The Capitol siege: The cases behind the biggest criminal investigation in U.S. history

Originally published on January 5, 2022 3:20 pm

Updated January 5, 2022 at 3:20 PM ET

Editor's note: This story was first published on Feb. 9, 2021. It is regularly updated, and includes explicit language.

On Jan. 6, 2021, hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump broke through police lines and stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing a panicked evacuation of top political leaders and threatening the country's peaceful transfer of power. The violent attack was an act of domestic terrorism, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Approximately 140 members of law enforcement suffered injuries in the attack, many at the hands of rioters wielding pepper spray, metal pipes and American flags fashioned into clubs. Those injuries included brain damage and crushed spinal discs. Five people ultimately died during or soon after the riot, though not all their deaths have been directly attributed to the events that day. One woman, Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by Capitol police. More than 1 million dollars of damage was done to the Capitol building.

In response to the attack, the Department of Justice launched what has become the largest criminal investigation in American history, involving scores of federal investigators and prosecutors across the country.

Jump to our database of individuals charged

So far, more than 700 people have been charged with crimes, and that number continues to steadily grow. The FBI has estimated that 2,000 people may have been involved in the attack that day. Law enforcement has arrested alleged rioters in nearly all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. The defendants appear to be largely white, though not entirely. Federal prosecutors say far-right militia members decked out in tactical gear rioted next to a county commissioner, a New York City sanitation worker, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

In an effort to better understand the violent attack on the Capitol, its alleged perpetrators and the threat it posed to American democracy, NPR is tracking every criminal case stemming from that day's events. This database makes publicly available - and searchable - data on hundreds of cases, including metrics such as the defendants' age, location, alleged affiliation with extremist organizations, past or present law enforcement or military experience, and the latest status of their case.

In public comments and court documents, the Justice Department has roughly put the cases into three categories: those who conspired over days, weeks and even months to attack the Capitol; those who allegedly violently attacked police, often with the use of weapons; and the remainder who breached the building as part of the mob, but did not commit other crimes. 54 defendants have been charged with conspiracy. And 187 defendants have been charged with violence.

So far, 173 people have pleaded guilty to one or more charges stemming from the riot. Judges have handed down sentences to 74 people. 45% of those people who have been sentenced received prison time. The average prison sentence across all defendants who pleaded guilty is 115 days. One defendant had his charges dismissed.

Among the other findings of this database:

NPR found at least 13% of those charged appear to have ties to the military or to law enforcement. The presence of current and former law enforcement officers, as well as military service members and veterans, has especially alarmed government officials.

At least 119 defendants have alleged ties to known extremist or fringe organizations, such as the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon; the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for street violence; the Oath Keepers, an anti-government group; and the Three Percenters, a part of the anti-government militia movement. A large majority of those charged, however, have no known connections to established extremist groups. That has led researchers to raise concerns about how extremist ideologies have moved increasingly into the mainstream.

Explore the database below.

: 2/19/21

In an earlier version of this database, the summary for Vitali GossJankowski was mistakenly entered twice and appeared incorrectly for Cindy Sue Fitchett.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Investigators are still trying to answer some key questions about the January 6 assault on the Capitol, like exactly who stormed the building that day? And what motivated them to be there? An NPR team has been analyzing the more than 200 cases the Justice Department has brought so far. The defendants include military men, extremists and hardcore Trump supporters. One thing they had in common - they were nearly all men. As Dina Temple-Raston of NPR's Investigations team explains, experts say gender likely played an outsized role in the way the day played out.

DINA TEMPLE-RASTON, BYLINE: When we look at the video of what happened that day, it's easy to focus on the violence.

(SOUNDBITE OF RIOT AMBIENCE)

TEMPLE-RASTON: The smashing of windows, the tear gas, the five people who lost their lives in the chaos. But Michael Kimmel, a distinguished professor emeritus at Stony Brook University, sees something a little different.

MICHAEL KIMMEL: A lot of the guys that I watched on January 6 and subsequently in all of the videos that have surfaced is these guys look familiar to me.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Kimmel wrote a book about angry white men and what drives them to embrace extremism. And he thinks traditional gender roles - the notions of being a man - played a part in the violence at the Capitol.

KIMMEL: They grew up believing that if they worked hard, paid their taxes, were good guys, that they would be able to live the lives that their grandfathers lived.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Kimmel said that when that doesn't happen, a kind of aggrieved entitlement takes hold. And that's the kind of dissatisfaction that drew people to former President Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore. And that's what this is all about.

JESSICA STERN: We often see this notion of a band of brothers. We often see people getting drawn into joining extremist groups at moments when they're feeling confused about their identity or they've experienced a status loss.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's Jessica Stern, a professor at Boston University. She's been studying extremist groups for decades. And she said that people who were there on January 6 were familiar to her, too. Consider Barton Wade Shively, a burly ex-Marine who was charged with striking police officers as he rushed the Capitol that day. He spoke with CNN outside the day of the protest.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BARTON WADE SHIVELY: Tried to push them back a little bit until finally, they started getting rough with us. So we kind of pushed them back. So that's what we did. We pushed them back.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Shively seemed angry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHIVELY: That's what we're doing - fighting back.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And what's the point? What's the endgame?

SHIVELY: What's the point?

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yeah.

SHIVELY: We're losing our freedoms. What do you mean what's the point?

TEMPLE-RASTON: According to court records, Shively allegedly surrendered to authorities and said he got caught up in the moment. His lawyer did not respond to NPR requests for comment.

Shively wasn't alone in thinking that a greater purpose had brought him to the Capitol. Felipe Marquez of Florida saw himself in much the same way.

FELIPE MARQUEZ: I went to - on the 6 in D.C. to protest against communism and prostitution. This is, like, a Rosa Parks, like, Martin Luther King moment for me.

TEMPLE-RASTON: Marquez, according to court documents, is accused of not only storming the Capitol, but also breaking into the office of an Oregon senator. NPR has examined the affidavits in each case related to the Capitol riot so far. And the words of Shively and Marquez were echoed in dozens and dozens of them.

Diana Mutz is a professor of political science at University of Pennsylvania, and she's studied Trump supporters. And one of the things that animates them, she said, is the desire to return to a simpler time.

DIANA MUTZ: I think it's important to realize that, yes, they're experiencing change and that this is threatening. The advantages that these groups enjoyed aren't there to the same extent.

TEMPLE-RASTON: They have jobs. They have families. But they don't have a sense they're doing really well. To be sure, a group this large defies generalization. There was someone in a Camp Auschwitz T-shirt, and there was a rabbi from Florida. There were far-right militia members and a two-time Olympic gold medalist. Still, an NPR analysis of the records collected on the more than 200 people charged provided some common threads. For example, almost 15% of the people charged so far are either current or former military. About 17% of those charged have an avowed connection to an extremist group. And nearly 11% of the Justice Department's cases included someone who spoke specifically about being inspired to storm the Capitol by former President Trump.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting) Treason. Treason. Treason. Treason.

TEMPLE-RASTON: That's from a New Yorker video inside the Capitol that captures a sense of the crowd's purpose - that they were there for a bigger reason than themselves. Now, more than a month after the siege, people are starting to ask the next obvious question - where do we go from here? Mutz says one remedy may be just a return to the kind of politics that doesn't require our full, undivided attention.

MUTZ: The fact is when we live and breathe politics 24/7 and it's the first thing you see when you turn on the TV and so forth, it elevates the salience of politics in people's lives in a way that may not actually be healthy for the nation as a whole.

TEMPLE-RASTON: In this case, she said, boring may be a good thing.

Dina Temple-Raston, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.