Two men linked to accused Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean were among the first Jan. 6 riot participants to breach police barricades at the U.S. Capitol, newly unsealed charging documents allege.
James Haffner, 53, of South Dakota, and Ronald Loehrke, 30, of Georgia, were arrested and charged this week with civil disorder, a felony. Haffner was also charged with assaulting or impeding officers with an aerosol spray.
An FBI affidavit alleged that before Jan. 6, Nordean texted Loehrke saying he wanted Loehrke on “the front line” with him. Loehrke replied, “Sounds good man,” and indicated that he would bring three others with him, the FBI said.
The FBI said it identified Haffner partly through a social media post by his wife on Aug. 7 that included a photograph of the couple and a third person whose image was redacted but his wife identified in a caption as Trump lawyer Sidney Powell, who was in South Dakota that week for a bus and motorcycle ride through the state coinciding with the Sturgis motorcycle rally.
Loehrke and Haffner allegedly marched with a group of Proud Boys led by Nordean to the U.S. Capitol. The pair joined a crowd that overran a pedestrian barrier shortly after 1 p.m., breached the building’s West Plaza and stood at the front of a crowd confronting a single line of riot police, before dismantling police barricades on the east side, the FBI said.
“Don’t back down, patriots! … The whole … world is watching. Stand … up!” Loehrke exhorted with expletives to a crowd who he said were only “stopped by 25 officers” at one point, charging papers stated.
The FBI said Haffner sprayed police guarding the Columbus doors shortly before they were breached by a crowd that poured into the Capitol Rotunda. The FBI included images that investigators allege show Loehrke wearing a plaid jacket, maroon hoodie, and a baseball cap with a red “Cummins Oil” logo, and Haffner with a dark hoodie, red cap, and long beard. Both pictured men wore dark glasses.
The FBI said it identified Loerhke partly through a video taken Jan. 6 outside of a downtown hotel of a person wearing matching clothing and a similar right-hand tattoo with the word “stay” on the knuckles and the outline of a rose. Haffner was traced through airline, hotel and payment records, his South Dakota driver’s license, as well as the photograph, which showed Haffner standing next to two women whose heads were covered by a black rectangular redaction box, the FBI alleged.
“Sidney FRICKIN’ Powell!! What an awesome experience getting to meet her and her team! #SidneyPowell #releasethekraken #TrumpTrain #sturgisrally,” Haffner’s wife commented next to a photo of three people standing in front of a campaign-style bus bearing the logos of “Women for Trump” and the photos of President Donald Trump, conservative commentator Candace Owens and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to charging papers. The bus appears to be the same one that Powell was photographed with during her South Dakota trip, and the person Haffner’s wife referred to as Powell is wearing a black biking vest and bracelet similar to what the latter was photographed wearing the following day, although with a different colored shirt and pants.
Haffner was arrested in Pennington County in South Dakota and appeared in federal court Wednesday. Loehrke was arrested in Cumming, Ga., on Thursday and made an initial appearance Friday, when the case was unsealed. Court-appointed lawyers who initially represented the men did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday evening.