The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Two rioters claim Capitol officer told them, ‘It’s your house now,’ FBI says

Rioters clash with police as they use a big ladder to try to enter the Capitol building on Jan. 6.
Rioters clash with police as they use a big ladder to try to enter the Capitol building on Jan. 6. (Lev Radin/Sipa USA/AP)
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As rioters overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, an officer guarding the building shook hands with two people in the mob and admitted defeat, according to the account the men provided FBI agents.

Robert L. Bauer and Edward Hemenway told an FBI agent that after they rushed into the building with the crowd, one Capitol Police officer shook their hands, gave one a partial hug and told them both that “it’s your house now.”

“Sorry,” Hemenway recalled telling the officer.

“It’s your house now, man,” he said the officer replied.

Bauer told the FBI he “believed that the policeman was acting out of fear,” according to an affidavit filed Thursday in federal court in the District.

No specific officer is identified in charging papers by federal law enforcement officials, who are relying on the defendants’ own recounting of their experience inside the Capitol.

Other court documents have described Capitol Police officers’ failed attempts to hold back the crowd. One said he was unable to detain a rioter because there were too many others threatening him. More than 50 D.C. police officers and an unknown number of Capitol Police officers suffered injuries.

Rioters wanted to ‘capture and assassinate’ lawmakers, prosecutors say. A note left by the ‘QAnon Shaman’ is evidence.

But the actions of some Capitol Police officers have come under scrutiny. Several have been suspended and more than a dozen others are under investigation for suspected involvement with or inappropriate support for the protest.

“The department is actively reviewing video and other open source materials of some USCP officers and officials that appear to be in violation of department regulations and policies,” a Justice Department spokeswoman said. “Our Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating these behaviors for disciplinary action, up to, and including, termination. Several USCP officers have already been suspended pending the outcome of their investigations.”

The chief of the Capitol Police and House and Senate sergeants at arms have all resigned in the wake of the attack that left a Capitol Police officer and four rioters dead. It took nearly four hours to secure the building from rioters seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Another court record unsealed Friday, after the arrest of a Rochester, N.Y., man named Dominic Pezzola, highlights fears of what could have happened had the rioters reached the public officials formally counting the electoral college votes. A witness told the FBI that after the riot, Pezzola said “they would have killed [Vice President] Mike Pence if given the chance.”

The mob came very close to reaching Pence, who was not evacuated from the Senate chamber until about 14 minutes after Capitol Police announced that the complex had been breached.

How the rioters who stormed the Capitol came dangerously close to Pence

Pezzola used a Capitol Police riot shield to break one of the building windows, according to the FBI. He is accused of trespassing, destroying government property and obstructing an official proceeding; the final charge is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said in court papers that Jacob Anthony Chansley, the shirtless, tattooed man often referred to as “QAnon Shaman,” likewise wanted to “capture and assassinate elected officials” and left a note on Pence’s chair reading, “It’s only a matter of time, justice is coming.”

Later, in a hearing in federal court in Arizona, where Chansley was arrested, Assistant U.S. Attorney Todd Allison walked back the claim of an assassination plot, saying that while it “may very well be appropriate at a trial,” raising it at this stage could “mislead the court.” Allison asked that the reference to an assassination plot be stricken from the record.

Defense attorney Gerald A. Williams said in court that his client “was there merely acting as a protester” and that there was no evidence he engaged in violence.

But Magistrate Judge Deborah M. Fine ordered him held until trial, citing evidence that he incited the mob inside the Capitol and ignored pleas from police to desist.

“This is not a protest. This is a riot. This is an insurrection,” she said. “Mr. Chansley’s idea of protesting is committing the unlawful acts that we’re discussing here,” which she described as “frightening not only to people at the Capitol but people across the United States of America.”

In the District, acting U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin downplayed the idea Friday of a specific conspiracy or plan to kidnap or kill lawmakers.

“We don’t have any direct evidence of kill capture teams,” Sherwin said at a news briefing.

Sherwin said federal prosecutors have charged 98 people in last week’s riot and had 275 open investigations, and he expected that number to swell in the days and weeks ahead.

“Even your friends and family are tipping us off,” said FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono. “So you might want to consider turning yourself in instead of wondering when we’re going to come knocking on your door. Because we will.”

Officials noted that among those already charged were current law enforcement officials, including two from Virginia.

“We don’t care what your profession is, who you are, who you’re affiliated with,” Sherwin said. “If you were conducting or engaged in criminal activity, we will charge you and you will be arrested.”

Pezzola is associated with the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist group with ties to white nationalism that has been linked to previous violence in Washington.

A Texas man was arrested Friday and charged in connection with making threats regarding the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, allegedly including that he and others would return on Jan. 19 carrying weapons and massing in numbers so large that no army could match them, prosecutors said.

Troy Anthony Smocks, 58, of Dallas, was charged by criminal complaint with knowingly transmitting threats in interstate commerce. A D.C. police affidavit alleges that Smocks traveled to the Washington area on Jan. 5, then posted Parler messages under the name “ColonelTPerez” or “@Colonel007.” In messages viewed tens of thousands of times, Smocks allegedly said that he and others would “hunt these cowards down like the Traitors that each of them are,” specifically threatening “RINOS, Dems, and Tech Execs,” prosecutors said.

In a post copied and pasted on another social media site where it was viewed at least 54,000 times, a D.C. police affidavit said, Smocks went on to say, “ We now have the green light. [All] who resist US are enemies of Our Constitution, and must be treated as such. Today, the cowards ran as We took the Capital. ... It wasn’t the building that We wanted. . . it was them!” Smocks has made a flight reservation to leave the United States Jan. 15, police said.

Also arrested was a woman prosecutors say triumphantly carried out a piece of a wooden sign for the speaker of the House.

Bauer traveled to the Capitol from Kentucky with his wife, according to court papers, stopping along the way to pick up his cousin Hemenway in Winchester, Va., according to the court papers. Both are charged with trespassing; it was not immediately clear whether they had attorneys. Bauer’s wife is not accused of entering the Capitol; according to the court records, when they approached the building, she went back to her hotel.

They came for the rally because of “crazy things” they heard on social media, Hemenway told the FBI. Then President Trump said “something about taking Pennsylvania Avenue,” and they followed the crowd to the Capitol, according to the court papers.

As they approached the scaffolding set up for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Bauer said he saw people throwing objects at police in riot gear. He said he told them: “What the hell are you doing? They have stood down.”

They then followed a crowd into the building, where they encountered the police officer who allegedly told them they had won.

Another woman charged Friday, Jennifer Leigh Ryan, of Texas, planned to storm the Capitol before Trump spoke, according to court documents.

“We’re going to go down and storm the Capitol. They’re down there right now, and that’s why we came and so that’s what we are going to do. So wish me luck,” she said in a video posted on Facebook that morning.

Later, the FBI said, she posted a video of herself entering the building and saying: “Life or death, it doesn’t matter. Here we go.” Turning the camera to her face, she added, “Y’all know who to hire for your Realtor. Jenna Ryan for your Realtor.”

Ryan told a local news station that she flew to D.C. on a private plane “because our president . . . asked us to go.”

It was not immediately clear whether Bauer, Hemenway, Pezzola, Ryan ot Smocks had attorneys.

Spencer S. Hsu contributed to this report.