A Virginia man was arrested at an inauguration checkpoint in Washington, DC, on Friday evening after Capitol Police officers searched his truck and found a gun and more than 500 rounds of ammunition.
But the man, 31-year-old Wesley Beeler, told BuzzFeed News it was just a "mistake" and that he didn't know the local firearms laws.
Beeler's arrest comes as the military and police have essentially locked down huge portions of Washington — with at least 15,000 National Guard troops, around 4,000 law enforcement officers, and a network of closed roads — after insurrectionists led by President Donald Trump attempted a coup at the Capitol that left five dead. State capitols around the nation are on high alert for Trump's rioters for inauguration week.
Beeler had presented an "unauthorized" inaugural credential to the police that "was not authorized to enter the restricted area," court documents state.
Officers also said they saw several pro-gun decals on his vehicle, including a picture of a rifle that said "Assault Life," and another that said, "If they come for your guns Give 'Em your bullets first," according to the documents.
Beeler was arrested on charges of carrying a pistol without a license, possession of an unregistered firearm, and possession of unregistered ammunition. He was released Saturday pending trial.
But Beeler told BuzzFeed News it was a "misunderstanding" caused by his lack of knowledge about gun laws in the city. He said that he is a contractor hired by a firm, MVP Protective Services, for an inauguration security gig in DC for two weeks, and forgot that his firearms — which do not require a license under Virginia law — would be illegal in DC.
On Sunday, someone responding from MVP's Instagram page told BuzzFeed News in a DM "we do not have an employee by that name" when asked about Beeler. The person didn't immediately answer follow-up questions. Beeler sent BuzzFeed News text messages that he said show MVP leadership looking for people interested in short-time security work. When BuzzFeed News called some of the numbers in those texts, the person on the line hung up.
Beeler provided this image of the credential he said he had. A National Parks Service spokesperson declined to verify, saying it was not responsible for credentialing contractors. Capitol Police stated that it was "non-government issued" as it did in its initial statement about the arrest.
"It was a misunderstanding thinking that I was some sort of domestic terrorist because I'm not," Beeler told BuzzFeed News. "I'm a guy trying to do his job and I honestly made a mistake forgetting my firearm in the truck and not turning around."
Beeler said he has been working in the area between the Washington Monument and the Capitol building protecting media equipment. He works with at least 20 other security guards, he said, saying they have the same credentials — a 2021 inauguration pre-event pass. He could not verify his claims about the inaugural credentials and his employment with any documentation, and said Capitol Police had taken his credential.
Beeler also said that he and the other security guards had been showing that credential to Capitol Police and National Park Service officers for the past few days.
"Other people have this credential, I was the only one who forgot to take his firearm out of the truck," he said.
"It's a 1099 [Tax form], you get paid at the end of it gig," he said. "It was going to be a fast $3,000, you work 16 days and that’s it."
Beeler said he was hired to do this job after a friend who knew the owner of MVP Protective Services asked if he was interested. When contacted by BuzzFeed News, the friend said, "I'm not authorized to talk about that right now."
Beeler's father, Paul Beeler, told the Washington Post that Beeler has been working in security near the Capitol for the past several evenings, commuting about 70 miles from Front Royal, Virginia, to DC.
Paul Beeler said it would not be out of the ordinary that his son would have guns and ammunition with him. “Those are things he needed for his armed security work,” he said.
When the New York Times asked Paul Beeler if his son supported a peaceful transition of power from Trump to Biden, the father said, “That’s the reason he’s there.”
Wesley Beeler's wife, Noelle Beeler, also told the Washington Post her husband works in security.
On Facebook, Beeler has liked pages for a number of tactical gun companies, several gun rights and pro-police groups, and President Trump.
The arrest comes just days before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration, and less than two weeks after the attempted coup at the Capitol. Fears of more violence have been running high in DC, and security has been heightened.
In order to secure the city where Biden will soon be sworn in, a large portion of streets in DC have been closed. Some areas, including the White House and Capitol, have been fenced off.