Two of the six off-duty Seattle police officers who attended a pro-Trump rally that led to the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol in January trespassed onto restricted grounds and stood by in the immediate vicinity of an “active insurrection,” according to a detailed six-month investigation by department watchdogs.
The two officers — a married couple identified by a department source as Seattle Police Department Officers Alexander Everett and Caitlin Rochelle — later downplayed and likely lied to internal investigators about their actions at the so-called “Stop the Steal” rally and should be fired, the investigation also concluded.
Three of the other four officers who attended the Washington, D.C., rally on Jan. 6 were cleared of allegations of unprofessional conduct and did not break any laws, the investigation found. The investigation into allegations against the fourth officer was inconclusive, according to the department’s civilian-run Office of Police Accountability, which released the findings Thursday.
The summary of the investigation says senior OPA investigators traveled to Washington, D.C., and conducted dozens of interviews with people ranging from waiters and hotel clerks to senior officials with the Capitol and Metropolitan police forces. They also reviewed videos and photographs of the event, including still pictures prepared by the FBI from video footage shot by a third-party defendant now facing federal charges in the Capitol siege case.
The still photos captured a man and woman — Everett and Rochelle — smiling and standing within a restricted area just outside the U.S. Capitol while, nearby, pro-Trump rioters forced their way into the building, the investigation says.
OPA recommended that the two officers be fired for breaking the law, violating SPD policy and unprofessional conduct.
“That they were direct witnesses to people defiling the seat of American democracy — and did nothing — makes this all the more egregious,” OPA Director Andrew Myerberg said in a statement accompanying the findings.
The OPA document released Thursday does not identify any of the officers by name, but a department source familiar with the investigation previously confirmed the names of all six officers to The Seattle Times. Based on the OPA investigation, the newspaper is identifying both officers who were sustained for violations.
Everett and Rochelle, both 37 and Covington residents, could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday.
The couple, who joined the Seattle department in October 2017 and worked patrol jobs in different precincts, separately contended in interviews with OPA investigators that they were peaceful observers on the day of the riot. Each said they didn’t know they were trespassing on restricted Capitol grounds at the time and denied seeing any illegal or violent activity.
But statements by U.S. Capitol Police and evidence provided by the FBI about the video footage capturing the couple inside a restricted area on Capitol grounds undermine their explanations, Myerberg said.
“OPA’s investigation, and particularly the review of video and interviews of Washington, D.C., law enforcement personnel, indicates that the accounts provided by [the two officers] are simply not credible,” Myerberg wrote in a 21-page case summary of the investigation. “The video showed there was an active insurrection ongoing at the same time [the two officers] were in the immediate vicinity of the Capitol Building.”
FBI agents informed OPA investigators that in the video shot by the individual now facing federal charges, rioters can be seen scaling the walls of the Capitol as the individual turns to Everett and Rochelle and asks: “Well [expletive], doing it?” As the camera pans back to the Capitol, a voice believed to be Everett’s replies off camera: “Thinking about it.”
Myerberg said he’s “virtually positive” the OPA will open additional investigations into dishonesty allegations against the two officers. The OPA, which now only has FBI statements about that video and still photos from it, is seeking to obtain a copy of the footage from the lawyer of the defendant who shot it.
The OPA’s announcement of its findings Thursday marks a key milestone for the matter involving the six off-duty Seattle officers. The presence of SPD officers at the Capitol has drawn national media attention and public interest, spawned at least one lawsuit attempting to prevent disclosure of the officers’ names and prompted a labor grievance from Seattle’s police union.
The sustained findings against the Seattle officers also puts them in rare company among a handful of sworn police officers nationwide who have faced accountability for their conduct during the Jan. 6 rally. A Bexar County, Texas, sheriff’s lieutenant was fired after her social media posts showed her participating in the insurrection on the Capitol steps, and a Houston police officer resigned shortly before being federally charged for entering the Capitol with the pro-Trump mob.
The OPA doesn’t plan to refer a criminal case against the two Seattle officers to any outside law enforcement agencies in D.C., said Myerberg, who noted the FBI and Capitol police “already have all the same evidence” that his office has.
After a discipline committee of SPD commanders concurred with Myerberg’s recommendation that both officers be fired, the matter is now up to interim Seattle police Chief Adrian Diaz to decide on final discipline against the officers.
The chief’s decision will come after a due-process hearing for the officers, expected be held in early August, Myerberg said. A statement from the department Thursday said Diaz intends to issue the decision within the next 30 days.
The chief “has been clear that he will hold accountable any SPD officer involved in the insurrection, including disciplinary action up to and including termination,” the statement added.
Already, the Seattle Police Officers Guild has filed a grievance with Diaz and city labor and human resources officials over the OPA’s investigation, contending its orders commanding the six officers to produce their private travel itineraries and receipts, text messages, photographs and other documents produced during the day of the insurrection were unlawful.
Nonetheless, five of the six officers, including Everett and Rochelle, cooperated by producing at least some records. The only officer who refused to comply now faces a new case for insubordination and failure to cooperate with an OPA investigation.
“We’re confident that the orders were legal,” Myerberg said. “However, the union has the right to grieve what they want to grieve. We can litigate that at a later date.”
SPOG president Mike Solan did not respond to an email and phone call seeking comment this week.
The officer who refused to provide the records was among the three officers ultimately exonerated after OPA investigators confirmed their conduct in Washington, D.C., didn’t break any laws or policies. Evidence supported their claims that they left the rally after Trump’s speech and before rioters marched to the Capitol, and that their attendance at the event amounted to constitutionally protected freedom of expression.
“In direct view”
Interviews conducted with senior law enforcement officials at the District of Columbia’s Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Capitol Police proved key in understanding what was happening at the time the two Seattle officers were outside the Capitol and what they would have seen, the OPA investigation said.
A Capitol police supervisory special agent told the investigators that “anyone in the immediate vicinity of the Capitol Building — where [the two officers] indisputably were — was committing a crime,” the case summary noted. From where the officers said they were standing, they would have been “in direct view of rioters lining the steps and climbing the walls,” and people in the area would have seen restrictive signs and barricades, the investigation concluded.
“OPA finds it unbelievable that they could think that this behavior was not illegal, contrary to their claims at their OPA interviews,” the investigation says.
The city’s Community Police Commission, in a statement Thursday, said Seattle officers made up the largest contingent among 31 officers nationwide known to have attended the Jan. 6 rally.
After the attack, the commission asked Diaz “how SPD plans to investigate and address extremism within the department’s ranks,” the statement added. ” … SPD’s plans remain unclear. The extent of SPD officers’ involvement in the insurrection is a wake-up call. The CPC demands SPD transparently and aggressively address extremism within the ranks.”
The siege — which left the Capitol ransacked, prompted lawmakers to flee for their safety, injured more than 140 police officers and temporarily interrupted Congress’ certification of the 2020 presidential election results — also led a Capitol officer to shoot and kill one demonstrator.
Three other participants in the insurrection suffered medical emergencies and later died, and a federal officer, Brian Sicknick, was hospitalized and died after being pulled into the crowd and assaulted with bear spray.
In all, more than 480 people have since been arrested and charged, including dozens of people tied to the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and other extremist groups. An FBI investigation of the Capitol insurrection is continuing.
Two days after the riot, after images surfaced on social media of them at the rally, Everett and Rochelle were placed on paid leave pending the OPA investigation. Diaz later ordered any officer who had attended the event to self-report their participation. The four other officers did so, and remained on the job.
For the past six months, Everett and Rochelle have remained on leave. As of last year, Everett earned a base salary of about $108,000 per year, with Rochelle earning annual base pay of about $107,000, department payroll records show.
All six officers are also now plaintiffs in a lawsuit, bankrolled by their police union, that seeks to prevent disclosure of their identities in response to four public records requests. A King County judge’s ruling that records identifying them must be disclosed is now under appeal.
While arguing the case, Kelly Sheridan, an attorney representing the officers, has maintained that none of them engaged in wrongdoing while attending the rally. Until and unless an investigation proves otherwise, no public interest exists for publicly naming the officers, Sheridan has said.
Correction: This story has been updated to eliminate inaccurate information contained in a statement by the OPA director that indicated the two Seattle officers observed other law enforcement officers being assaulted while outside the Capitol.