WASHINGTON — A Capitol Police officer facing disciplinary action told investigators that he posed for a photo with a suspect during the Jan. 6 riot in order to identify him later.
But the officer never shared that plan with his supervisor, the Capitol Police’s investigations unit or the FBI. It was only when the FBI contacted the Capitol Police about the officer’s photo in Facebook posts they were using to obtain an arrest warrant that the officer filled in his supervisors, according to internal investigation documents obtained by McClatchy.
The officer, whose name is redacted from the documents, is one of six facing disciplinary action related to the Jan. 6 riot when supporters of former President Donald Trump mobbed the Capitol building as lawmakers were certifying the 2020 presidential election results.
Three of the cases recommended for disciplinary action after internal investigations by the Office of Professional Responsibility involved Capitol Police officers who allegedly posed for photographs with rioters, according to the documents.
The law enforcement agency announced Saturday that its Office of Professional Responsibility had recommended disciplinary action against six officers following 38 internal investigations, but did not release details of the investigations.
Many of the cases that were dismissed involved officers who could not be identified by investigators, others that prompted a call for disciplinary action involved photographs and video.
The documents obtained by McClatchy reveal new details about the alleged behavior of a number of officers during the attack on the Capitol.
The FBI alerted the Capitol Police in February of a photograph of an officer posing with a riot suspect as the agency sought an arrest warrant using the suspect’s social media posts.
“The arrest warrants are public so I just wanted to give you a heads up that this is happening so you all aren’t blindsided by it,” the FBI investigator told Capitol Police in an email.
The Capitol Police officer said the suspect appeared to be an “alpha male” leading a group of Trump supporters inside the Capitol, so he approached him. “I specifically took the picture so I can refer to that guy,” the officer told investigators.
But the internal investigation noted that the officer did not use his own phone to take the photo or obtain any of the suspect’s information if that was his goal. “I didn‘t want to know the guy,” the officer said, according to the documents.
Investigators found the officer had committed “conduct unbecoming,” which is also the accusation against two other officers who allegedly posed for photos.
One of those officers facing disciplinary action was filmed posing for photos with multiple rioters, the investigation found.
He became known as the “selfie officer” and the department received “numerous complaints, via telephone and at least 170 emails received in one day, regarding photographs that appeared in news stories and on a live Twitter video of a USCP officer posing with rioters after the Capitol Building was Breached,” one of the investigation documents stated.
The officer told investigators he was seeking to defuse the situation.
“I can’t help what they do. If you want to take a photo, I’m not going to say no because we are always told to interact and keep the situation calm,” he said, according to the documents.
But investigators determined that even if the officer thought he was calming the situation, “his actions were inappropriate under the circumstances, and reflected negatively upon himself as a representative of the Department.”
Another officer who allegedly posed for a photo testified that he did not remember and pointed to the trauma of the day.
“I had people coming up to me and videoing me all day long. Pictures and videos of officers all day long. So, I mean, there was a lot going on that day,” the officer said, according to the documents. “This is after being CS sprayed, OC sprayed, fighting with protesters all day ... Plus that, that’s a traumatic life event.”
Capitol Police said Saturday that it shared the investigation documents with the Department of Justice as part of its discovery process. The DOJ did not immediately comment on their contents Tuesday.
Asked about the officers posing for photographs, the Capitol Police pointed to its comment from Saturday.
“The Department is committed to accountability when officers fail to meet the standards governed by USCP policies and the Congressional Community’s expectations,” the statement said. “The six sustained cases should not diminish the heroic efforts of the United States Capitol Police officers.”
In addition to the cases of unbecoming conduct, a special agent in the department’s Protective Services Bureau faces disciplinary action on an allegation of improper dissemination of information.
The allegation stems from a conversation the officer had with a friend the week after the riot in which he allegedly revealed information about the secure location he helped evacuate lawmakers to during the riot.
The friend, who is referred to as “ANONYMOUS” in the documents, called the FBI tip line to report the conversation and expressed concerns that the agent subscribed to Trump’s election conspiracy theories.
“I don’t want to report a friend of forty years but he’s says enough concerning statements that I feel like I need to do this... he’s just fallen into this cult and these beliefs,” the documents quote the anonymous friend as saying in a subsequent interview with Capitol Police.
The agent denied that he was sympathetic to the cause of the rioters, but he acknowledged that he may have inadvertently shared information about the secure location.
“I can’t say one hundred percent that I didn’t do what you’re telling me I did,” the agent told investigators.
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