Federal prosecutors have arrested a Kentucky man who they allege was part of a violent crowd that stormed the House Speaker’s Lobby during the breach of the U.S. Capitol, smashing a window with a flagpole moments before Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot, court filings show.
Jones allegedly used a flagpole to break the glass, the affidavit says.
Seconds later, Babbitt, 35, an Air Force veteran from Southern California, was shot by a police officer as she tried to enter the lobby, an inner sanctum that leads to the House floor. Hers is one of five deaths linked to the riot, which was carried out by supporters of President Trump who wanted to stop Congress from certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.
D.C. police and U.S. Capitol Police are investigating the shooting of Babbitt, and the officer involved has been placed on administrative leave. Acting U.S. attorney Michael R. Sherwin of Washington has said investigators are probing all aspects of the shooting of Babbitt, including whether the officer, whose name has not been released, used excessive force. They are also examining whether the shooting was foreseeable and occurred during felonies committed by others, in which case those individuals could face felony murder charges.
Also arrested Sunday was Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in Otero County, N.M., who heads a group called Cowboys for Trump and has spoken openly about his involvement in the storming of the Capitol.
Images from a Facebook video that Griffin posted shows that he was within the restricted area of the building, the FBI said in an affidavit. In the video, on the Cowboys for Trump Facebook page, Griffin, 47, said he had “climbed up on the top of the Capitol building and . . . had a first row seat.”
He also raised the specter of a future gun rights rally at the Capitol, saying there would be “blood running out of that building” and promising, “we will plant our flag on the desk of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.”
Griffin, who is from Tularosa, said last week that he planned to return to Washington to protest the inauguration and would bring guns with him, the affidavit said. He was arrested by Capitol Police on Sunday afternoon in the 400 block of North Capitol Street, close to the Capitol.
The affidavit said that Griffin was interviewed by the FBI on Jan. 11 and told agents “that he hopes a change in leadership can be accomplished ‘without a single shot being fired’ but noted that there was ‘no option that’s off the table for the sake of freedom.’ ”
Jones, of Mount Washington, Ky., is charged with assaulting a federal officer, civil disorder, obstruction of justice, destruction of property and trespassing. To support those charges, prosecutors submitted a statement by FBI Special Agent Javier A. Gonzalez narrating the three minutes before Babbitt was shot.
Citing video footage published by The Washington Post and on YouTube, the agent described apparent lawmakers and other officials awaiting evacuation just yards behind the lobby door, which was barricaded with chairs and protected by officers.
One man splintered glass in the door with punches as the crowd shouted at officers, including one person who cried out “F--- the blue!” multiple times, the statement by Gonzalez says.
Another voice warned the officers to leave, saying he did not want to see them hurt. Three officers appeared to move to one side as colleagues in tactical gear arrived, the statement says.
But within seconds, a man identified as Jones allegedly struck the windows with a wooden flagpole at least 10 times, attempting to break in. A police officer, with gun raised, appeared to shoot Babbitt, with Jones still in view at the left and holding the pole, the FBI agent said.
The FBI interviewed a relative and a close friend of Jones who had identified him from video footage of the shooting, the agent said. Court papers say the relative, identified only as W-1, told the FBI that he spoke with Jones on the night of Jan. 6.
The relative allegedly described Jones’s clothing to FBI agents as a way of identifying him, and said that Jones was “using a rolled up Trump flag to attempt to break the glass on an interior door,” the court papers say.
Over three FBI interviews, the witness told agents that he contacted Jones after watching news of Babbitt’s death and told him he needed to contact the FBI or an attorney. Jones allegedly responded by saying he wanted to explain to another close friend “why it all was happening and why it was a hoax.”
That friend, identified as W-2, also allegedly told FBI agents that he recognized Jones from video circulating on the Internet as the man wearing a red jacket and a gray cap, breaking glass inside the Capitol and standing next to Babbitt.
The FBI said the friend told agents that Jones called him on Jan. 7, saying he was in trouble, admitted that he broke the glass and “called himself an idiot.” According to the affidavit, the friend said Jones told him he was in the middle of the crowd and had been able to walk into the Capitol “without any problem.”
Jones attended a previous Trump rally in Washington, his relative allegedly told the FBI, adding that he saw on Facebook that Jones was going to the Capitol on Jan. 6. The “Stop the Steal” demonstration that day was fueled by Trump’s repeatedly debunked claims that he lost reelection because of fraud.
At least three other riot suspects were arrested or charged in their home states over the weekend, the Justice Department said.
One was Brandon Fellows, 26, of Albany, N.Y., who told Bloomberg News that he had “no regrets” about entering the Capitol and that his profile on the Bumble dating site was “blowing up” after he posted a picture of himself there.
Photos on social media sites show Fellows with his feet propped on a table in the private office of Sen. Jeff. Merkley (D-Ore.) and sitting on a police motorcycle outside the Capitol, wearing a costume hat, fake orange beard and a red, white and black jacket with USA in blue letters, the FBI said. He was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
On Saturday, two cousins were arrested and charged with assaulting police, civil disorder, and other offenses during the riot. One allegedly told a witness he would return to Washington, armed, for future pro-Trump demonstrations and not go home “unless he was in a body bag,” the FBI said.
An FBI affidavit said Cody Page Carter Connell of Louisiana allegedly described events in a conversation on social media, saying he and his cousin, Daniel Page Adams of Texas, stormed police and breached the Capitol after Adams “got clubbed and shot with rubber bullet.”
“But we pushed the cops against the wall, they dropped all their gear and left,” the FBI quoted Connell as allegedly saying.
“We will be back and it will be a lot worse than yesterday,” Connell allegedly wrote on Facebook, the FBI said.
Lawyers for the new arrestees could not be located on Sunday.
Laura Meckler contributed to this report.