Two Virginia police officers charged in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol have military backgrounds — with one still serving as a corporal in the National Guard.
Jacob Fracker, an infantryman with the Virginia National Guard who previously served as a Marine, and Thomas Robertson, an Army veteran, were arrested in Virginia on Wednesday.
Fracker is the first person currently serving in the U.S. military known to have been charged following last week’s mob at the Capitol.
Fracker and Robertson are both members of the Rocky Mount Police Department, about 25 miles outside Roanoke. They’ve been placed on administrative leave, according to their department, after each was charged with one count of knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
The Virginia National Guard declined to release more details about Fracker’s career or unit, saying more information would be disclosed following an investigation. A.A. “Cotton” Puryear, a spokesman for the state’s Guard, said Fracker was not among the National Guard members dispatched to Washington, D.C., to provide security ahead of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
Fracker did not respond to a request for comment from Military.com. Robertson, who according to a 2011 report from the Franklin News-Post served four years with the Army in the 1990s and later deployed to Iraq with a Virginia Beach Army Reserve unit, could not be reached for comment.
The Franklin News-Post story on Robertson from 10 years ago details wounds that he suffered in a mortar blast while deployed, which he told the paper “should have killed me.”
Fracker and Robertson were photographed in the Capitol “making an obscene statement in front of a statue of John Stark,” according to the Justice Department. Stark was a military officer who fought in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.
A statement of facts on the pair posted by the DOJ on Wednesday says that, at the time they were photographed, Fracker and Robertson were off duty from their positions with the Rocky Mount Police Department.
In a screenshot of a now-deleted Facebook post made by Fracker, included in the DOJ’s statement, the corporal wrote that he can protest for what he believes in, adding, “After all, I fought for your right to do it.”
Fracker, according to the DOJ, also 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.”
Robertson, the DOJ’s documents show, is quoted as saying, “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.”
He also stated, according to the DOJ, that he was “proud” of the photo in an Instagram post that was shared to Facebook because he was “willing to put skin in the game.”
Before joining the Virginia National Guard, Fracker served as a Marine infantry rifleman from 2010 to 2014. He deployed to Afghanistan twice and left the service as a corporal.
His last assignment was with the North Carolina-based 1st Battalion, 8th Marines. He earned a Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal and Combat Action Ribbon during his time in the Corps.
Fracker and Robertson are among a growing group of people with military ties who’ve been questioned or charged in the wake of last week’s violent takeover of the U.S. Capitol.
In a call with reporters Thursday, defense officials were asked how many current or former service members are under investigation for their possible involvement last week. The Pentagon officials referred all questions to the Justice Department. The DOJ and FBI did not immediately respond to questions about the matter.
ABC News reported this week that retired SEAL Adam Newbold, who retired in 2017 and was working as a Navy contractor, was questioned by the FBI after he posted a now-deleted video on Facebook appearing to praise the mob’s actions at the Capitol. Newbold told Task & Purpose that he did not go inside the building.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Larry Rendall Brock Jr., who was photographed carrying zip-tie handcuffs and wearing military patches on a flak jacket during the siege, was arrested and charged over the weekend. Jacob Anthony Angeli Chansley, who served in the Navy for two years, was also arrested after he was photographed inside the Capitol wearing a fur headdress with horns and face paint.
Top military leaders took the unusual step this week of addressing the Jan. 6 mob at the Capitol, calling the situation inconsistent with the U.S. rule of law and a direct assault on the American way of life.
“The rights of freedom of speech and assembly do not give anyone the right to resort to violence, sedition and insurrection,” the memo sent to the entire military and signed by eight general and flag officers states. “… “Any act to disrupt the Constitutional process is not only against our traditions, values, and oath; it is against the law.”
At a virtual federal court hearing in Virginia on Wednesday, HuffPost reported, the district’s top prosecutor requested that Fracker and Robertson be put on GPS monitors and be required to stay away from Washington, D.C.
“I have no need or desire to go to the city of Washington, D.C.,” Robertson said, according to the news site. “I’m a 27-year police veteran and an honorably discharged United States Army veteran with service in Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan and Nicaragua. Again, I have no indication or any reason to be in D.C. and will not be.”
The judge, citing the defendants’ military and law enforcement service, said he would not put the defendants on GPS monitors as the government requested, but said they could not have firearms in their home, restricted their travel, and ordered them to stay away from public demonstrations, HuffPost reported.
Politico reported last week that a police officer with the Metropolitan Police Department in Washington, D.C., wrote in a public Facebook post that off-duty police officers and military members were among the rioters at the Capitol, flashing their badges and ID cards as they attempted to overrun the building.
“If these people can storm the Capitol building with no regard to punishment, you have to wonder how much they abuse their powers when they put on their uniforms,” the officer wrote, according to Politico.
The Capitol and D.C. police departments did not respond to questions about the statement.