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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Guns and the Insurrection

Gabrielle Settles at PolitiFact:

PolitiFact reviewed the case files of approximately 430 defendants who were arrested and charged for their actions at the Capitol. We found several defendants who police say were found to have brought firearms with them. Some were charged with having firearms on Capitol grounds, while others stashed them away while in Washington.

They included:

Lonnie Coffman of Alabama: Police found multiple firearms and weapons in Coffman’s possession. Coffman’s truck, which he had parked in the vicinity of the Capitol on the morning of Jan. 6, was packed with weaponry including a handgun, a rifle and a shotgun, each loaded, according to court documents. In addition, the truck held hundreds of rounds of ammunition, several large-capacity ammunition feeding devices, a crossbow with bolts, machetes, camouflage smoke devices, a stun gun and 11 Molotov cocktails.

Court records and video surveillance footage show that Coffman, who had ties to militia groups, parked the vehicle near the Capitol at 9:15 a.m. that day. The documents say that after he got out of his pickup truck at 9:20 a.m., he joined a crowd of people who walked directly to the Capitol building.

He was detained later that evening as an unnamed woman was driving him back toward his truck. Police questioned Coffman and searched him, finding two more handguns on his person. None of the weapons were registered, documents state.

Guy Reffitt of Texas: Reffitt was charged with bringing a handgun onto Capitol grounds. Court documents showed that Reffitt, reported in court documents to be a member of the militia group Three Percenters, told his family he brought his gun with him and that he and others "stormed the Capitol."

Christopher Michael Alberts of Maryland: Alberts brought his handgun onto Capitol grounds. An officer saw that Alberts had a gun on his hip and alerted fellow officers. When Alberts tried to flee, officers detained him and recovered the loaded handgun along with a separate magazine.

The total number of people who carried firearms with them that day may not ever be fully accounted for because the majority of those involved in the siege were not arrested on-site but were tracked down by law enforcement days, weeks and months later.

It’s also worth noting that the definition of "armed" is not legally limited to guns — it refers to any weapon used for defense or offense and used as a means of protection. Other items used as weapons Jan. 6 included bats, crutches, flagpoles, skateboards, fire extinguishers and chemical sprays.

Adam Klasfeld at Law and Crime:

An Oath Keepers member who knows about the stash of firearms the extremist group stored inside a hotel just outside of Washington, D.C. plans to plead guilty to two charges related to the Jan. 6th siege of the Capitol on Tuesday, according to recently unsealed documents.

Caleb Berry joins at least three other members of the militia organization to have agreed to assist prosecutors, following the guilty plea and cooperation deal of 54-year-old Mark Grods in late June. Two other notable defections from the group, heavy metal guitarist Jon Schaffer and Florida man Graydon Young, are said to have left the Oath Keepers fractured.

The unsealing of Berry’s case on Tuesday delivers another blow to the Oath Keepers, with an alleged member whom court papers place at the center of the group’s antics on Jan. 6th.

According to unsealed documents, Berry intends to plead guilty to two counts of conspiracy and obstructing an official proceeding. Berry took part in the group’s military “stack” formation at the Capitol, joining a violent mob that assaulted law enforcement, prosecutors say.

“At the top of the steps, Berry and others known and unknown joined and then pushed forward as part of a mob that aggressively advanced towards the Rotunda Doors at the central east entrance to the Capitol, assaulted the officers guarding the doors, threw objects and sprayed chemicals towards the officers and the doors, and pulled violently on the doors,” Berry’s criminal information states.

Prosecutors say that Berry and others forced their way into the doors of the Capitol at 2:40 p.m.

They are said to have left the building some 14 minutes later.

On Jan. 7, Berry “and others known and unknown retrieved firearms from the Comfort Inn Ballston hotel in Arlington, Virginia,” according to the criminal information.