US Justice Department investigating officers involved in Capitol riots

Officials say law enforcement officers may have participated in attack while off duty

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 15: Soldiers salute one another at the US Capitol ahead of the inauguration on January 15, 2021 in Washington, DC. After last week's Capitol Riot security has increased around the Capitol and the FBI has warned of additional threats against the US Capitol and in all 50 states.   Liz Lynch/Getty Images/AFP
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The US Department of Justice is investigating current and former law enforcement officers in connection with the Capitol riot, officials said on Friday.

The department has already opened 275 criminal cases and charged nearly 100 people in connection with the riots that left five dead on January 6, US investigators said. The number of criminal cases could go up to 300 by the end of Friday, said Michael Sherwin, acting US Attorney for the District of Columbia.

Mr Sherwin said the investigations involve current and former law enforcement officers. "Unfortunately, as this case goes on, we're seeing indications that law enforcement officers, both former and current, maybe who were off duty, participating in this riot activity," Mr Sherwin told reporters.

"We don't care what your profession is, who you are, who you are affiliated with. If you are conducting or engaged in criminal activity, we will charge you and you will be arrested.”

Two of those arrested and charged this week were police officers from the state of Virginia. They participated in the riots while off duty, the Justice Department said.

The Seattle Police Department has put two officers on paid leave while it investigates their potential involvement.

“We are not cutting deals with anyone. Even if people are self-reporting, they will be held accountable," Mr Sherwin said.

But Mr Sherwin said that at the moment, authorities do not have any evidence of “kill-capture teams" at the attack. He said “there are breadcrumbs of organisation”, but it will take weeks, if not months, to determine whether there was "overarching command and control.”

FBI Assistant Director Steven D'Antuano said at the briefing that authorities have now received more than 140,000 photos and videos from the public during the investigation. "Even your friends and family are tipping us off,” he said.

“The full force of the FBI is investigating the heinous acts we saw last week. We will leave no stone unturned until we locate and apprehend anyone who participated in the violence,” Mr D’Antuano said.

The FBI has said it has received reports of nationwide armed protests that will occur in the days leading up to president-elect Joe Biden's inauguration.