Armed ‘Quick Reaction Force’ was waiting for order to storm Capitol, DOJ says

“This is not a mere guess,” said Nestler. In a trial that week, he found, prosecutors received cell phone and video evidence the day before the riot that Harrelson had asked someone about the rapid response force. He then went to a Comfort Inn in the Ballston area of ​​Arlington for about an hour before heading to DC, prosecutors said. The day after the uprising, a surveillance video from the hotel showed how, according to court records, he “moved at least one gun case down a hallway and towards the elevator”.

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In court, Nestler said another oath guard carried a rifle out of the hotel from under a sheet on Jan. 7.

“We believe that at least one Rapid Reaction Force site was here and that Mr. Harrelson and others had a large amount of weapons stowed there,” Nestler said. “The members of this group were in Ballston, overseeing what was happening at the Capitol. They were preparing to come to DC and put those weapons on the ground team that Kenneth Harrelson would lead on short notice if anyone spoke up.”

Nestler has not detailed the number of weapons the group is alleged to have stowed away.

Judge Amit Mehta described the evidence as “the most troubling and troubling” he has seen in nearly a dozen oath-guardian-related cases.

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It is “the strongest evidence that the government has presented that there was a rapid reaction force outside the District of Columbia, the location of the rapid reaction force, and that members of that conspiracy provided weapons to that rapid reaction force,” he said. Harrelson, he added, was “clearly ready to have weapons ready for violent behavior”.

Harrelson was a senior member of the Oath Keepers, prosecutors said in regular contact with group leader Stewart Rhodes. While members use the jargon and traps of a paramilitary organization, in practice the group is made up of loosely linked chapters linked by a right-wing ideology.

In discussions following the riot on court documents, Harrelson and others argued over the leadership and direction of the group.

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“Look, I was there. I was right outside. Patriots stormed in. NotAntifa. And I’m not blaming them, ”wrote Rhodes, identified in documents as person number one.

“This organization is huge. . . Joke, ”someone replied.

Harrelson, a 41-year-old army veteran, subsequently apologized to Rhodes in a message on an encrypted chat service for “not stepping”[ping] up to the plate ”on January 6th.

“Not your fault, my fault,” said Rhodes, adding that he should have “held a mandatory meeting” and given operational assignments the night before the riot.

Harrelson deleted other notices, and Mehta found that Harrelson “was deceiving” in claiming he had left the group.

Defense attorney Nina Ginsberg argued that the comment indicated a lack of planning both on and after Jan 6.

“It’s hard to see how people could have effectively communicated with each other in the midst of this crowd,” she said. “There was no pre-planned arrangement to overhaul the Capitol, storm the building, force entry into the building, but this was something that developed as it happened.”

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She said any conclusion about plans for armed security in the Capitol was “speculation”.

In a lawsuit last month, the defense attorney for one of Harrelson’s alleged co-conspirators said the Rapid Response Force was “a person” who is “in his late 60s, obese and has heart and lung problems, a bad back, a bum knee and needs one Hip replacement. “

The person described in this file was not charged and there is no evidence that a replacement force with weapons arrived at the Capitol on January 6th.

In court files, prosecutors quoted Rhodes as giving the group advance news about preparations for “worst-case scenarios”: “We will have several well-equipped QRFs outside of DC.”

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Rhodes also recommended helmets, hard gloves, eye protection and weapons, according to prosecutors, writing, “Collapsible batons are a gray area in the law. I’ll bring one. But I’m ready to take this risk because I love her. “

Rhodes, who has not been charged with any crime, has denied a plan to enter the Capitol and accused prosecutors of trying to start a conspiracy.

In interviews, Rhodes said that the national Oath Guardian Organization had never assembled a rapid response force for January 6, and that some members and their staff had left the mission.

Police on January 6th charged only a handful of gun crimes in Capitol-related cases. However, with so few people arrested on the spot that day, investigators say the actual number of rioters carrying firearms will never be known.

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In indictments, the FBI and Justice Department allege that many defendants discussed bringing firearms to Washington and not bringing them to the Capitol because of the district’s gun laws.

One of those arrested on late January 6 for failing to leave the Capitol grounds was tow truck driver Christopher Alberts from Maryland. Police said they stopped him in front of the building with a loaded black 9mm Taurus G2C pistol on his waist and a loaded 12-round spare magazine in separate holsters, as well as a gas mask, penknife and first aid kit .

The oldest detained defendant, Lonnie L. Coffman, 70, from Alabama, was arrested after returning to his truck parked near the Capitol where police allegedly found 11 homemade Molotov cocktail-type incendiary devices, one rifle, one shotgun, two Found 9mm pistols and one 22-caliber pistol – all loaded – as well as a crossbow, several machetes, a stun gun, and smoking devices. Prosecutors said the 11 glasses were made from gasoline and melted plastic foam to create a dangerous “napalm-like” explosion of sticky, flammable liquid.

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Other indictment and detention documents state that many defendants have spoken about leaving guns in vehicles, parking lots, hotel rooms, bags, or with others for quick access.

New York dating coach Samuel Fisher, also known as Brad Holiday, was arrested after allegedly posting photos of himself on social media at the Capitol and with firearms, including a pistol and rifle.

“When it starts, I’ll have a vest and my rifle,” he wrote, according to court records.

Prosecutors have alleged that Nashville-based Erik Munchel stashed guns in a tactical bag outside the Capitol before bringing a stun gun into the house. A search of his home found a legal arsenal of 15 firearms, including assault rifles, a sniper rifle and tripod, other types of rifles, shotguns and pistols, a drum-style magazine, and other magazines and ammunition.

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When searching the home of Karl Dresch of Calumet, Michigan, investigators said they found a backpack that contained a Hagerstown, Md., Gas station receipt, subway transit card, radar detector, handheld radio and 160 rounds of ammunition . In his home, they found a 12-gauge shotgun, Glock pistol, Remington rifle, and a Russian AK-47 rifle that was compatible with the ammunition.

A threshing attorney said the guns were “the type of common firearm common in rural households across America”. Lawyers for the other defendants have stressed that they are not charged with any weapon-related crime.

DC Police Officer Daniel Hodges said in a January interview that one reason he did not draw his gun during the riot was because the police understood the crowd to be armed.

“I knew they had guns – we had guns confiscated all day,” he said. “And the only reason I could think of them not shooting us was because they were waiting for us to shoot first.”

Tom Jackman contributed to this report.

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