Local Police Departments Investigate Whether Their Officers Took Part in Capitol Riot

Protesters walk as U.S. Capitol Police officers watch in a hallway near the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021.

Protesters walk as U.S. Capitol Police officers watch in a hallway near the Senate chamber at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

 

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Police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters attended the pro-Trump rally held before the riot began. Many are now on administrative leave while agencies probe their actions.

Multiple local law enforcement agencies and fire departments are investigating their employees’ attendance at last week’s pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C. to determine if they had any involvement in the U.S. Capitol riot.

Officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters from as far as Washington state and Florida have been placed on administrative leave and could face termination if any are found to have participated in the fatal breach of the capitol complex.

Two Seattle Police Department officers were placed on administrative leave Friday after the agency was made aware that the officers had attended Wednesday’s rally.  

“The Department fully supports all lawful expressions of First Amendment freedom of speech, but the violent mob and events that unfolded at the U.S. Capitol were unlawful and resulted in the death of another police officer,” said Seattle Police Chief Adrian Diaz in a statement.

Diaz said the department’s Office of Police Accountability will investigate whether the officers, who were off duty, violated any department policies.

“If any SPD officers were directly involved in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, I will immediately terminate them,” Diaz said.

Thousands of demonstrators gathered Wednesday in Washington, D.C. for a rally to protest President Trump’s loss of the presidential election. After Trump addressed the crowd and vowed to “never concede,” throngs of his supporters breached security and forced their way into the U.S. Capitol as senators debated the certification of the presidential election. Lawmakers were forced into lockdown. A U.S. Capitol Police officer sustained fatal injuries in the siege and a 35-year-old woman who stormed the capitol was shot and killed by police.

The Rocky Mount Police Department in Virginia announced Sunday that a similar investigation of two of its officers was underway. The agency has notified federal authorities about the presence of its officers at Wednesday’s rally and said both officers were placed on administrative leave pending review.

“The Town of Rocky Mount fully supports all lawful expressions of freedom of speech and assembly by its employees but does not condone the unlawful acts that occurred that day,” the department said in a statement.

Neither Seattle nor Rocky Mount identified the officers linked to the events in D.C.

Investigations into officers’ potential involvement in the riots come as accounts emerged indicating that law enforcement officers were among those who breached the capitol complex. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers said they encountered police officers among those in the mob who flashed their badges to try to persuade the officers to let them through, according to one account from Buzzfeed News.

Both the U.S. Capitol Police and the National Guard have been harshly criticized for their failure to prepare for and adequately respond to the crowds that breached the capitol complex.

Many of those who entered the Capitol did not wear face masks and federal authorities have been working to identify those who took part in the riot. The Justice Department announced federal charges against 13 people on Friday.

Local authorities have also been reviewing social media posts and photos of the event to determine whether their employees engaged in any criminal activity.

The Bexar County Sheriff’s Office said it was investigating a lieutenant’s attendance at Wednesday’s rally after she posted photos of the event on social media. Sheriff Javier Salazar said that Lt. Roxanne Mathai was under investigation after she posted multiple photos showing her near the U.S. Capitol. Mathai wrote in the social media posts that she did not enter the Capitol complex, KSAT-TV reported.

In Florida, the Sanford Fire Department placed firefighter/paramedic Andrew Williams on administrative leave after a photo surfaced that showed him inside the capitol pointing at a placard for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The New York City Fire Department is also investigating whether members participated in the riot after a photo showed an individual inside the building wearing a department jacket. A department spokesman told the New York Post that the person was believed to be retired.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

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