Two years after January 6, US investigators still hunting for rioters

More than 950 people have been arrested over the storming of the Capitol

Supporters of Donald Trump riot in front of the US Capitol building on January 6, 2021. Reuters
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In the two years since Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington, more than 950 people have been arrested.

But investigators in what has been called the largest criminal investigation in America's 246- year history are still hunting for rioters.

The inquiry has covered nearly every state in the US.

“Countless agents, investigators, prosecutors, analysts and others across the Justice Department have participated in one of the largest, most complex, and most resource-intensive investigations in our history,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

Nearly 300 people have been charged with “assaulting, resisting or impeding officers” and 99 have been charged with using a deadly weapon to cause “serious bodily injury to an officer”.

About 140 police officers were injured during the riot, which started shortly after Mr Trump gave a fiery speech in which he insisted the 2020 election was “stolen” and urged his supporters to march towards the Capitol building to “demand that Congress do the right thing”.

The then-president also called for protesters to act “peacefully and patriotically”.

Instead, images of rioters ransacking the Capitol were splashed across TV screens around the world. As the mob swept through the building, elected officials including vice president Mike Pence fled into the belly of the building.

The electoral vote certifying President Joe Biden's victory was temporarily halted, only to be resumed later that night after the building had been cleared.

About 860 people have been charged with entering the Capitol building and 50 have been charged with conspiracy to “obstruct congressional proceedings”.

Of those arrested, 484 pleaded guilty to a variety of federal charges. They include four who pleaded guilty to seditious conspiracy.

Javed Ali, a former senior intelligence analyst at the FBI and an associate professor of practice at the Gerald R Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, praised the Department of Justice’s efforts to prosecute those responsible for January 6.

“It has brought some measure of accountability to a large segment of the people who were part of the insurrection and perhaps in the moment thought that they would be able to get away with what they did on the criminal side or that there wouldn't be any repercussions,” Mr Ali told The National.

“At that level, the DOJ effort has been successful.”

While some defendants were given light sentences, others have received serious prison time.

Thomas Webster, a former Marine and New York City police officer, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for assaulting an officer with a flagpole. His is the longest sentence handed down to January 6 protesters to date.

According the Washington DC Department of Corrections, there are still 21 people in the city's jail awaiting trial over the riot.

Some have criticised the legal response to the events of January 6.

“The Department of Justice and the FBI have been weaponised against people who believe in the core principles and values of America and the US Constitution,” said Thomas Speciale, who was present at the January 6 rally in support of Mr Trump but who said he did not enter the Capitol.

Mr Speciale, who was interviewed by the Senate Committee to investigate the January 6 attack on the Capitol, acknowledged that some people clearly committed crimes and deserved to be prosecuted but believed some of have been turned into “political prisoners”.

The Justice Department is still trying to identify 350 people who are believed to have committed a violent crime during the insurrection.

And a would-be pipe bomber who placed explosives outside the Democratic and Republican National committee headquarters in Washington remains at large.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation this week increased the reward for information leading to an arrest to $500,000.

The FBI has poured over 39,000 video files and conducted more than 1,000 interviews in its search for the suspect who was recorded on CCTV footage leaving the devices near the Capitol.

“With the significantly increased reward, we urge those who may have previously hesitated to contact us — or who may not have realised they had important information — to review the information on our website and come forward with anything relevant,” said David Sundberg, assistant director in charge of the FBI Washington Field Office.

“Despite the unprecedented volume of data review involved in this case, the FBI and our partners continue to work relentlessly to bring the perpetrator of these dangerous attempted attacks to justice.”

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Updated: January 06, 2023, 12:00 PM
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