How Ray Epps Became the Victim of a Jan. 6 Conspiracy Theory - The New York Times
Category: News & PoliticsVia: jbb • 4 weeks ago • 2 comments
By: Alan Feuer (nytimes)
Ray Epps became the unwitting face of an attempt by pro-Trump forces to promote the baseless idea that the F.B.I. was behind the attack on the Capitol.
Ray Epps and his wife, Robyn Epps. Mr. Epps became the face of a conspiracy theory that rocked their lives as it spread into the mainstream.Credit...Alan Feuer/The New York Times
By Alan Feuer
July 13, 2022Updated 5:43 p.m. ET
IN THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS — Up a winding country road, in a trailer park a half-mile from a cattle ranch, lives a man whose life has been ruined by a Jan. 6 conspiracy theory.
Ray Epps has suffered enormously in the past 10 months as right-wing media figures and Republican politicians have baselessly described him as a covert government agent who helped to instigate the attack on the Capitol last year.
Strangers have assailed him as a coward and a traitor and have menacingly cautioned him to sleep with one eye open. He was forced to sell his business and his home in Arizona. Fearing for his safety and uncertain of his future, he and his wife moved into a mobile home in the foothills of the Rockies, with all of their belongings crammed into shipping containers in a high-desert meadow, a mile or two away.
"And for what — lies?" Mr. Epps asked the other day with a look of pained exhaustion. "All of this, it's just been hell."
Almost from the moment that a violent mob stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, allies of former President Donald J. Trump have sought to shift the blame for the attack away from the people who were in the pro-Trump crowd that day to any number of scapegoats.
First they pointed at antifa, the leftist activists who have a history of clashing with Mr. Trump's backers but who did not show up when the Capitol was breached. Then they tried to fault the F.B.I., which, according to those who spread the baseless tale, planned the attack to provoke a crackdown on conservatives.
Mr. Epps, 61, was not just a bystander on Jan. 6. He traveled to Washington to back Mr. Trump, was taped urging people to go to the Capitol and was there himself on the day of the assault. But through a series of events that twisted his role, he became the face of this conspiracy theory about the F.B.I. as it spread from the fringes to the mainstream.
Obscure right-wing media outlets, like Revolver News, used selectively edited videos and unfounded leaps of logic to paint him as a secret federal asset in charge of a "breach team" responsible for setting off the riot at the Capitol.
The stories about Mr. Epps were quickly seized on by the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who gave them a wider audience. They were also echoed by Republican members of Congress like Representative Thomas Massie of Kentucky and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Key Revelations From the Jan. 6 Hearings
Card 1 of 8
Making a case against Trump. The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack is laying out evidence that could allow prosecutors to indict former President Donald J. Trump, though the path to a criminal trial is uncertain. Here are the main themes that have emerged so far:
An unsettling narrative. During the first hearing, the committee described in vivid detail what it characterized as an attempted coup orchestrated by the former president that culminated in the assault on the Capitol. At the heart of the gripping story were three main players: Mr. Trump, the Proud Boys and a Capitol Police officer.
Creating election lies. In its second hearing,the panel showed how Mr. Trump ignored aides and advisers as he declared victory prematurely and relentlessly pressed claims of fraud he was told were wrong. "He's become detached from reality if he really believes this stuff," William P. Barr, the former attorney general, said of Mr. Trump during a videotaped interview.
Pressuring Pence. Mr. Trump continued pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to go along with a plan to overturn his loss even after he was told it was illegal, according to testimony laid out by the panel during the third hearing. The committee showed how Mr. Trump's actions led his supporters to storm the Capitol, sending Mr. Pence fleeing for his life.
Fake elector plan. The committee used its fourth hearing to detail how Mr. Trump was personally involved in a scheme to put forward fake electors. The panel also presented fresh details on how the former president leaned on state officials to invalidate his defeat, opening them up to violent threats when they refused.
Strong arming the Justice Dept. During the fifth hearing, the panel explored Mr. Trump's wide-ranging and relentless scheme to misuse the Justice Department to keep himself in power. The panel also presented evidence that at least half a dozen Republican members of Congress sought pre-emptive pardons.
The surprise hearing. Cassidy Hutchinson, a former White House aide, delivered explosive testimony during the panel's sixth session, saying that the president knew the crowd on Jan. 6 was armed, but wanted to loosen security. She also painted Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff, as disengaged and unwilling to act as rioters approached the Capitol.
Planning a march. Mr. Trump planned to lead a march to the Capitol on Jan. 6 but wanted it to look spontaneous, the committee revealed during its seventh hearing. Representative Liz Cheney also said that Mr. Trump had reached out to a witness in the panel's investigation, and that the committee had informed the Justice Department of the approach.
After months of watching from the shadows as public figures he once respected — Mr. Trump among them — tarred his name and destroyed his reputation, Mr. Epps decided that he wanted to answer that question for himself.
In a daylong interview, sitting in his air-conditioned recreational vehicle with his wife, Robyn, and their two Shih Tzus beside him, Mr. Epps described himself as a father, a former Marine and a staunch but disillusioned conservative whose leaders had betrayed him. He granted the interview on the condition that the location of his new home not be disclosed.
"I am at the center of this thing, and it's the biggest farce that's ever been," he said. "It's just not right. The American people are being led down a path. I think it should be criminal."
To that end, Mr. Epps and his wife have been searching for a lawyer to help them file a defamation lawsuit against several of the people who have spread the false accounts. Should they end up doing so, they would join a list of other individuals and companies — most notably, the voting machine producer Dominion Voting Systems — in using the courts to push back on the rampant disinformation that emerged again and again during Mr. Trump's efforts to overturn the election.
"The truth needs to come out," Mr. Epps explained, petting his dogs.
While Mr. Epps was a participant in some of the events that unfolded on Jan. 6, the claim that he inspired the Capitol riot in a "false flag" plot is solely based on the fact that he has never been arrested and therefore must be under the protection of the government.
But scores, if not hundreds, of people who appear to have committed minor crimes that day were investigated by the F.B.I. but have not been charged or taken into custody.
Mr. Epps said that he had acted stupidly at times when he and one of his sons took a last-minute trip to Washington for Mr. Trump's speech about election fraud. But he said that he had managed to avoid arrest because he reached out to the F.B.I. within minutes of discovering that agents wanted to speak with him.
On Jan. 8, 2021, just two days after the Capitol was attacked, Mr. Epps learned from a family member that the F.B.I. had issued a be-on-the-lookout alert in his name. He said he immediately called the bureau's National Threat Operations Center, and his phone records show that he spoke to agents there for nearly an hour.
The F.B.I. has repeatedly declined to comment on Mr. Epps, but his account of calling the operations center — and of sitting down for a formal discussion with federal agents in March 2021 — is backed by transcripts of those interviews reviewed by The New York Times.
The interview transcripts show that Mr. Epps told agents that he had spent much of his time at the Capitol seeking to calm down other rioters, an assertion supported by multiple video clips.
Mr. Epps, who questioned the results of the election, was also interviewed twice by the House select committee on Jan. 6. After his dealings with the panel were completed, officials released a statement saying he had told them that he never worked as an asset for, or an employee of, any federal law enforcement agency.
One of the moments Mr. Epps said he regrets most from his stay in Washington took place the night before the Capitol attack, when he joined his son and a friend for a pro-Trump rally at Black Lives Matter Plaza. During the event, he was videotaped by a right-wing provocateur encouraging people to go inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 in what he described, even at the time, as a form of peaceful protest.
ImageMr. Epps acknowledged that he helped orchestrate the movements of the pro-Trump crowd by pointing protesters in the direction of the Capitol.Credit...Kenny Holston for The New York Times
The clip has been used to depict Mr. Epps as a man who not only urged people to riot at the Capitol but also then evaded prosecution. The Justice Department has not publicly addressed its decision not to charge him, but the legal definition of incitement requires a person's words to cause an immediate threat of danger, not one that could possibly occur the following day.
On Jan. 6 itself, Mr. Epps, believing he could stop the violence at the Capitol, inserted himself into a conflict between the police and members of the pro-Trump mob that is widely considered to be the tipping point of the attack.
He can be seen in videos from around 1 p.m. that day accosting a rioter named Ryan Samsel, who had already started to confront officers behind a metal barricade on the west side of the Capitol. Mr. Epps said he intervened in the conflict to keep Mr. Samsel from attacking the police and tried to tell Mr. Samsel that the officers were merely doing their jobs. Mr. Samsel gave an identical account to the F.B.I. when he was arrested weeks later.
Mr. Epps also said he regretted sending a text to his nephew, well after the violence had erupted, in which he discussed how he helped to orchestrate the movements of people who were leaving Mr. Trump's speech near the White House by pointing them in the direction of the Capitol.
Mr. Epps further acknowledged that while he moved past barricades into a restricted area of the Capitol grounds, he did not go into the building itself. The vast majority of those who did not enter the building or commit additional crimes have not been charged.
By the time the violence started spreading, Mr. Epps had already left the Capitol, having helped to get a sick protester to safety.
The problems began for Mr. Epps almost as soon as Revolver News published its first article about him in October. Suddenly, there were emailed death threats; trespassers on his property demanding "answers" about Jan. 6; and acquaintances, fellow members of his church, even family members who disowned him, he said.
Day of Rage: How Trump Supporters Took the U.S. Capitol
A six-month Times investigation has synchronized and mapped out thousands of videos and police radio communications from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, providing the most complete picture to date of what happened — and why.
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." [cheering] They came from all 50 states out of some sense of patriotic duty … "It's so much more than just rallying for President Trump. It's really rallying for our way of life. The American dream, against fake news." … to protest an election they believed had been stolen. "Stop the steal! Stop the steal!" "We're here, patriots. We're in Washington D.C. Capitol building dead in front of us." Their day of action would be Jan. 6 … "The House comes to order." … when Congress would count electoral ballots and ratify the 2020 election results. For some, it was just a rally for their president. For others, it was a call to arms. "We have the power in numbers. March on Congress directly after Trump's speech." In the weeks beforehand, there were over a million mentions on social media of storming the Capitol. Maps were shared of the building's layout. There was talk of bringing weapons and ammunition, and discussion over which lawmakers should be targeted first. This anger was based on a lie. "This election was a fraud." A lie that had grown more frenzied after the election. "President Trump won this election." "They were flipping votes." "Steal the election in Philadelphia." "When you win in a landslide and they —" "Steal the election in Atlanta —" "And it's rigged —" "Steal the election in Milwaukee —" "It's not acceptable." "This is outrageous." A lie spread by the president and his closest allies. "Let's call out cheating when we find it." Some of whom stoked calls for violence. "All hell is going to break loose tomorrow." "Everyone's going to remember who actually stands in the breach and fights tomorrow. And who goes running off like a chicken." "We bleed freedom." "This will be their Waterloo." "And we will sacrifice for freedom." "This will be their destruction." "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" What happened next was chaos. "They broke the glass?" Insurrection. "Take it now!" "Treason! Treason!" Death. Then, there began a campaign to whitewash history, starting at the top. "It was a zero threat. Right from the start, it was zero threat." And spreading throughout the Republican Party. "Even calling it an insurrection, It wasn't. By and large, it was peaceful protest." One lawmaker, who helped barricade the House doors, now suggests there was barely any threat. "If you didn't know the TV footage was a video from January the 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit." A tourist visit this was not. And the proof is in the footage. As part of a six-month investigation, The New York Times has collected and forensically analyzed thousands of videos, most filmed by the rioters themselves. We obtained internal police radio traffic … … and went to court to unseal police body-cam footage. Our reconstruction shows the Capitol riot for what it was, a violent assault encouraged by the president on a seat of democracy that he vowed to protect. We'll chart how police leaders failed to heed warnings of an impending attack, putting rank-and-file officers in danger. We'll track key instigators in the mob taking advantage of weaknesses in the Capitol's defenses to ignite a wave of violence that engulfed the building. We'll show, for the first time, the many simultaneous points of attack, and the eight breaches of what appeared to be an impenetrable institution of government. We'll show how the delay to secure Congress likely cost a rioter her life. And how for some, storming the Capitol was part of the plan, all along. "In fact, tomorrow, I don't even like to say it because I'll be arrested." "Well, let's not say it. We need to go — I'll say it." "All right." "We need to go in to the Capitol." "Let's go!" It's the morning of Jan. 6, and thousands are filling the National Mall in Washington. Trump will speak here at the Ellipse, a large park near the White House and a half-hour walk to the U.S. Capitol where the election will be certified. Who is actually in this crowd? Most are ordinary citizens who believe Trump's lie that the election was stolen. "It's going to be a great day. It's going to be wild, as Trump says." But we also see more extreme groups who've gained a following during Trump's presidency. There are followers of the QAnon conspiracy … "Drinking their blood, eating our babies." … who believe that Trump is facing down a cabal of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Q posts often invoked notions of patriotism and predict a coming storm. And ahead of Jan. 6, some supporters call for violence. The Oath Keepers, a far-right paramilitary group, are also here. "We have men already stationed outside D.C. —" Their leader has said the group is ready to follow Trump's orders and take members of what they call the "Deep State" into custody. They're organized, staging their military-style equipment neatly on the ground. And later, they put on body armor, talk on radios, and chat with their supporters on a walkie-talkie app called Zello. "We have a good group. We got about 30, 40, of us who are sticking together and sticking to the plan. Y'all, we're one block away from the Capitol, now. I'm probably going to go silent when I get there because I'm going to be a little busy." Another group is the Proud Boys. They're far-right nationalists who flashed white power signs throughout the day. "Check out all this testosterone." They became a household name when Trump invoked them during a presidential debate. "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by." And that's what they did. They have a history of street violence and will be key instigators of the riot. We'll return to them soon. Although the rally is billed as a political protest, some make calls to storm the Capitol even before Trump speaks. And later, when Trump does take the stage … "We're going to walk down to the Capitol." … some hear his words as a call to action. "I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building." Two hours before this, the Proud Boys were already heading for the Capitol. They're clearly spoiling for a fight with far-left agitators like antifa, who they believe are in D.C. But there are moments that suggest another motive. "Come on, tighten up." "Come on, boys. They're organized, too. Many are marked with orange tape or hats. They're wearing body armor, carrying baseball bats and using radios. "That's affirmative. Jesse, this is Tucker" Leading them is Ethan Nordean, who's been entrusted with so-called war powers. He's joined by other well-known Proud Boys like Joe Biggs, an organizer from Florida, Dominic Pezzola, a former Marine, and Billy Chrestman. They will be among the first rioters inside the Capitol building. "Proud Boys." As Trump is speaking, some of his other supporters also head to the Capitol. Chanting: "Whose streets? Our streets! Whose streets? Our streets!" And the tone is becoming menacing. "And we're going to storm the [expletive] Capitol. [expletive] you, [expletive]." "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Just ahead, officers guarding the building are understaffed and ill-equipped for what's coming their way. "You going to stop us?" The building is more than two football fields in length. And barricades erected on the east side are defended by just a few dozen officers. The west side, facing Trump's rally, is even lighter. The fencing has been extended and on the northwest approach, only five officers stand guard. Around five also defend the southwest approach, a few more dot the lawn and about a dozen officers are behind them. Plans to storm the Capitol were made in plain sight, but the F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security did not deem those threats as credible. "We will take that building!" "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Capitol Police leaders and Washington's mayor were warned at least three times of violent threats, but also didn't take them seriously or circulate that information. And they declined offers of security personnel from federal and other agencies. They could have enlisted several hundred more Capitol police for duty on Jan. 6, but did not. And none of the officers on the barricades have protective gear or crowd-control equipment. As a result, the Capitol is sparsely defended. "Whose House? Our House! Whose House? Our House!" It's 12:50 p.m. and a large group of Proud Boys is with other protesters right by the Capitol Police line. Joe Biggs is rallying them. When he's approached by Ryan Samsel, a Trump supporter from Pennsylvania. They chat, we don't know about what. But a minute later, Samsel is the first to approach the police line. And it's now that the protest turns violent. "U.S.A.!" Without hesitation, the crowd overpowers the police. Nearby, a second group breaks through on another approach. Others jump fences. And now hundreds of rioters rush forward on several fronts. "D.C. is a [expletive] war zone." Police retreat to the Capitol building where it's becoming more threatening. "This is what we came for! Yeah!" A mob mentality begins to take hold. Police are so outnumbered, they're forced to retreat again to more tightly defend access points to the Capitol. It's now five minutes into the siege that the Capitol Police chief calls for backup from local law enforcement, known as the Metropolitan Police, and asks other Capitol leaders to mobilize the National Guard. "You took an oath! Does that not mean a damn thing to you, does it?" Metro Police will arrive within 15 minutes. But for reasons we'll explain later, the National Guard won't arrive for over four hours. "Back up! Back up!" Meanwhile, more Capitol Police come to reinforce the line. It's the first time we see officers in riot gear. But most are missing their shields because they had not prepared to unlock the storage area where that equipment is kept. Proud Boys like Billy Chrestman keep rallying the mob. And again, they start brawling with the police. Minutes later, reinforcements from the Metro Police arrive. A high-ranking Metro officer immediately calls for more backup. They struggle to subdue rioters who respond with their own chemical spray. And within 30 minutes, the police already have casualties. [shouting] This first wave of rioters battling police has paved the way across Capitol grounds for others to follow. And after Trump finishes speaking, thousands more now fill the space. Meanwhile, inside the Capitol, Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence have begun certifying the 2020 presidential election results. Certification will happen on both sides of the building, in the House and the Senate. And this is what the rioters want to stop. An hour into the assault, the mob is battling a police line here, along the west face of the Capitol. But that violence is now going to spread to multiple points of attack, as west side rioters stream around the Capitol and incite the crowd on the east. Here's what that crowd looks like on the east. "Stop the steal! Stop the steal! Stop the steal!" They're aware of the siege happening on the west side, and some are emboldened by it. But up until now, they've been kept behind the barricades. "U.S.A.! U.S.A.!" Then this group from the west storms around to the building and pushes right through the barriers. The police here barely put up a fight. And it's now that protesters, all along the east barricades, surge forward. [cheering] Officers are overwhelmed from several directions, and retreat to guard Capitol entrances. But these rioters believe they've been deputized by their president to stop a crime. And now, they start trying to get into the building itself. [shouting] [glass breaking] [pounding on door] The Capitol is now surrounded. Rioters haven't made it inside yet, but around the time that the mob on the east pushed forward, rioters on the west were making a pivotal move. This scaffolding was erected for the upcoming inauguration of Joe Biden. It covers a staircase that gives direct access to an upper level, and dozens of doors and windows. Three police lines guard that route. But at ground level, officers are so overwhelmed that just a few cover this crucial access point. Several Proud Boys see the weakness. Proud Boys start fighting the police, and with others in the mob, they push through the line. Over several minutes, it's a brutal fight on these steps. At one point, the rioters are held back. [groaning] But they make a final push up the flight of stairs. [cheering] At the top, they scuffle again with a small group of officers … … who give in after barely a minute. The mob now has direct access to Capitol entrances. "I can't believe this is reality. We accomplished this [expletive]." And hundreds more protesters below, surge forward. "Let's go! The siege is ours." It's utter mayhem, and it's about to get worse. This scene is being filmed from countless angles allowing us to piece together, moment by moment, what comes next. Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola uses a police shield he stole to bash in a window. And at 2:13 p.m., the Capitol is breached. Michael Sparks, a Trump supporter from Kentucky, is the first person inside. A police officer seems unsure of what to do and backs off. Sparks is followed by Proud Boys and other far-right extremists, one carrying a Confederate flag, another armed with a baseball bat. When rioters break open the locked doors, hundreds more rush in. [shouting] [glass breaking] This is a critical moment. Officers must now defend the outside and inside of the building, stretching them even further. Simultaneous events now happen that are critical to lawmakers' safety. Rioters head straight for the Senate, and will be at its doors in two minutes. Above them, the Senate is called into recess. "We'll pause." Members will evacuate down these stairs. In this hallway, directly overhead the rioters, Officer Eugene Goodman is sprinting to overtake them. He passes Mitt Romney, who he warns to turn around. Reinforcements are following behind. Goodman overtakes the mob, goes downstairs and intercepts them. He holds them off while backup arrives upstairs. Behind these rioters, and just feet away, is an escape route where the lawmakers and Senate staff are now fleeing. Just one officer stands guard. Keeping his composure, Goodman draws the mob away from that escape route to where reinforcements are waiting. Goodman: "Second floor!" He glances toward the Senate, and realizes the door is unguarded. Goodman shoves the protester again, lures the mob away, and brings them into that line of fellow officers. Again, the rioters here are convinced it's their duty to defend democracy. "We're not [expletive] around! Because we are mad!" [shouting] The officers hold them off here, for now. Meanwhile, on the other side of the Capitol, a few political leaders are evacuated from the House of Representatives. But despite a lockdown alert, proceedings here will resume. "The House will be in order." We'll go there soon. First, we'll go to the Crypt in the center of the Capitol below the Rotunda. The mob is already at its entrance. If they get through here, they will more easily fan out across the building. Rioters jostle with police here for six minutes, and then flood through. It's now 2:24 p.m., some 90 minutes after the siege began, and the mob is about to overrun the building. "Stop the steal! Stop the steal!" As this is happening, and as thousands more swell outside, Trump composes a tweet. Not to calm his supporters, but to blame his vice president. He writes: At this very time, Pence and his family are being taken to safety, along with an aide who's carrying the country's nuclear launch equipment. "O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave?" At 2:25 p.m., there's another major breach on the opposite side of the building, the east side. Rioters have been battling a handful of officers at these doors for almost half an hour. The tide turns when rioters who came through the Crypt, reach these doors and pull them open. Then an active-duty Marine Corps officer, Christopher Warnagiris, keeps that door open for the mob to flood in. Just as elsewhere, this crowd is a mix of die-hard Trump supporters, but also more organized groups like the Oath Keepers, who move in formation here toward that east side entrance. The Oath Keepers and their supporters continue to update each other on the Zello chat app. The group enters the Capitol together. Proud Boys are near them, including Joe Biggs, the organizer we saw earlier. He's entering the building for a second time. The Oath Keepers fill the Rotunda along with hundreds of other rioters. "Took over the Capitol. Overran the Capitol." "We're in the [expletive] Capitol, bro." Now the police inside the building are completely outnumbered and call for backup. "It's our House!" "Whose House?" "Our House!" Throughout the Capitol, staffers have barricaded doors to keep the mob out. In Nancy Pelosi's chambers, staffers rush inside a conference room and lock two doors behind them. Just 12 minutes later, rioters outside head straight for her offices. "Nancy! Nancy!" And pile in. Huddled together under a table, Pelosi's staff record what's happening. One rioter tries to break into that same room. Inside, staffers are silent as they record him pounding. [loud banging] He gets through the first door, but the second door keeps him out. It's a scene that, again, shows just how compromised the U.S. government has become. "I think I like my new dining room." By 2:30 p.m., the Senate evacuation is well underway. But even though a lockdown was called over 15 minutes ago, the House is still in session. "Do not accept Arizona's electors as certified." Representative Jim McGovern is chairing. He told us he wanted to finish hearing objections to the election results by Paul Gosar. House staff and security gave McGovern the all-clear to continue. It's a delay that likely cost someone their life. Suddenly, staff are now pointing at the chamber's doors. Just outside, a mob of 100 or more is baying to get into them. These rioters pay little heed to the thin line of police. "They're going. Yeah, I would just stop — bro." And in moments, are pushing against the doors into the House. "Stop the steal!" On the other side, Capitol Police erect a barricade and draw their guns. "You're a traitor." On the floor, lawmakers are evacuated to the rear of the chamber, where in a few minutes a rioter will be shot and killed. Part of the mob outside now peels off in that direction to find a different way in. Ashli Babbitt, an Air Force veteran and QAnon supporter, is among the first to arrive at the rear of the House. "Open the door." They see the lawmakers escaping. That lobby might have been clear had the House been evacuated sooner. But the rioters now become incensed. Zachary Alam, a Trump supporter from Pennsylvania, punches in the glass panels with his bare fists. [pounding on door] "Open the door." Police are stretched extremely thin. Just three officers and a security staffer stand guard. None are wearing riot gear, and they keep their weapons holstered. "It's going to get worse." "Open the door." When a team of heavily armed police now arrives, the three officers step aside. "Go! Let's go! Get this." This creates a crucial gap that allows rioters to smash in the glass. A warning — what happens next is graphic. It's 2:44 p.m., and behind the door, a police officer draws his handgun. Babbitt vaults into the window and the officer shoots her once. [gunshot] "Oh! Oh!" It's a fatal wound through the upper chest. Inside the chamber, the floor is clear, but lawmakers in the balcony are sheltering in place. [gunshot] "The [expletive]?" "Take your pins off." "Pins off." They now remove the breast pins that identify them as members of Congress. A group of rioters who almost made it to the balcony are held at gunpoint as it's finally evacuated. Now Trump supporters have achieved their goal, stopping the election certification. And while the House is evacuated, at the other side of the building, the Senate is occupied. "Treason! Treason! Treason!" On the Senate floor, they leaf through lawmakers' files. "There's got to be something in here we can [expletive] use against these scumbags." Mug for photos. "Jesus Christ —" Pray. "We invoke Your name. Amen!" "Amen!" And leave a message for Mike Pence. "It's only a matter of time. Justice is coming." As rioters inside have been rampaging throughout the Capitol, the crowd outside has grown. And that first battle has continued raging. [horn blowing] For almost two hours, officers face off with rioters who say they support the police … … but assault them, anyway. We're going to show what happened here because it demonstrates, yet again, how failures by Capitol Police leaders to prepare put the safety of these officers at risk. "Leave him alone! Leave him alone!" Capitol Police had been ordered to withhold some of their stronger weapons. But as soon as Robert Glover, a Metro Police inspector arrives, he calls for his munitions team to help. When the building is breached, Glover knows he needs to retreat and seeks advice from Capitol leaders. [shouting] When Capitol don't respond, he asks four times. "Push! Push! Push! Push!" Then, the police lose the line. "We the people, we are the storm!" Rioters knock an officer over, throw a fire extinguisher. "U.S.A.!" Glover issues a 10-33, the call of last resort. Crazed rioters hound the police even as they retreat to the upper level. Police now begin to guard this doorway, an iconic centerpiece of presidential inaugurations. But for another two hours, the same pattern will repeat. Rioters fill the terrace. Instigators trigger a frenzy. And tragically, someone will die. A brutal fight erupts in the doorway. The mob heaves in a coordinated scrum. [screaming] "Help!" When police finally push them out, they face even worse violence. They are tased, gassed and robbed of their equipment. They're beaten with a crutch, a hockey stick and even an American flag. At least four officers are pulled into the crowd. One dragged by his own helmet, face down. And again, the frenzy turns fatal. Rosanne Boyland, a Trump supporter who has been swept up by QAnon conspiracies, is moving toward the door. But amid the scrum, she collapses and is lying unconscious beneath the mob. [crowd chants] "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" As the crowd sarcastically chants a Black Lives Matter slogan, Boyland's friend, Justin Winchell, tries to pull her to safety. He screams for help. But instead, fellow rioters trample over Boyland and charge at the police again. Boyland will be pronounced dead at a local hospital in the evening. By the end of the day, rioters have breached and entered the building in at least eight locations. There's the first breach, which we've seen, when rioters smashed through two windows and a door. Beside that, a rioter with a crowbar smashes in a second door, and then opens it to hundreds of people. Others smash a window next to the Inauguration door and climb inside. "Patriots, we need people to stand up for our country and our Constitution." At this entrance, police stand aside and allow rioters to stream in, unchallenged. On the north side of the building, police in riot gear yield and let the crowd in. Another three breaches are on the east side, two by the central doors into the Rotunda, and this southeast door leading to the House chamber. It's the arrival of more Metropolitan Police and other agencies that finally turns the tide. When those officers enter the Rotunda, they clear it in just 20 minutes. As the mob is pushed back through the east doors, their rage turns to Mike Pence, who Trump attacked earlier. Metro officers also stop other rioters from entering on the west side, where the mob first broke in. But here, too, we see a crowd empowered by the belief that they're carrying out some patriotic duty. Over the course of the day, 150 police officers are injured. After 4 p.m., Metro and Capitol Police regain control of the upper levels. The final parts of the interior are cleared by other law enforcement, including federal agencies. Tear gas and flash bangs disperse the crowd on the Inauguration terrace. The Virginia State Police and Arlington County Police help to reclaim that area. Then rioters are swiftly pushed off Capitol grounds by a reinforced police line. Only now, more than three hours after Capitol police first called them, do National Guard soldiers arrive. "You can diffuse and turn down, right now." Troops were staging just 20 minutes away. But a recent procedural change meant the highest level of the Pentagon had to approve deployment. And Pentagon officials delayed the decision, partially in fear of bad optics, even as the Capitol was being overrun. As calm returns, the president tweets again. He repeats that the election had been stripped away, calls his supporters great patriots, and says: The aftermath of Jan. 6 has been as divisive as the lie that launched it. Even as one arm of government has indicted hundreds of rioters, Republican lawmakers continue efforts to normalize what happened with a mix of denials and conspiracy theories. "Some of the people who breached the Capitol today were not Trump supporters." "I knew those are people that love this country, that truly respect law enforcement, would never do anything to break a law. And so I wasn't concerned." They include Paul Gosar, who'd been at the Trump rally. "The D.O.J. is harassing peaceful patriots across the country." And Andrew Clyde, who we saw earlier, standing just a few feet from rioters. "There was no insurrection. And to call it an insurrection, in my opinion, is a bald-faced lie." Republican leaders have blocked an independent investigation that could have brought new details to light. "I've made the decision to oppose the House Democrats' slanted and unbalanced proposal for another commission to study the events of January the 6th." And in May, a top Republican was ousted from the party's leadership after blaming Trump for inspiring the riot. "And I think that the party is in a place that we've got to bring it back from." None of what happened on Jan. 6 would have been possible without a huge mass of ordinary people who were proud of what they achieved. "We made it!" "Yeah! We stopped the vote!" Millions around the country still believe the violence was not only justified, but necessary. And the forces that brought them there have not gone away. "Yeah, the patriots are coming back, y'all. Hopefully, y'all will be on our side when that happens."
A six-month Times investigation has synchronized and mapped out thousands of videos and police radio communications from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, providing the most complete picture to date of what happened — and why.CreditCredit...Mel D. Cole
Things became significantly worse after Mr. Carlson and prominent politicians began to amplify the lies.
In late December, Ms. Epps discovered shell casings on the ground near the bunkhouse of the farm-style wedding venue they owned in Arizona, suggesting that someone had been shooting at the building. Then, in January, Mr. Epps received a letter from someone claiming to have been brought into the country by a Mexican drug cartel.
The writer said he had overheard some cartel members talking about killing Mr. Epps.
"I right on paper to tell you need to be look out," the letter said in broken English. "These drug gang people very bad people."
Whether it was real or just a demented joke, Ms. Epps went into hiding, leaving Mr. Epps to arm himself and run the family business for a while through his security team. Ultimately, the couple sold the business and their ranch-style house, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars and wrecking the arrangements they had made for their retirement.
"It has a been a nightmare," Ms. Epps said.
After leaving Arizona for the mountains months ago, the Eppses have not done much. They manage to spend time with their children — and some of their 37 grandchildren — but mostly keep to themselves. Mr. Epps has taken to wearing a wide-brimmed hat that hides his face. If people at the gas station or grocery store say he looks familiar, he will usually smile and then be on his way.
While he wants to clear his name, he is under no illusion that he will ever manage to divorce it fully from the lies.
"They'll always be associated," Mr. Epps said. "You can't convince some people. There are extremists out there that you'll never convince them that they're wrong."
Continue reading the main story