The people in the photos are listed as “persons of interest in the unrest,” according to police.
MPD seeks assistance in identifying persons of interest responsible for Unlawful Entry offenses that occurred yesterday on US Capitol Grounds, 100 block of 1st Street, NW.— DC Police Department (@DCPoliceDept) January 7, 2021
More photos: https://t.co/i2Hbv1bkPh
Have info? Call (202) 727-9099/text 50411 pic.twitter.com/yWIPEaxxFW
“These are clear images. There’s no mistake about who some of these individuals are,” Contee said.
The photos have been shared with regional airport authorities as well as the FBI, and D.C. police officers were “scouring” hotels and business looking for people who might still be in town Thursday morning, Contee said.
The chief said 56 police officers were injured in clashes. “There was a lot of valiant fighting by members of the Metropolitan Police Department” to restore order, he said.
At least one officer was still in the hospital. “He was snatched into a crowd, he was beaten, he was kicked, he was tased several times,” Contee said.
Bowser faulted the initial response to the chaos by the U.S. Capitol Police, and called on Congress to establish a nonpartisan commission “to understand that catastrophic security failures that happened at the Capitol.”
Bowser said she requested National Guard assistance earlier this week to help D.C. police handle traffic and crowds expected with the pro-Trump rallies. But when the violence broke out at the Capitol, it was the responsibility of Capitol Police to request military assistance, she said.
“I cannot order the Army, the National Guard, to the United States Capitol grounds,” Bowser said.
Contee said there was no intelligence that suggested people would break into the U.S. Capitol.
The Army secretary said planning ahead of time suggested the events would be similar to pro-Trump rallies in November and December, but said it was not in his “wildest imagination that you could end up breaching the Capitol grounds.”
In a statement issued earlier Thursday, Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund defended his department’s handling of the situation, saying thousands of people stormed the Capitol building and attacked Capitol Police officers with metal pipes, chemical irritants and other weapons.
As the chaos was unfolding, Capitol Police were also forced to respond to two separate reports of pipe bombs, one at the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, the other at the headquarters of the Republican National Committee. “Both devices were, in fact, hazardous and could cause great harm to public safety,” Sund said in the statement.
The FBI said Thursday it’s offering up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or people responsible for placing the bombs.
#FBIWFO is offering a reward of up to $50K for info leading to the location, arrest & conviction of the person(s) responsible for the pipe bombs found in DC on Jan. 6. https://t.co/q9pdw6Rnoy pic.twitter.com/aQ7Vz4uydO— FBI Washington Field (@FBIWFO) January 8, 2021
Capitol Police arrested a total of 14 people for unlawful entry.
WTOP’s Mike Murillo and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo