But Fee’s girlfriend’s brother wasn’t asking out of simple curiosity — he is a special agent with the State Department. The agent, who isn’t identified in court documents, later turned the evidence over to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Fee, a recently retired New York firefighter with a history of racist complaints, surrendered in Queens on Tuesday morning, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District told the New York Post. He is charged with unlawful entry of the Capitol and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
The 53-year-old from Freeport, N.Y., joins scores of others who have been charged with breaching the Capitol earlier this month. Similar to Fee, many alleged rioters have openly bragged about their exploits to friends and on social media, making it easier for federal agents to track them down and connect them to the insurrection.
Gracyn Courtright, a senior at the University of Kentucky, allegedly posted videos of herself roaming the Capitol and wrote on Instagram that she thought storming the Capitol “was cool.” Kevin Lyons of Chicago, who was arrested last week, shared an image of himself outside the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) with the caption, “WHOSE HOUSE? OUR HOUSE!” on Instagram.
Social media also failed Fee, federal officials said. His girlfriend allegedly posted on Facebook that he was in D.C., “at the rally,” prompting her brother to confirm Fee’s whereabouts for himself. In addition to sending the brother the image inside the Rotunda, Fee sent a video where “members of the crowd are heard yelling the word ‘tyranny’ and the name ‘Pelosi,’” according to court documents.
After sending the evidence to the FBI, the brother of Fee’s girlfriend also confirmed for federal agents that Fee’s driver’s license image matched the man in the photos. Federal agents also tracked Fee’s car driving westbound out of New York the day before the Capitol riots and returning to the city on Jan. 7, the day afterward.
Fee did not immediately respond to requests for comment. He appeared in court on Tuesday, according to WCBS, and was granted bail but ordered to surrender his firearm, avoid contact with other alleged Capitol rioters and stay away from all state capitol buildings. It is unclear whether he has a lawyer and when he is due back in court.
Fee, who spent 22 years with the New York City Fire Department before retiring in October, was suspended in 2004 for allegedly spewing racial slurs at a Black doctor walking past a Queens firehouse, the New York Post reported. In 2013, he received accolades for helping to save 13 people who were forced to the roof of a building during Hurricane Sandy, only for the roof to catch on fire.