Some 200 individuals have been charged with federal offenses connected to the siege at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Among them are at least 15 examples of family affiliated extremism. These instances include: five sets of husbands and wives; two cases of fathers and sons, mothers and sons, brothers, and cousins; and an instance of father/daughter and brother/sister participation. Although of a different strain and less serious offenses—none specifically terrorism nor involving murder —such kin-connected radicalism is neither a new phenomenon nor one unique to the United States or elsewhere. In fact, in my 2019 book, Family Terror Networks, I analyzed 118 global cases of family terror networks, including some 50 instances involving U.S.-based jihadists, sovereign citizens, militia, and white supremacy adherents. Illustrations of such family terror networks encompassed: multiple brothers (e.g., 2013 Boston Marathon bombers), husbands and wives (e.g., 2015 San Bernardino attack), fathers and sons (e.g., 2010 murders of two police officers in Arkansas), cousins (e.g., subverted attack at an armory in Illinois in 2015), and many more.
The family-linked U.S. Capitol defendants reside in 18 different states (as some do not live together), comprise a breadth of ages ranging from a 20-year-old daughter to a 70-year-old husband, and occupations/stages in life (e.g., real estate broker, doctoral student, and retired, to name a few). Likewise, the appending offenses per family members comprise a few, relatively “minor” charges (e.g., entering or remaining in restricted building as well as disorderly conduct therein). In contrast, others were charged with up to nine counts individually, and, for some, fairly serious offenses (e.g., conspiracy, obstruction of an official proceeding, and assaulting a federal officer). As of yet, neither terrorism offenses, such as providing material support to terrorists (18 U.S.C. § 2339A), nor other crimes against government authority (e.g., treason 18 U.S.C. § 2381, insurrection 18 U.S.C. § 2383, or seditious conspiracy 18 U.S.C. § 2384) have been filed relative to these persons. Nevertheless, a superseding indictment may include these or other statutes, such as rioting (18 U.S.C. § 2101).
Two Montana brothers are accused to have been among the first ten rioters to climb through a window into the Capitol. The pair, and others, then pursued U.S. Capitol Police Officer Eugene Goodman, before ultimately entering the Senate floor, sitting in “Senators’ chairs, opened Senators’ desks, and reviewed sensitive material stored therein.” A Tennessee-based man and his mother from Georgia are on video surveillance on U.S. Capitol grounds and walking in the U.S. Capitol with other rioters. Both of them had flex cuffs while there. A Missouri-based daughter and her father face multiple charges, including two connected to the theft of an engraved wooden nameplate of the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
A pair of male cousins—one from Louisiana and the Texas-based—face the same five charges including assaulting a federal officer. The pair created and disseminated incriminating photos and videos of themselves at the U.S. Capitol, such as one where the Louisiana cousin told a contact on Facebook, “I have more videos of us breaching the Capitol but not gonna post them. We will be back and it will be a lot worse than yesterday!” In other social media posts, the Texas cousin stated “4 of us breached the cops blockade and us same 4 breached the Capitol.” Days after the event some family members charged with U.S. Capitol connected crimes asserted they were merely exercising their free speech or predicted the FBI was “not on us see some pics but no militia.”
Although often family members were charged with the same crimes, in other instances—as with an Iowa-linked mother and son—overlapping and distinct charges have been filed. In the case of two sets of spouses, they were charged similarly on four charges (including conspiracy whose goal “was to stop, delay, and hinder Congress’s certification of the Electoral College vote”), along with five others, some of whom are purportedly members of the Oath Keepers.
The suspected criminals appear to mostly embrace varied perspectives (e.g., QAnon precepts, support for Stop the Steal movement, militia ideologies, or others) tied to an apparent unifying practical objective that day: interfering with the Congressional certification of the Electoral College process. The husband in the Illinois-based couple had QAnon references on his Twitter account, like the tagline “We The People Have Woken.” Also, he referenced his interest in being in Washington, D.C. on January 6th as he “trust[s] the [Q] plan.” A Texas-based son charged along with his father for crimes claimed he entered the Capitol against his father’s wishes, as he was caught up in the mob action during this “once in a lifetime event.” A Georgia-based mother and her Tennessee-residing son referred to their participation in the Capitol breach as support for revolution, with the mother asserting she would “rather die a 57-year-old woman than live under oppression. I’d rather die and would rather fight.”
After attending a pro-Trump rally in Washington, D.C., a pair of male cousins, one from Kentucky and the other from Virginia, marched toward the U.S. Capitol “because”—according to the former—“President Trump said to do so.” One later shouted, “stop the steal,” once they were both inside the Capitol. Authorities intend to use a photo of the smiling pair wearing “‘Trump 2020’ baseball hats” and each “holding up their middle fingers” while inside the Capitol building as proof of their presence there. A North Carolina husband, with his wife nearby, remarked in a video, at Statuary Hall, “Who would’ve knew the first time I ever come would be to storm.” The same man, in concert with other rioters, referred to police as “F*cking traitor[s]” and, in unison with other protesters, screamed “Where’s Nancy’s [Pelosi] office?” At an earlier point, the man repeatedly chanted with a crowd in the Capitol’s crypt, “Who’s House? Our house?” and “Stop the steal!” The wife of a Pennsylvania couple charged with her husband “took a second to pray” at the Capitol Rotunda. “It was overwhelming to say the least,” she noted.
Selected family members approached the U.S. Capitol as part of a larger block of group-linked rioters in a “stack or line formation” in order to maintain “direct physical contact with one another” as it enhanced communication “especially in crowded or noisy areas.” This appears to have taken place with two sets of spouses (from Ohio and Florida) and a brother and sister (from Arizona). Communications within distinctive cabals included text messages, phone calls, leveraging social media, and through a Zello (“a push-to-talk application that operates like a walkie-talkie on a cellular telephone”) channel “called ‘Stop the Steal J6.’” Other coordination between kin and individuals supposedly tied to formal groups has been proffered by accounts alleging they communicated together beforehand, stayed at the same hotels, and met there early on the morning of January 6th. A North Carolina couple drove to Washington, D.C. in their own car, but joined a car caravan organized by a Twitter personality.
is Director of the Homeland Security Research Program and Profession at the School of Law Enforcement
and Justice Administration at Western Illinois University.
He is the author of the new book, Family Terror Networks (2019), available at Amazon.com. He is also a valued member of Security’s Editorial Advisory Board.