A West Virginia Republican lawmaker who livestreamed his involvement in storming the US Capitol in Washington has been charged with entering a restricted area and the building.
Derrick Evans, 34, was elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates and sworn into office last month. On Wednesday, he recorded himself behind a group of rioters entering the Capitol building as part of an attempted coup in which one woman was shot and killed, and a police officer was injured and later died.
Ken Kohl, the acting principal assistant to the US attorney, announced the charges Friday as he learned of them, he said, during a call regarding federal charges for those who ransacked the halls of Congress on Wednesday.
Around the same time as the charges were announced, Evans released a statement from his attorney, John Bryan, saying the lawmaker “did nothing wrong” and that he was “exercising his First Amendment rights to peacefully protest and film a historic and dynamic event."
“He engaged in no violence, no rioting, no destruction of property, and no illegal behavior,” the statement continued, alleging that Evans was in fact there not as a legislator, but as a political activist and amateur journalist.
Bryan added that Evans would not be resigning his position in public office as he was not a part of the group that committed “despicable acts of violence and destruction of property,” and that he “deeply regrets that such actions occurred during an otherwise peaceful and expressive day.”
Evans livestreamed the event on Facebook while wearing a helmet and military-style garments. He removed the video later in the day, and by Friday his Facebook was no longer active, but his videos were recorded and uploaded onto several other social media platforms.
Evans’ video shows the Republican lawmaker cheering on those around him as they expended significant effort opening a set of closed doors to the Capitol and pushing their way inside.
"We're in, we're in, we're in, let's go, keep it moving, baby!" Evans can be heard yelling between violently coughing in a dense crowd. “Move! Move! Move!” he joins in chanting.
Once inside, he turned the camera onto himself several times and yelled, "Derrick Evans is in the Capitol!"
Evans posted a statement on Facebook after the violence subsided, saying he did not participate in “any destruction that may have occurred." At one point in the video, he can also be heard telling others who invaded the Capitol not to damage anything and to respect the building.
Evans is a known anti-abortion activist and vocal supporter of President Donald Trump who regularly pushes conspiracy theories and lies surrounding COVID-19 and the presidential election. In the months leading up to Wednesday, Evans shared posts advocating for Trump supporters to bear arms, and on Jan. 1, he posted a photo of guns and ammunition on the ground in the shape of the words "Happy New Year."
Bryan’s statement on behalf of his client alleged that the doors were opened either from the inside by members of the pro-Trump mob who were already in the building, or by security officers.
“Evans was not engaged with, nor did he organize, any group of protestors that day,” Bryan’s statement added, emphasizing the idea that Evans entered the Capitol as a journalist. “Rather, as evidenced by his videos, Evans can be observed interviewing attendees, who were strangers to him.”