Two Virginia police officers suspended over role in Capitol riot

Accused officers claim they have been terminated as dozens of police across the US are investigated for role in riot.

Supporters of former President Donald Trump gather at the west entrance of the Capitol during a 'Stop the Steal' protest on January 6, 2021 [File: Stephanie Keith/Reuters]

Two United States police officers from the state of Virginia charged in the Capitol riot have been suspended without pay after federal authorities alleged they violently entered the Capitol during the insurrection.

Sergeant Thomas Robertson and Officer Jacob Fracker, officers with Rocky Mount Police Department in Virginia, were arrested on January 13 on charges of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or without lawful authority, a petty offence.

The maximum penalty for the misdemeanour count of violent entry is a year sentence, and six months for the petty offence of knowingly entering the Capitol.

The men have claimed they were allowed inside the Capitol by police and committed no violence. They were identified after a photo showing the police officers inside the Capitol was widely shared.

Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson, off-duty Rocky Mount, Virginia police officers, gesture in a selfie during the storming of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on January 6, 2021 [File: Instagram via Reuters]

Social media posts included in the federal complaint claim Robertson said on social media: “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.”

The town of Rocky Mount and their police department said in a joint statement they “are fully aware of the serious nature of the information contained in the federal arrest warrants and are continuing to assist with federal agents as they investigate this matter”.

Robertson told the Roanoke Times on Saturday he and Fracker have been fired.

“We were both terminated”, Robertson told the newspaper.

Robertson said the police department is allowing the men to resign or retire before it makes the news public.

“I will not be resigning. I’ll fight this at every step”, Robertson claimed.

A Rocky Mount police spokesman told Al Jazeera he could not comment on the situation, but that a suspension without pay is not equivalent to being fired.

The January 6 riot to stop a joint session of Congress from certifying President Joe Biden’s electoral victory occurred after former President Donald Trump made false claims about voter fraud for months.

Supporters loyal to President Donald Trump clash with authorities before successfully breaching the Capitol on January 6, 2021 [File: John Minchillo/AP Photo]

Trump will face an historic second impeachment trial in February for “incitement” of the riot following a speech he gave to his supporters at a rally in Washington, DC. It is scheduled to begin on February 9.

Riot participants ranged from far-right militia members, conspiracy theorists linked to QAnon and white supremacists to police and US military personnel, raising questions about the far-right movement’s infiltration of law enforcement and the military.

Other rioters, including Members of the Oath Keepers, a paramilitary group that believes in a “shadowy conspiracy” to strip Americans of their rights that recruits former law enforcement and military officers, have been charged with conspiracy over the Capitol occupation.

The US Justice Department lists 96 arrests and another nine suspects making court appearances in connection with the riots.

Fracker is a corporal and an infantryman with the Virginia Army National Guard and Robertson was a former military police officer in the US Army, the Army Times reported.

An Associated Press survey found that at least 31 police officers across the US are being investigated by superiors for their involvement in the riot.

Source: Al Jazeera