Capitol Rioters Make Questionable Claims About Police – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth
Joshua Matthew Black said on a YouTube video that he was protecting the U.S. Capitol officer who was sprayed with pepper spray and fell to the ground when the crowd stormed the building’s entrance on Jan. 6.
“Let him out, he’s done,” Black claimed to have told the rioters.
But prosecutors say surveillance footage does not support Black’s account. They said he recognized that he wanted to get the officer out of the way – because the policeman blocked his way into the house.
At least a dozen of the 400 people charged so far in the January 6 riot have made dubious allegations about their encounters with officers in the Capitol. The most common argument is that they cannot be guilty of anything because the police stood by and greeted them inside, despite the mob pushing past police barriers, spraying chemical irritants and smashing windows as chaos enveloped the government complex.
January’s hand-to-hand combat to stop the confirmation of Joe Biden’s victory was instigated by a group of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters who expressed their love of law enforcement and mocked the mass police overtake protests that the nation waged after the murder last year police rocked George Floyd in Minneapolis.
But they quickly turned the police on in one violent encounter after another.
“We supported you over the summer,” a protester yelled at three police officers who were cornered by dozens of men at a door and yelled to get out of their way. “When the whole country hated you, we had your back!”
The Capitol Police were not planning a riot. They were heavily outnumbered and it took hours for reinforcements to arrive – a massive flaw that is currently being investigated. Police officers were injured, mocked, ridiculed and threatened during the riot. A Capitol cop, Brian Sicknick, died after the riot.
Officers who spoke to The Associated Presssaid police had to decide for themselves how to fight them off. There was no direction or plan and they were told not to shoot the crowd, they said. A policeman ran from one side of the building to the other, fighting rioters hand in hand. Another decided to respond to calls from officers in need and spent three hours helping police officers who had been immobilized by bear spray or other chemicals.
Three officers were able to handcuff a rioter. But a crowd swarmed with the group and handcuffed the arrested man.
Even so, some rioters claim the police simply gave up and told them the building is now theirs. And some – including one accused of trying to take off an officer’s gas mask in order to expose the officer to the spray – have claimed to be protecting the police.
Matthew Martin, a defense company employee in Santa Fe, New Mexico who has confirmed inside the building, alleged police opened doors for people as they entered the Capitol.
Dan Cron, Martin’s attorney, said a photo filed by authorities in court showed an officer with his back holding a door open to people. When Martin walked into the Capitol, there were no police barriers and no one told people not to enter the building, Cron said.
“He thought that was fine,” said Cron, adding that his client had been in the Capitol for less than 10 minutes and had not committed any violence. “He doesn’t know what the Capitol’s policies and procedures are,” said Cron. “He had never been there before.”
On the surface, images of officers appearing to step aside as the mob stormed the building might aid the rioters’ claims. In the days after January 6, these pictures fueled rumors that the police were deliberately ready, but they were not substantiated.
Experts warn against drawing conclusions.
“Context will be very important in arguing that officials are welcome in a crowd,” said Laurie Levenson, professor at Loyola Law School. “You were trying to control a rapidly evolving, difficult, potentially explosive situation. I don’t think it’s enough to say, “The officer didn’t attack me.”
According to authorities, Michael Quick, of Springfield, Missouri, claimed that he did not know he was not allowed to enter the Capitol at the time he and his brother entered through an open window. He believed the police were letting people in even though they saw officers in riot gear.
Attorney Dee Wampler, who represents Michael and Stephen Quick, said he currently had no evidence to support the allegation the officers let people into the building, but pointed out that he still had thousands of documents from prosecutors to review.
“If this case were tried, the evidence would be that quite a large number of officers were standing around when my clients walked in and they weren’t trying to stop the Quicks,” said Wampler, adding that his clients didn’t. Do not commit violence in the Capitol.
But the argument didn’t work for Jacob Chansley, the Arizona man who wore face-paint, a furry hat with horns, and a spear during the riot.
Chansley’s attorney said an official told his client that “the building is yours” and that he is one of the third wave of rioters entering the Capitol.
When Judge Royce Lamberth denied a request to get Chansley out of jail two months ago, he said it was not clear who made the comment and concluded that Chansley was unable to prove that officers entered him in the building waved, citing a video the judge saw as evidence that the Phoenix man was one of the first rioters in the building. The judge noticed rioters crawling in through broken windows when Chansley entered the Capitol through a door.
Chansley attorney Albert Watkins still insists that his client was in the building’s third wave of rioters, saying it shouldn’t shock the public that rioters who clung to and believed Trump’s every word had the choice had been stolen, rightly believed to be allowed in the building. “It’s what’s on their hearts and minds,” said Watkins.
Overall, Joshua Black made two claims of helping officers in the Capitol.
Before meeting the policeman, whom he allegedly protected by a Capitol door, the police shot him in the cheek with a plastic projectile as he tried to prevent another policeman from being “trudged” by other rioters outside the Capitol. But prosecutors say the surveillance video does not show an on-site officer, nor is Black shown trying to help an officer.
Black’s attorney, Clark Fleckinger II, didn’t return a phone call or email for comment.
Associate press writer Colleen Long of Washington contributed to this report.