14 Jan 2021

Olympic swimmer and cops among those charged over Capitol riots

1:02 pm on 14 January 2021

A man clad in a 'Camp Auschwitz' sweatshirt, a gold medal-winning Olympic swimmer, and a Proud Boys supporter are among those arrested by the FBI in connection with riots at the US Capitol, the Department of Justice says.

US swimmer Klete Keller.

US swimmer Klete Keller. Photo: AFP

Robert Keith Packer, a Virginia man identified as having worn the Nazi-linked shirt, was charged with unlawful entry and disorderly conduct, and allowed to be released following a virtual hearing in the US District Court in Norfolk.

According to the criminal complaint, Packer was photographed wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words Camp Auschwitz uring the assault on the Capitol. Auschwitz was the Nazi death camp where about 1.1 million people, most of them Jews, were killed in gas chambers and by other means during World War Two.

The sweatshirt also bore a skull and crossbones and the words Work Brings Freedom echoing the German slogan atop the main gate at the original Auschwitz camp.

Robert Keith Packer, a Virginia man identified as having worn the Nazi-linked shirt at the riots on Capitol Hill.

Robert Keith Packer, a Virginia man identified as having worn the Nazi-linked shirt at the riots on Capitol Hill. Photo: AFP

In a separate case, prosecutors in New York charged Eduard Florea with being a felon in possession of a firearm after the FBI said he possessed more than 1000 rounds of rifle ammunition, military combat knives, and shotgun rounds.

While Florea did not travel to the Capitol, prosecutors said he made verbal threats on the conservative social media platform Parler to carry out violence.

Florea was a supporter of the Proud Boys and had applied to become a member, the government said during his hearing.

Prosecutors said that in one threat, Florea referred on 6 January (7 January NZT) newly-elected Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, who is Black, writing: "Dead men can't pass shit laws."

Florea, from the borough of Queens in New York City, was ordered detained pending trial by US Magistrate Judge Sanket Bulsara at a virtual hearing in Brooklyn.

The judge said the government's allegations suggested that Florea's posts "make clear frankly what reflects a premeditated plan to exact violence against people in New York and people in Washington."

Also unveiled was a criminal complaint accusing the Olympic gold medalist Klete Keller of civil disorder, unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.

The Justice Department said it had brought at least 70 cases in connection with the riot at the Capitol, in which five people died as supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the building, scaled walls and ransacked offices.

A grand jury in Washington is reviewing possible additional charges.

Many of those arrested were captured on video and in photos, with some bragging about their actions. The FBI has been scouring more than 100,000 images and videos as it tries to track down suspects.

Acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia Michael Sherwin said earlier in the week that, while many people in custody were arrested on less serious charges, such as unlawful entry, some offenders may face steeper charges.

Among the possible charges some could face include seditious conspiracy or felony murder in connection with the death of a Capitol Police officer.

Off-duty police officers charged

The Justice Department on Wednesday (local time) also charged Thomas Robertson and Jacob Fracker - two off duty police officers from Rocky Mount, Virginia - after they were photographed inside the Capitol "making an obscene statement in front of a statue of (Revolutionary hero) John Stark."

In social media posts, the FBI quoted Robertson 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***** US Capitol. Keep poking us."

A police spokeswoman in a statement said the two officers had been placed on administrative leave pending review of the matter.

Several other suspects tied to the events at the Capitol also made initial appearances in federal courts across the United States.

William Pepe, 31, appeared in a federal court in White Plains, New York after having been identified as being among the protesters, leading to his suspension from his job with the Metro-North commuter railroad.

Bail was set at $10,000, and Pepe will have to surrender a shotgun and hunting knife he owns. The presiding judge told him the events of January 6 "changed the trajectory of your life."

Others facing similar charges unveiled on Wednesday included Nicholas Rodean of Maryland, Andrew Williams of Florida, Josiah Colt of Idaho and Kevin Loftus of Wisconsin, the Justice Department said

- Reuters

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs