WASHINGTON — A Texas man this week became the second person charged with carrying a handgun onto the grounds of the US Capitol during the riots on Jan. 6.
Guy Reffitt of Wylie, Texas, is charged with traveling to Washington, DC, with a rifle and a handgun to support “civil disorder” and with carrying the semiautomatic handgun onto the Capitol grounds. Both are felony crimes, carrying up to five and 10 years in prison, respectively. Reffitt was originally arrested in mid-January and charged with obstructing Congress, illegally being on Capitol grounds, and threatening witnesses; the latest indictment returned by a federal grand jury adding the weapon charges was unsealed on Thursday. He did not make it inside the building.
It’s the latest indictment to highlight the violence that ran through the events of Jan. 6. Reffitt is the second person accused of carrying a gun to the Capitol, and two other men arrested in connection with the riots are charged with illegally bringing firearms into DC at the time. Dozens of defendants are facing weapon-related counts for carrying knives, stun guns, bats, poles, and other weapons inside the building or onto the grounds. More than 130 people are charged so far with assaulting or trying to interfere with police, and rioters also attacked journalists at the scene. Five people died.
Even as the number of defendants charged with assaults on police or weapon offenses has ticked up, some Republicans have tried to downplay the extent of the violence and shift attention away. Last month, Senate Republicans scuttled efforts to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate the attack on the Capitol. One House Republican described footage of people who made it inside the Capitol as akin to a “normal tourist visit.”
Reffitt’s case also underscores that the ongoing investigation is not only yielding new arrests, but also ramping up charges against people who were already arrested. Reffitt was initially arrested on Jan. 16 and indicted two weeks later; the latest indictment adds the weapons charges on top of the three original counts. The first defendant charged with having a gun on the Capitol grounds, Christopher Alberts, also is not accused, so far, of going inside the building.
Reffitt had tried to advance up a set of steps in front of the Capitol and was blocked from going any farther by US Capitol Police officers who deployed pepper balls, other projectiles, and pepper spray, according to charging documents. The government included still images of him from video footage of the scene that showed him wearing a blue jacket over what appears to be a tactical vest and a helmet with a small camera attached to the top.
When the FBI executed a search warrant at Reffitt’s home and arrested him, agents also interviewed his wife, 16-year-old daughter, and adult son. The son reported that Reffitt had talked about bringing a gun to Washington and that he had seen his father take a rifle and a pistol out of the car after he arrived home on Jan. 8. Reffitt told agents that he brought a Smith & Wesson pistol to Washington but had “disassembled it to comply with the law in Washington, D.C.” He denied going inside the Capitol.
Reffitt’s wife and son told agents that Reffitt made threatening statements to his children warning them not to tell anyone about his involvement on Jan. 6, although Reffitt’s wife said she didn’t think he would act on them. Reffitt told his children they were traitors if they turned him in as well as something to the effect of “traitors get shot,” according to his wife. He told his daughter he would “put a bullet through” her phone, according to his son. Reffitt’s wife also said that he was a member of the Three Percenters, an anti-government, pro-gun militia movement.
In arguing to keep Reffitt in jail, prosecutors revealed in April that they had obtained a recording of a Jan. 10 Zoom meeting Reffitt participated in with other members of the Three Percenters. Reffitt talked about bringing a gun to the Capitol, according to the government. He also bragged about rebuffing Capitol Police efforts to turn him away on the steps — “Sorry, darling. You better get a bigger damn gun,” he described saying to a woman officer — and discussed future attacks on the “mainstream media,” “Silicon Valley,” and “Big Tech.” The government also presented the judge with a ProPublica report about a letter Reffitt wrote from jail where he described Jan. 6 as “nothing short of a satirical way to overthrow a government.”
Reffitt’s lawyer William Welch III argued the government was relying, at least in part, “on generalization, mischaracterization, and exaggeration.” Welch noted that despite the references to Reffitt having a gun on Jan. 6, he hadn’t been charged at that point with any weapons offenses. US District Judge Dabney Friedrich denied Reffitt’s request to go home on May 13.
Welch did not immediately return a request for comment on Thursday about the new indictment.