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Two men who allegedly held zip ties in Capitol during riots being investigated by U.S. counterterrorism prosecutors

Rioters enter the Senate Chamber on Jan. 06. (Win Mcnamee/Getty Images)

U.S. counterterrorism prosecutors are investigating two men who allegedly wore tactical gear and held plastic restraints or zip ties in the U.S. Senate during the breach of the U.S. Capitol last week, the Justice Department announced. The men were arrested Sunday.

Larry Rendell Brock, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, was arrested in Texas and charged with one count of knowingly entering a restricted building and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct, prosecutors said.

Brock identified himself to the New Yorker last week as the man photographed in the well of the Senate chamber wearing a green combat helmet, tactical vest, and black and camo jacket. The photo shows the man holding a white flex cuff, used by police to restrain subjects, prosecutors said. The man in the photo was also recorded apparently exiting the offices of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

A mob insurrection stoked by false claims of election fraud and promises of violent restoration

Eric Gavelek Munchel, arrested in Tennessee, was charged with the same counts, prosecutors said, after being allegedly photographed climbing over a railing in the Senate gallery carrying plastic restraints, a holstered object on his right hip and a cellphone mounted on his chest.

Information about attorneys was not immediately available for the two men, who did not respond to requests for comment by The Washington Post but have given news interviews explaining their actions.

The cases are being prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington and the counterterrorism section of the Justice Department’s national security division, with assistance from federal authorities in northern Texas and central Tennessee.

Counterterrorism authorities are involved in a wide range of cases, and their participation speaks more to the focus of the Justice Department’s investigation of Wednesday’s events than the actions of any particular defendant, analysts noted.

Capitol Police were unable to stop a breach of the Capitol. Washington Post reporter Carol Leonnig and a former Senate Sergeant at Arms describe the events. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Reuters/The Washington Post)

FBI agents are exploring whether some of those who stormed the Capitol intended to do more than disrupt the certification of President-elect Joe Biden’s November victory, including whether anyone sought to kill or capture lawmakers or their staffers, The Post has previously reported.

Their work includes trying to determine the motivations of those who had weapons or other gear suggestive of a plot to do physical harm. Zip ties, for example, are a plastic version of handcuffs.

FBI focuses on whether some Capitol rioters intended to harm lawmakers or take hostages

Brock joins a growing list of military veterans who have been arrested and charged in connection with extremist events over the last few years, including the August 2017 white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

Brock, 53, a father of three from Grapevine, Tex., retired from the Air Force as deputy director of its admissions liaison officer program, which oversees personnel who recruit prospective military officers, the Air Force said. An Air Force official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Sunday night that Brock’s role in that position was administrative in nature and “fairly removed from students.” The official said it was possible that Brock did occasionally interact with students before retiring.

He previously served as an A-10 pilot, the Air Force said. And the New Yorker reported that he said in an interview that he had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Brock spoke to the magazine after members of the public traced him down partly through patches on his helmet and armor, which included the insignia of the 706th Fighter Squadron and a vinyl tag of the Texas flag overlaid on the skull logo of the Punisher, a Marvel comic-book character who has been adopted by police and military groups, and, more recently, by white supremacists and followers of the QAnon far-right conspiracy theory.

Brock denied to the New Yorker that he held racist views, echoed Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud and said he assumed he was welcome to enter the building.

“The President asked for his supporters to be there to attend, and I felt like it was important, because of how much I love this country, to actually be there,” he said, according to the New Yorker.

An FBI arrest affidavit cited two tips about Brock it received based on his photograph, including from one person who said Brock’s associates at a defense contractor where he previously worked knew he was traveling to D.C.

Interviews with family members and a close friend indicate Brock’s political views had become increasingly radical in the past few years, to the point of alienating those closest to him.

But Brock told the New Yorker that he did not identify as part of any organized group. Brock added that he wore tactical gear because “I didn’t want to get stabbed or hurt,” citing “B.L.M. and antifa” as potential aggressors. He said he had found the zip-tie handcuffs on the floor.

“My thought process there was I would pick them up and give them to an officer when I see one . . . I didn’t do that because I had put them in my coat, and I honestly forgot about them,” he told the magazine.

Online sleuths who linked Munchel to the man in the Senate gallery carrying zip ties said the person photographed wore a patch on his tactical vest in the shape of Tennessee with a thin blue line, a pro-police symbol.

Munchel, 30, and his mother, Lisa Marie Eisenhart, 57, spoke with the Sunday Times as they were leaving D.C. and confirmed they were inside the building during the riot.

“It was a kind of flexing of muscles,” Munchel told the publication. “The intentions of going in were not to fight the police. The point of getting inside the building is to show them that we can, and we will.”

Munchel did not mention to the Times whether he was carrying restraints.

He, family members and neighbors did not respond to calls from The Post.

Military veterans have criticized Brock, saying an active-duty service member who participated in the riot could face court-martial.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), an Iraq veteran who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, suggested on social media Saturday that military authorities should recall Brock and charge him under military jurisdiction considering he is a retired officer who could still receive a pension.

Devlin Barrett and Alex Horton contributed to this report.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The report: The Jan. 6 committee released its final report, marking the culmination of an 18-month investigation into the violent insurrection. Read The Post’s analysis about the committee’s new findings and conclusions.

The final hearing: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol held its final public meeting where members referred four criminal charges against former president Donald Trump and others to the Justice Department. Here’s what the criminal referrals mean.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6. Here’s what we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6.