It's well established that on January 6, a mob of pro-Trump extremists, motivated by the former President's election lies, stormed the United States Capitol in hopes of preventing the peaceful transfer of power. The insurrectionists shattered windows, ransacked offices, and threatened the lives of any lawmaker perceived as disloyal to Trump. They even trampled one of their own co-conspirators to death, one of multiple casualties that day.
No one experienced the chaos and calamity more head-on that day than Capitol and D.C. Metro police officers, who stood in between the rioters and the lawmakers they were terrorizing. The rioters beat the officers, crushed them between doors, inundated them with racial slurs, and sprayed them with chemical irritants.
In his testimony before the House committee investigating the riots, Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell recounted the day:
"What we were subjected that day was like something from a Medieval battle. ... I bitterly heard officers screaming in agony and pain, just an arm length from me. ... I too was being crushed by the rioters. I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, this is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance."
The law enforcement that defended the Capitol that day has been universally praised for preventing the worst of the rioters' intentions, but now at least one Capitol Police Officer has been charged with obstruction of justice for siding with the rioters, despite the violence inflicted on his fellow officers and a wave of suicides among Capitol Police officers in the days and months after the riots.
The Justice Department has accused Officer Michael A. Riley of encouraging at least one rioter to hide evidence they'd posted to social media, warning that investigators were pursuing anyone who'd entered the building that day.
The court filing details that Riley sent a Facebook friend request to someone referred to in the documents as "Person 1," after seeing the person had been in the Capitol during the riots.
After Person 1 accepted, Riley wrote in a Facebook message:
"Hey [Person 1], im [sic] a capitol police officer who agrees with your political stance. Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone in the building is going to charged [sic]. Just looking out!"
They continued to exchange Facebook messages, with Riley noting that over 50 officers had been hurt and proceeding to advise Person 1 on how to avoid charges. Eventually, they exchanged numbers shortly after and spoke on the phone for nearly half an hour before continuing to text and exchange messages.
Reed later offered the person a free place to stay if they ever came to D.C. again, saying:
"Next time you want to come to DC just call me, you can stay at my house on the shore for free and bring your daughter to the museums. If you want to see the capitol building, lets do it legally this time...Its [sic] behind you now...lesson learned! Just ask your attorney whats next."
One of the Capitol police officers who testified before Congress—Officer Harry Dunn—appeared to be responding to the news on Twitter
"Anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one." -Benjamin Franklin Well Mr. Franklin, I got a good reason. WTF.........😡😡😡— Harry A Dunn (@Harry A Dunn) 1634321852.0
Others were also disgusted to see a Capitol Police Officer so chummy with one of the mob that endangered his colleagues.
@GeoffRBennett That’s pretty awful. Only the tip of it though I’m sure.— David Siegel (@David Siegel) 1634318458.0
@KlasfeldReports @cobalttash This an awful that he would go against everything America stands for!🇺🇸— Jo-Ann Willis🎵🌺🌴 (@Jo-Ann Willis🎵🌺🌴) 1634324238.0
@GeoffRBennett @rolandsmartin Black officers really didn't know who they could trust that day...the Blue line stops at White Supremacy.— Paws & Affects Pet Wear And Accessories (@Paws & Affects Pet Wear And Accessories) 1634316062.0
@KlasfeldReports Back the Blue? Where are the good cops denouncing this?— Paul (@Paul) 1634314615.0
@KlasfeldReports How many other police out there allowing their political views to convince them to obstruct justice?— James_Savage (@James_Savage) 1634314616.0
Others were astonished at the carelessness with which Riley broke the law.
@KlasfeldReports Riley used social media to warn that investigators would be looking at... social media🤔— Personal Trainer to Liz Mair's Son (@Personal Trainer to Liz Mair's Son) 1634316103.0
Officer Riley is not the smartest cat in the herd. https://t.co/ePvhdgfBtx— Dirk Schwenk (Esq) 🎵 (@Dirk Schwenk (Esq) 🎵) 1634320993.0
apparently a police officer believed Facebook messages are not discoverable in a criminal investigation. https://t.co/1N4bvVtnwV— Pé (@Pé) 1634315471.0
It's unclear what Riley will plea.