US prosecutors now believe supporters of President Donald Trump planned to “capture and assassinate elected officials” in their siege of the Capitol building last week, according to a new court filing.
The filing, submitted by Justice Department lawyers late on Thursday, sought the detention of Jacob Chansley of Arizona, the QAnon conspiracy theorist who was photographed wearing horns standing at the desk of Vice President Mike Pence in the chamber of the US Senate.
“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” prosecutors wrote.
The detention memo, written by Justice Department lawyers in Arizona, goes into greater detail about the FBI’s investigation into Chansley, revealing that he left a note for Pence warning that “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming”.
A public defender representing Chansley could not be reached immediately for comment. Chansley is due to appear in a federal court on Friday.
The prosecutors’ assessment comes as they and federal agents have begun bringing more serious charges tied to violence at the Capitol, including revealing cases on Thursday against one man, retired firefighter Robert Sanford, on charges that he hurled a fire extinguisher at the head of one police officer and another, Peter Stager, of beating a different officer with a pole bearing an American flag.
In Chansley’s case, prosecutors said the charges “involve active participation in an insurrection attempting to violently overthrow the United States government”, and warned that “the insurrection is still in progress” as law enforcement prepares for more demonstrations in Washington, DC and state capitals.
They also suggested he suffers from drug abuse and mental illness, and told the judge he poses a serious flight risk.
“Chansley has spoken openly about his belief that he is an alien, a higher being, and he is here on Earth to ascend to another reality,” they wrote.
The Justice Department has brought more than 80 criminal cases in connection with the violent riots at the US Capitol last week, in which Trump’s supporters stormed the building, ransacked offices and in some cases, attacked police.
The filing gives further insight into the FBI inquiry on the day of chaos, which left elected officials holed up fearing for their lives and at least five people dead, including one police officer.
Many of the people charged so far were easily tracked down by the FBI, which has more than 200 suspects, thanks in large part to videos and photos posted on social media.
Michael Sherwin, the acting US attorney for the District of Columbia, has said while many of the initial charges may seem minor, he expects much more serious charges to be filed as the Justice Department continues its investigation.
In a bipartisan vote, Trump was impeached on Wednesday for “incitement of insurrection” by egging on a huge crowd of his supporters to march on Congress.
The centre of Washington, DC was in lockdown early on Friday as more than 20,000 armed National Guard troops were mobilised after officials warned of the threat of more violence at the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden on January 20, as well as in state capitals.