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At least a dozen law enforcement agencies are investigating their officers' possible involvement in the episode. The arrest of two Rocky Mount officers marks the first federal charges related to the riot filed against law enforcement officers.
Two police officers who work in a small southwest Virginia town were charged with crimes related to the U.S. Capitol riot, marking the first arrests of law enforcement officers for involvement in the violent siege.
At least a dozen law enforcement agencies across the country are investigating their own officers or deputies after officials learned of their attendance at last week’s pro-Trump rally in the nation’s capital. The protests turned violent after President Trump told rally goers he would “never concede” the election and urged them to march to the U.S. Capitol.
Rocky Mount, Virginia police officers Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson were charged Wednesday in connection with the Jan. 6 episode after federal investigators said they shared photos on social media of themselves inside the U.S. Capitol during the siege.
The Rocky Mount Police Department has suspended the two officers with pay while an investigation is ongoing. Both men were released on $15,000 bonds Wednesday after an initial court appearance and ordered to stay away from any public demonstrations or protests until the case is resolved, according to the Richmond Times Dispatch.
A criminal complaint filed by a U.S. Capitol Police officer states that Robertson shared a photo of the pair, who were off duty at the time, standing in front of a statue of John Stark inside the Capitol building. Stark was a Revolutionary War officer from New Hampshire known for penning the state’s motto, “Live free or die.”
In subsequent social media posts, the complaint states that Robertson wrote “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.”
Robertson told the Roanoke Times that he and Fracker were escorted in the building by U.S. Capitol Police, given bottles of water and shown around. He told the paper the two did not participate in any violence and he didn’t believe they had broken any laws.
In a Facebook post cited in the criminal complaint, Fracker wrote “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...”
Both officers are charged with knowingly entering a restricted building without lawful authority and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to the Justice Department.
Police and fire departments, and sheriff’s offices across the country have suspended employees who attended the Jan. 6 rally while they investigate whether the employees were also involved in the siege of the Capitol.
Route Fifty has identified 12 local law enforcement agencies which have confirmed at least one public safety officer attended the Jan. 6 rally and are investigating specific officers’ actions. Many of those officers have either been suspended with pay or reassigned while the investigations are ongoing.
At least one other officer from Texas is reported to have entered the U.S. Capitol during the riot. That officer, Tam Pham, an 18-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, is expected to resign from the agency on Thursday, according to local news reports. Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said this week he is “highly confident” that Pham will face federal charges.
Other agencies, like the Chicago and Las Vegas police departments, have announced general investigations to determine whether any of their officers attended the rally and could have been involved in illegal activity.
U.S. Capitol Police have also suspended two officers and are investigating the actions of others for either suspected involvement with, or inappropriate support for, the demonstration.
Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.