Houston Chronicle

Militants charged in Capitol assault

Veterans, ex-cops are among those arrested

- By Katie Benner, Alan Feuer and Adam Goldman

The Justice Department has charged suspected members of the Three Percenters, a militia group that emerged some years ago from the extremist wing of the gun rights movement, and of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia group founded by law enforcemen­t and military veterans, as it works to determine whether the groups conspired to attack Congress.

The charges include unlawful entry, assault on a federal officer, disorderly conduct, destructio­n of federal property, obstructio­n of an official proceeding and obstruc

tion of justice.

On Sunday evening, Donovan Crowl, 50, a former Marine, and Jessica Watkins, 38, an Army veteran, surrendere­d to authoritie­s in Ohio after they published photos of themselves on social media wearing combat gear and saying they had stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College victory of President-elect Joe Biden.

The FBI said a group Watkins belongs to is a unit of the Oath Keepers and that she and Crowl were wearing Oath Keepers patches.

The recent arrests of veterans and former law enforcemen­t officers underscore the Justice Department’s worry that some of the attackers may have been part of more coordinate­d efforts to attack Congress and that they employed specialize­d skills in the assault. Videos and photos have revealed scenes of rioters in tactical gear weaving through the mobs inside the Capitol in tight formation, carrying restraints and using hand signals to communicat­e.

Michael Sherwin, the acting U.S. attorney in Washington, has said his prosecutor­s were working to build more serious sedition and murder cases against such groups if evidence permits and that focusing on militia members and other extremists would be a top priority.

“All of these extremist groups are being looked at in terms of their participat­ion at the Capitol,” Sherwin said.

Federal prosecutor­s also unsealed charges over the weekend against Robert Gieswein, 24, of Woodland Park, Colo., who they say is affiliated with the Three Percenters. The group’s name is a reference to the purported 3 percent of the U.S. colonial population who rose up to fight against the British army.

The FBI also arrested Guy Wesley Reffitt of Wylie and charged him Saturday with obstructio­n. The FBI said he belonged to the Texas Freedom Force, a militia extremist group; Reffitt’s wife said he was a member of the Three Percenters.

The deadly assault on the Capitol is expected to be a “significan­t driver of violence” for armed militia groups and racist extremists in the days ahead, federal authoritie­s have said.

In addition to Reffitt, three others in Texas — including two in Houston — were arrested over the weekend for alleged crimes related to the attack. Daniel Page Adams, suspected of assaulting a police officer during the violent storming of the Capitol, was arrested Saturday near the Houston area.And far-right media personalit­y Tim Gionet, who calls himself “Baked Alaska,” was arrested Saturday in Houston.

In addition, a Dallas-area real estate agent, a retired Air Force officer and several other Texas residents have been charged with crimes tied to the riot.

 ?? Erin Schaff / New York Times ?? Police officers exit the rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6 after rioters who breached the building had been removed.
Erin Schaff / New York Times Police officers exit the rotunda of the Capitol on Jan. 6 after rioters who breached the building had been removed.
 ?? Jason Andrew / New York Times ?? National Guard troops patrol the area near the Capitol amid an increased threat of violence leading up to Biden’s inaugurati­on.
Jason Andrew / New York Times National Guard troops patrol the area near the Capitol amid an increased threat of violence leading up to Biden’s inaugurati­on.

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