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The Capitol Siege: The Cases Behind The Biggest Criminal Investigation In U.S. History

An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of then-President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.
Leah Millis
An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of then-President Donald Trump gather in front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6.

Updated September 24, 2021 at 1:44 PM ET

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

The riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 has led to what the Department of Justice calls the largest criminal investigation in American history. The Federal Bureau of Investigation has classified the attack as an act of domestic terrorism.

The violent breach forced the evacuation of the Capitol, and threatened the country's peaceful transfer of presidential power. Approximately 140 members of law enforcement suffered injuries in the attack, including brain damage and crushed spinal discs. More than 115 rioters have been accused of assaulting police, and many allegedly used weapons such as pepper spray, stun guns, bats, and American flags wielded as clubs.

Five people ultimately died. One rioter, 35-year-old Ashli Babbitt, was shot and killed by a police officer. And Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who investigators allege was attacked with a chemical spray, died the day after the riot. The medical examiner determined that death was the result of natural causes - two strokes - though stated that "all that transpired [on Jan. 6] played a role in his condition." Two other people died of natural causes, authorities concluded, and a third as the result of "acute amphetamine intoxication."

Since that day, the government has brought criminal charges against more than 640 individuals, and even now, more than eight months after the attack, the FBI continues to arrest new suspects. Meanwhile, some of these cases are reaching their conclusions. More than 75 defendants have pleaded guilty to one or more charges, and the charges against one defendant were dismissed. No defendants have gone to trial.

The stories of those charged provide clues to key questions surrounding the Capitol breach: Who exactly joined the mob? What did they do? And why? To try to answer those questions, NPR is examining the criminal cases related to the Capitol riot, drawing on court documents, public records, news accounts and social media.

Jump to our database of individuals charged

A group this large defies generalization. The defendants are predominantly white and male, though there were exceptions. Federal prosecutors say a former member of the Latin Kings gang joined the mob, as did two Virginia police officers. A man in a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt allegedly took part, as did a Messianic Rabbi, and a Christian pastor. Far-right militia members decked out in tactical gear allegedly rioted next to a county commissioner, a New York City sanitation worker, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Still, NPR's examination did identify certain commonalities.


There were those with connections to extremist groups or fringe ideas. At least 33 defendants appear to have expressed support for QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory.

At least 35 of the defendants appear to have links to the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violent rhetoric and street violence. Their values have been widely described as racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant and hateful against other minority groups.

At least 21 of the defendants have alleged ties to the Oath Keepers, which the Anti-Defamation League calls an "anti-government right-wing fringe organization."

And at least 12 defendants have alleged associations with the Three Percenters, a part of the anti-government militia movement that has grown over the last decade. The Anti-Defamation League says that the group has "a track record of criminal activity ranging from weapons violations to terrorist plots and attacks."

But a large majority of those charged 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.

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

An analysis from West Point and George Washington University found that the Capitol riot defendants included current or former service members from every military branch except the Coast Guard. That analysis also found that less than half (44%) of the defendants with military history had deployed overseas.

Experts say there's little evidence that current or former members of the military are more susceptible to radicalization than the general population. Still, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has called combating extremism in the ranks a top priority.

Lawmakers who supported impeaching former President Donald Trump argue that he "incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol." There is some evidence of that in court documents: Some who allegedly stormed the Capitol - at least 10% - explicitly said they were inspired by Trump.

"IF TRUMP TELLS US TO STORM THE F***IN CAPITAL IMA DO THAT THEN!" one defendant wrote. "I thought I was following my President," said yet another.

Most of those charged in the riot come from areas of the country that are not dominated by Trump supporters. According to an analysis from the Chicago Project on Security & Threats, a majority of the alleged rioters came from counties that President Joe Biden won in the 2020 election.

Most of the people charged in connection with the storming of the Capitol face allegations primarily related to breaching the building. But a smaller number face more serious charges and a greater threat of prison time if convicted.

At least 48 are accused of committing conspiracy, one of the most serious charges brought. At least 140 are accused of committing acts of violence, particularly against police. At least 51 are suspected of causing property damage, like breaking windows or doors to gain entry to the building. At least 38 are accused of theft, like the man photographed carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lectern or one woman who allegedly took a laptop from Pelosi's office.

Explore the database below.

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


Corrected: February 19, 2021 at 11:00 PM CST
In an earlier version of this database, the summary for Vitali GossJankowski was mistakenly entered twice and appeared incorrectly for Cindy Sue Fitchett.
Dina Temple-Raston is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories and national security, technology and social justice.
Tom Dreisbach is a correspondent on NPR's Investigations team focusing on breaking news stories.
Monika Evstatieva is a Senior Producer on Investigations.
Arezou Rezvani is a senior editor for NPR's Morning Edition and founding editor of Up First, NPR's daily news podcast.
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.
Barbara Van Woerkom is a researcher and producer with the Investigations team. She is a master at digging up documents, finding obscure people and answering all manner of research questions. Van Woerkom has been a part of several award-winning series, including "Guilty and Charged," which focused on excessive fees in the criminal justice system that target the poor; "Lost Mothers," an examination of the maternal mortality crisis in America; and "Abused and Betrayed," which brought to light the high rate of sexual assault on people with intellectual disabilities. She also won a Peabody Award for a series on soldiers who were deliberately exposed to mustard gas by the U.S. military during World War II, locating hundreds more affected veterans than the Department of Veterans Affairs was able to find.
Austin Fast is the inaugural Roy W. Howard Fellow on NPR's investigations team.