More Capitol rioters in viral posts arrested, senator urges social media providers to keep data

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Adam Christian Johnson, who was arrested on a federal warrant, poses in a Pinellas County jail booking photograph released January 9, 2021. Pinellas County Sheriff's Office/Handout via REUTERS.

 (Reuters) – Federal agents arrested two more Capitol Hill rioters whose images had gone viral, of one carrying off the House Speaker’s lectern and another who wore horns and a fur pelt, while a top Democratic lawmaker called on mobile carriers to preserve social media content related to the carnage.

Dozens of people have been charged following the storming of the Capitol on Wednesday, with the FBI asking the public to help identify participants, given the proliferation of images of the riots on the internet. Five people have died, including a police officer.

Jacob Anthony Chansley, who featured prominently on social media wearing horns, a fur pelt, face paint and brandishing a spear adorned with the U.S. flag, turned himself in to police, the Department of Justice said.

Chansley, also known as Jake Angeli, called the FBI’s Washington office on Thursday and voluntarily spoke to law enforcement, the DOJ said.

“Chansley said that he came as part of a group effort with other ‘patriots’ from Arizona, at the request of the President that all ‘patriots’ come to D.C. on January 6, 2021,” the DOJ said in a release.

Federal agents also arrested Adam Christian Johnson, whose photo as he smiled and waved as he carried off House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s lectern had also gone viral. Johnson, of Parrish, Florida, also streamed live video on Facebook of himself as he walked the halls of the Capitol, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

The video has been removed from online platforms and all his pages have been taken down.

On Saturday U.S. Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat who is the incoming Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged mobile carriers to preserve content and associated meta-data connected to the riot, which erupted as lawmakers gathered to certify the election of President-elect Joe Biden.

He sent letters to AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Apple, Facebook, Gab, Google, Parler, Signal, Telegram and Twitter.

Warner, in his letters to the companies, emphasized how the rioters took time to document the event and post them via social media and text messages “to celebrate their disdain for our democratic process.”

Before his arrest, NBC network reported, Chansley gloated about how the crowd infiltrated the Capitol, forcing lawmakers to flee.

“The fact that we had a bunch of traitors in office, hunkered down, put on gas masks and retreat to their underground bunker, I consider that a win,” he said to NBC News.

Chansley faces several federal charges including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Media reports said he had often been seen at rallies supporting President Donald Trump. Efforts by Reuters on Saturday to reach his relatives were unsuccessful, as were attempts to contact Johnson’s family.

The Miami Herald reported that on Johnson’s social media pages, which have been taken down, he boasted of being in Washington ahead of the riots.

It was unclear where Chansley was being held Saturday, or whether he or Johnson had legal representation.

Johnson, who has a first appearance in federal court on Monday, is being charged out of Washington.

There were at least 13 people facing criminal charges in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in connection to the riot, and at least another 40 people faced lesser charges in the District of Columbia Superior Court, a local venue.

Many of them were arraigned on Thursday and released, with an order from the judge to not return to Washington unless for court appearances or meetings with their attorneys.

They included Richard Barnett, the Gravette, Arkansas, man who was photographed sitting at Pelosi’s desk.

Among those arrested Friday for participating in the riot was West Virginia House of Delegates member Derrick Evans, who announced his resignation on Saturday.

In a one-sentence letter to West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, Evans wrote: “I hereby resign as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates, effective immediately.”

Media reports quoted Evans as saying he wanted to apologize for his actions, and that he did not want create a distraction.

Evans live-streamed himself entering the Capitol on Wednesday, and was recorded saying, “We’re in, we’re in! Derrick Evans is in the Capitol,” the Justice Department said in a release.

The FBI and Washington’s police department are jointly investigating the death of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who was injured while defending the Capitol. Flags at the Capitol were lowered to half-staff on Friday in his honor.

Capitol Police have said the Washington police’s homicide unit was investigating the death.

“Just because you’ve left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out you were part of the criminal activity at the Capitol,” Steven D’antuono, the FBI Washington Field Office’s assistant director in charge, said on Friday.