WASHINGTON – Federal authorities are continuing to arrest people for alleged involvement in last week’s riot at the Capitol, including a man who wore a pro-Nazi sweatshirt and two police officers from southwest Virginia.
Officers Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker of Rocky Mount, Va., along with Robert Keith Packer, 56, of Newport News, Va., were all arrested in Virginia on Wednesday.
Robertson and Fracker were placed on administrative leave by the Rocky Mount Police Department. Both asserted their innocence.
Robertson told a local news station that they were allowed entry by Capitol police and did not participate in any violence. Demonstrators both critical and in support of the officers faced off before a town council meeting Monday, local news outlets reported.
An arrest affidavit alleges that the FBI had information Robertson and Fracker were photographed in the Capitol between 2 and 8 p.m. making an obscene statement. Robertson was allegedly quoted on social media saying “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.”
According to the affidavit by U.S. Capitol Police Special Agent Vincent Veloz, a now-deleted Facebook post by Fracker was captioned, “Lol to anyone who’s possibly concerned about the picture of me going around… Sorry I hate freedom? . . .Not like I did anything illegal. . .y’all do what you feel you need to.”
Robertson shared the image, including with colleagues at the police department, according to the affidavit.
The men were charged with misdemeanor counts of illegal entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds with a first appearance set in federal court in Roanoke at 4 p.m.
An attorney listed for Fracker did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and Robertson was listed as being appointed an assistant federal defender.
Packer was identified by an acquaintance and other news outlets; several photographs taken at the Capitol show him wearing a sweatshirt that red “Camp Aushwitz,” a reference to the infamous Nazi concentration camp.
The sweatshirt included the phrase, “Work Brings Freedom,” a rough English translation of the German words that hung over one of the gates of the death camp, where more than 1.1 million people were killed during World War II. The arrest was first reported by the New York Times.
An arrest warrant charges Packer with unlawful entry and disorderly conduct on restricted Capitol grounds, two misdemeanors punishable by as much as a year in prison. He was released on his own recognizance Wednesday afternoon, with orders to stay out of the District and appear at a virtual hearing next week. He has not yet hired an attorney.
The Post was unable to reach Packer, and a lawyer who recently represented him did not respond to requests for comment. Relatives and neighbors declined to talk or did not respond to inquiries. Public records list Packer’s address as a residence in Newport News.
The Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump disrupted the electoral vote count confirming President-elect Joe Biden’s victory and led to the deaths of five people, including a rioter who was fatally shot and a police officer who died after suffering injuries at the scene.
Prosecutors have called the resulting investigation one of the largest ever undertaken by the FBI, which has led to charges against more than 70 people and identified 170 suspects to date. In all on Wednesday, federal prosecutors in the District announced seven additional people charged.
Nicholas Rodean of Maryland also turned himself in to District police on Wednesday, a police spokeswoman said. Rodean, a former employee of Navistar Direct Marketing in Fredrick, was fired after being photographed in the Capitol with his company ID badge around his neck. He is charged with three federal counts, entering restricted grounds, disorderly conduct and illegally demonstrating in the U.S. Capitol. The last count, a felony, is punishable by up to six years in prison.
Also charged federally were William Pepe, arrested in New York; Andrew Williams, arrested in Florida; and Josiah Colt, of Meridian, Idaho, arrested in Idaho, and Kevin Loftus, arrested in Wisconsin, prosecutors said. All four were arrested Tuesday and charged with misdemeanor counts, prosecutors said.
Williams is a firefighter in Sanford, Fla.; Pepe works for New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. Both are suspended without pay.
By law, defendants are only detained if a judge deems them a risk of flight or danger to the community. Most of the people arrested so far are charged with misdemeanors and lack significant criminal history.
Reports of fresh arrests came as prosecutors revealed new details about a man accused of threatening to kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and weapons violations, alleging that Cleveland Grover Meredith Jr. of Colorado also threatened to kill District Mayor Muriel Bowser, a Democrat, and assaulted a pedestrian while in Washington for last week’s pro-Trump unrest.
“After arriving in Washington, D.C., the defendant sent a text that stated, ‘I may wander over to the Mayor’s office and put a 5.56 in her skull, FKG [expletive],” prosecutors wrote in a court filing seeking Meredith’s detention pending trial.
Meredith, who prosecutors said had a history of drug use and mental illness, similarly texted, “Thinking about heading over to Pelosi . . . speech and putting a bullet in her noggin on Live TV” – followed by purple devil emoji – referring to the speaker using the same vulgar and misogynistic epithet.
While still driving to the city on the afternoon of Jan. 6, prosecutors said, Meredith received a text telling him, “Trump supporters have violated several layers of security fending [sic] at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., prompting clashes with riot police.”
Meredith responded, “Burn DC to the FKG ground,” according to the court filing.
Shortly afterward, the filing adds, Meredith received another text which stated, “It’s on, people in the whitehouse.”
That same day, Meredith purportedly received another text saying, “Pence blew it,” to which he texted, “War time,” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors said that when he was arrested Jan. 7, Meredith possessed a Glock 9mm pistol and Tavor X95 semiautomatic rifle with a telescopic sight and approximately 2,500 rounds of ammunition of various calibers, including at least 320 rounds of “armor piercing” 5.56mm rounds.
“A clearly disturbed, deranged, and dangerous individual that fantasizes about committing horrific acts of violence and takes countless steps to carry them out by driving across several states with a trailer stocked with thousands of rounds of ammunition and multiple firearms – including an assault style rifle – should not remain in the community,” Assistant United States Attorney Ahmed Baset wrote in a detention filing.
Meredith’s attorney, assistant federal defender Ubong Akpan, challenged the basis for Meredith’s detention and argued for his immediate release, leading a U.S. magistrate to postpone a Wednesday hearing until Thursday.
U.S. Magistrate Michael Harvey said Akpan had “done a good job” raising “non-frivolous arguments” as to whether making an interstate threat qualifies as a crime of violence. Akpan argued in court papers that Meredith had no prior convictions and posed no serious risk of flight, two other benchmarks for such a hearing.
At a news conference Wednesday, Bowser was reluctant to discuss the threat, and Police Chief Robert Contee III declined to go into specifics about whether he’d expand the mayor’s security detail.
But queried further about any other threats she has received, Bowser expressed confidence in the local authorities’ ability to protect her.
“I will say I get threats a lot. I don’t know the number off the top,” she said. “If MPD thinks it’s actionable, then they will implement whatever measures they think are necessary.”