Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military, cops
As President Donald Trump’s supporters massed outside the Capitol last week and sang the national anthem, a line of men wearing olive-drab helmets and body armour trudged purposefully up the marble stairs in a single-file line, each man holding the jacket collar of the one ahead.
The formation, known as ‘Ranger File’, is standard operating procedure for a combat team that is “stacking up” to breach a building — instantly recognisable to any US soldier or marine who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a chilling sign that many at the vanguard of the mob that stormed the seat of American democracy either had military training or were trained by those who did.
An Associated Press review of public records, social media posts and videos shows at least 21 current or former members of the US military or law enforcement have been identified as being at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation but not yet named. In many cases, those who stormed the Capitol appeared to employ tactics, body armour and technology such as two-way radio headsets that were similar to those of the very police they were confronting.
Experts in homegrown extremism have warned for years about efforts by far-right militants and white-supremacist groups to radicalise and recruit people with military and law enforcement training, and they say the January 6 insurrection that left five people dead saw some of their worst fears realised.
“ISIS and al-Qaida would drool over having someone with the training and experience of a US military officer,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent and fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. “These people have training and capabilities that far exceed what any foreign terrorist group can do. Foreign terrorist groups don’t have any members who have badges.”
Among the most prominent to emerge is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and decorated combat veteran from Texas who was arrested after he was photographed wearing a helmet and body armour on the floor of the Senate, holding a pair of zip-tie handcuffs.
Another Air Force veteran from San Diego was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer as she tried to leap through a barricade near the House chamber. A retired Navy SEAL, among the most elite special warfare operators in the military, posted a Facebook video about travelling from his Ohio home to the rally and seemingly approving of the invasion of “our building, our house”.
Two police officers from a small Virginia town, both of them former infantrymen, were arrested by the FBI after posting a selfie of themselves inside the Capitol, one flashing his middle finger at the camera.
Also under scrutiny is an active-duty psychological warfare captain from North Carolina who organised three busloads of people who headed to Washington for the ‘Save America’ rally in support the president’s false claim that the November election was stolen from him.