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New Videos Underscore The Violence Against Police At The Jan. 6 Capitol Riot

Rioters clash with police as they push barricades to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Roberto Schmidt
AFP via Getty Images
Rioters clash with police as they push barricades to storm the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Updated June 23, 2021 at 4:56 PM ET

The Justice Department has released a trove of videos, including police body-worn camera footage, allegedly showing assaults against police officers defending the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

The videos, made available after NPR and other media organizations filed a legal motion for their release, are further evidence of the violent nature of the Capitol riot and are cited as evidence in the assault cases against Thomas Webster and Scott Fairlamb.

Though the storming of the Capitol was widely covered across virtually all news media and live-streamed by many of the people there, several Republican lawmakers have sought to play down the violence that happened in an attack that left five people dead.

But despite the GOP rhetoric, the charges against defendants like Webster and Fairlamb are not an anomaly. Rather, they are part of a larger pattern of violence wrought that day, particularly against the largely outnumbered police officers who were there. Of the more than 500 people now charged in relation to the storming of the Capitol, at least 96 of them, or nearly 1 in 5, are accused of committing acts of violence, according to a database created and maintained by NPR of all the people charged in the riot.

According to court documents, Webster is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and retired New York City Police Department officer. He is facing seven charges for his alleged involvement in the Capitol riot and has pleaded not guilty on all counts. He is among at least 71 other rioters, or around 14% of all those charged, who appear to have military or law enforcement backgrounds, according to NPR's database.

In a 56 second video cited in Webster's case, prosecutors say Webster can be seen in a red, white and black jacket approaching a metal barricade. The officer's body-worn camera footage, which is also described in court documents, shows Webster allegedly bursting through the crowd, carrying a large flagpole with a U.S. Marine Corps flag attached to it. In the video, prosecutors say he can be heard yelling: "You f****** piece of s***. You f****** Commie motherf****** ... Come on, take your s*** off. Take your s*** off."

Later, Webster can allegedly be seen shoving the metal gate into the officer and lunging toward him, striking at him with the flagpole several times. Prosecutors say he then broke through the barricade, and charged the officer with clenched fists, knocking him to the ground. In an interview with the FBI detailed in court documents, the officer who was assaulted said that he was choked by his own chin strap and was unable to breathe during the time he was on the ground.

In the case against Fairlamb, the Justice Department released four videos, outlined in court documents. According to local news reports, Fairlamb is the owner of the Fairlamb Fit fitness gym in Pompton Lakes, N.J. In May 2020, Fairlamb said his business was struggling to survive during the pandemic and announced plans to reopen his gym despite New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy's stay-at-home order. "He has overstepped his boundaries and it's time for these gyms... that are essential to open up," Fairlamb told CBS New York of the governor's action. NPR was not able to confirm whether Fairlamb's business is still in operation. Fairlamb is facing 12 charges related to the insurrection. In April, a judge ruled that Fairlamb should remain detained until his trial.

In one short video, Fairlamb allegedly appears underneath some scaffolding, where — in selfie mode — he shrieks into the camera and then yells "We ain't f***ing leaving either. We ain't f***ing leaving." In another short selfie video posted on Facebook, Fairlamb can allegedly be seen walking toward the Capitol building carrying a baton and saying "What [do] patriots do? We f***in' disarm 'em and then we storm the f***in' Capitol."

In two other videos, one taken from the point of view of the crowd and another from police body-worn camera footage, Fairlamb can allegedly be seen wearing a brown camouflage jacket and approaching a line of officers from Washington, D.C.,'s Metropolitan Police Department. In the video, the man identified by prosecutors as Fairlamb walks alongside the officers and aggressively gets close to their faces, asking them if they're American. Fairlamb goes off-camera for a moment and when he reappears, another officer is walking past him. Fairlamb allegedly says "don't touch me," shoves the officer away, and then punches the officer in his face shield.

In response to the released videos, Harley Breite, defense attorney for Fairlamb, told NPR: "This country should have learned its lesson by rushing to judgment based upon what they believe they see in just a few seconds of video. The videos in question fail to capture what precipitated the events that may or may not have transpired on video."

"Without knowing the totality of the circumstances, no one can be truly informed nor intelligently draw any conclusions as to what truly occurred," he added.

Attorneys for Webster could not be reached.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Meg Anderson is an editor on NPR's Investigations team, where she shapes the team's groundbreaking work for radio, digital and social platforms. She served as a producer on the Peabody Award-winning series Lost Mothers, which investigated the high rate of maternal mortality in the United States. She also does her own original reporting for the team, including the series Heat and Health in American Cities, which won multiple awards, and the story of a COVID-19 outbreak in a Black community and the systemic factors at play. She also completed a fellowship as a local reporter for WAMU, the public radio station for Washington, D.C. Before joining the Investigations team, she worked on NPR's politics desk, education desk and on Morning Edition. Her roots are in the Midwest, where she graduated with a Master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.