In a criminal complaint filed against three alleged leaders of the January 6th attack on the United States Capitol, the United States government notes that a small group of “self-styled” militia members made a plan to storm the building in the days and weeks before the incident and communicated during the breach, trying to find lawmakers.
“Welf-styled militia members from Virginia, Ohio and other states made plans to storm the U.S. Capitol days in advance of the Jan. 6 attack, and then communicated in real-time as they breached the building on opposite sides and talked about hunting for lawmakers, according to court documents filed Tuesday,” The Washington Post reported, citing the complaint.
The three suspects are U.S. military veterans, and all three allegedly made “statements that indicate a degree of preparation and determination to rush deep into the halls and tunnels of Congress to make ‘citizens’ arrests’ of elected officials,” according to the outlet.
The three allegedly agreed to “storm the castle” during a rally outside the U.S. Capitol building on January 6 — a rally that was billed as a demonstration against certifying the results of November’s presidential election, but quickly turned into a riot, leaving 5 dead and dozens injured. According to a series of text messages included in the complaint, the trio communicated in the days and weeks leading up to the attack, coordinating a group of 30-40 people to lead the way into and through the Capitol.
“We have about 30-40 of us. We are sticking together and sticking to the plan,” one of the accused, Jessica Watkins, told the other two during the incident, in audio recorded from Zello, a cell phone app that allows users to communicate as if they were using two-way radios.
“You are executing citizen’s arrest. Arrest this assembly, we have probable cause for acts of treason, election fraud,” a man can be heard responding.
“We are in the main dome right now. We are rocking it. They are throwing grenades, they are fricking shooting people with paintballs. But we are in here,” a woman believed to be Watkins, shot back.
The three individuals communicating allude to “training” and a “plan,” implying that the Capitol breach was pre-meditated, not a spur-of-the-moment incident as many believe.
“FBI charging papers against [alleged ringleader Thomas Edward] Caldwell, [Jessica] Watkins and a third person, former U.S. Marine Donovan Crowl, 50, allege that Caldwell and others coordinated in advance to disrupt Congress scouted for lodging and recruited Oath Keepers members from North Carolina and like-minded groups from the Shenandoah Valley,” per The Washington Post. “The group claims thousands of members who assert the right to defy government orders they deem improper. The plotters both anticipated violence and continued to act in concert after the break-in, investigators alleged.”
Not all of the individuals arrested on charges relating to the Capitol riot appear to be affiliated with Caldwell, Watkins, or Crowl, or their respective, “self-styled” militia groups, but the information could provide law enforcement officials with an idea of how thousands of people were able to storm the Capitol, breach security, and get within feet of prominent lawmakers.