An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

More Charges Expected In Investigation Into Capitol Riot


The investigation into the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol is one of the biggest in American history. NPR has been tracking every criminal case related to that attack. And as of this week, more than 400 people have been charged. More charges are also expected. Tom Dreisbach is a reporter with our investigative unit, and he's part of the team that's been following these cases. Good morning, Tom.


KING: What kinds of charges are we talking about?

DREISBACH: Well, the way prosecutors have talked about these cases - and it's a pretty useful way to organize them - is to put them into basically three buckets. The first is the largest by far. These are people who are accused of joining the mob and breaching the building but are basically charged with their presence of being inside the Capitol on January 6. The second bucket is a bit smaller. These are people accused of using physical violence, particularly assaulting law enforcement. So far, of this 400, more than 60 people are accused of this kind of violence. And some defendants allegedly used weapons like Tasers and baseball bats and bear spray. And they allegedly caused quite severe injuries. One officer died the day after the attack.

And then finally, this last bucket is conspiracy. These are people accused of doing some level of planning for the storming of the Capitol. This is about two dozen defendants. And the most notable cases there involve members of extremist groups like the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers. And they've been accused of planning and coordinating for weeks and even months. But we should say, as of now, no one has pleaded guilty to these charges, and these allegations have not been proven in court.

KING: No one has pleaded guilty. That's interesting. And among these 400 people - not a small number - are there any similarities or trends?

DREISBACH: Yeah, it's not a small number. So it can be tough to generalize. You know, famously, there's an Olympic medalist who's been charged, alongside a former member of the Latin Kings gang, current police officers, military veterans, a Trump State Department appointee, a guy who apparently appeared in a reality show on Animal Planet about people who catch catfish with their bare hands. It's a real sport. But a couple things stick out. You know, this group is predominantly white, predominantly male, though with exceptions. We found at least 60 people among those charged have ties to extremist or fringe groups, according to court documents. That's the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers, as well as Some avowed white supremacists, followers of the conspiracy theory QAnon.

And it's a notable number. But, you know, that also means - 16 people means that a large majority of people who allegedly stormed the Capitol have no suspected ties to extremist groups. Yet they were still part of this riot that the FBI considers an act of domestic terrorism. And, in fact, because of this incident, we're on track to have the most domestic terrorism prosecutions on record, according to researchers at Syracuse University.

KING: What do you make of the fact that most of them don't have ties to extremist groups?

DREISBACH: Yeah, researchers we've spoken to have said it reflects the ways in which certain extremist ideas have been pushing into the mainstream. And they wondered and speculated about whether there might be a new category of kind of pro-Trump extremists, someone willing to commit violence in the name of the former president. And as a result, you know, researchers are reevaluating a little bit what is the typical profile of an extremist, which means, you know, addressing this problem could be even bigger than some people realize.

KING: So in what ways do they not fit the profile?

DREISBACH: Well, one way is age. In general, people who are arrested for extremist violence tend to be younger, but the majority of people arrested here are actually over 34 years old. You might expect that some of these folks might come from really pro-Trump areas, but that is not the case. At least 40 states are represented. And researchers at the University of Chicago found that most of the defendants come from countries that voted for - counties, rather, that voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

KING: NPR investigative correspondent Tom Dreisbach. Thanks, Tom.

DREISBACH: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tom Dreisbach is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories.