First Responders

Multiple First Responders Among Arrests as Law Enforcement Investigates Capitol Siege

January 19, 2021Joshua Skovlund
police walk with rioters at capitol

Police officers could be seen walking with the rioters as they breached the initial layers of defense around the Capitol on Jan. 6. Screengrab from YouTube. Composite image by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Both active and former members of the first responder and military communities have been charged in connection with the attack on the US Capitol on Jan. 6 as Congress began to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s win. Arrests are being made across the country as local, state, and federal law enforcement continue to work together and investigate the thousands of tips, videos, photos, and other information that the public has submitted. 

The Washington Post reported that at least 13 law enforcement officers “are suspected of taking part in the riot.” That number is expected to grow as investigators locate people identified in the various digital media they have collected. FBI Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono said Friday that they have identified more than 270 suspects, and more than 100 suspects have been arrested so far. 

The Department of Justice has an ongoing tracker of arrests and charges connected with the Jan. 6 attack. As of Sunday, the DOJ has listed charges for 68 people and identified two of them as Virginia police officers and another as a retired Philadelphia firefighter. 

first responders in Capitol riots
Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson in front of the John Stark statue in the Capitol building. Photo courtesy of Sean King/Twitter.

The two Virginia police officers, identified by the DOJ as Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson, were arrested Wednesday and charged with “knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and violent entry” and “disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds,” according to a DOJ press release. The officers — allegedly photographed inside the Capitol making an “obscene gesture” in front of a John Stark statue — are with the Rocky Mount, Virginia, Police Department and both have been placed on administrative leave, according to an RMPD statement.

A 55-year-old retired firefighter, identified by the DOJ as Robert Sanford, has been charged with assaulting with a fire extinguisher three unidentified US Capitol Police officers during the seige on the Capitol. The DOJ did not specify whether one of the USCP officers struck by Sanford was Brian Sicknick, who was hit by a fire extinguisher while attempting to defend the Capitol and died Jan. 7 from his injuries, according to The New York Times

Chief Art Acevedo of the Houston Police Department announced during a Wednesday press conference that one of the department’s officers was placed on leave after being recognized as present at the Capitol on Jan. 6. Acevedo later confirmed via Twitter that the officer, identified by ABC News as 48-year-old Tam Pham, had officially resigned Thursday. Pham worked for the HPD for 18 years and was assigned to Westside Patrol, said ABC News, which reported that Pham has hired an attorney to represent himself. However, at the time of publication, Pham has not been listed by the DOJ as one of the people charged in connection with the Jan. 6 attacks. 

“I can’t tell you the anger I feel at the thought of a police officer and other police officers thinking they get to storm the Capitol,” Acevedo said during the press conference.

Several other departments have identified officers as having participated in or being present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, per a Forbes report

According to the acting USCP Chief Yogananda Pittman, there is even evidence of insider assistance during the attack; several US Capitol Police officers are under investigation, with some already suspended for their actions or inaction during the siege. The USCP did not return requests for further information about the officers under suspension and whether any officers have been arrested in connection with the Capitol attack. 

“The Department also has been actively reviewing video and other open-source materials of some USCP officers and officials that appear to be in violation of Department regulations and policies,” reads the statement from Pittman. “Our Office of Professional Responsibility will investigate these behaviors for disciplinary action, up to and including termination. Several USCP officers have already been suspended pending the outcome of their investigations.”

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion.

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