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AP investigation: Capitol rioters included highly trained ex-military, law enforcement

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AP investigative reporters Michael Biesecker and James LaPorta joined with federal law enforcement reporter Jake Bleiberg to reveal the influence of current and former members of the military or law enforcement on the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. They wanted to know how many at the vanguard of the mob storming the seat of American democracy either had sophisticated training or were trained by those who did.

With help from 11 reporters around the country, the AP team reviewed public records, social media posts and videos, finding at least 22 current or former members of the U.S. military or law enforcement who have been identified as being at or near the Capitol riot, with more than a dozen others under investigation but not yet named.

Beyond the numbers, the story gave specific examples of how the military and law enforcement influence played out on the day of the riot,from the military precision with which a single-file line of Oath Keepers in olive-drab prepared to breach the building,to the heavy duty body armor and technology,including two-way radio headsets,that appeared to match that of the very police they were confronting.

The story drew on an ambitious AP team effort led by Biesecker to detail the backgrounds of the more than 150 people who have been arrested in connection with the riot or whose names have emerged from videos or social media. It also drew on the expertise of LaPorta,a former Marine infantryman,and Bleiberg’s survey of the nation’s largest law enforcement agencies, looking into possible connections between their officers and the riot.

The reporting resulted in a compelling mix of expert analysis and detailed snapshots of current and former members of the military and law enforcement who have come under investigation,including a former Air Force lieutenant colonel,an active-duty Army captain, a former Navy SEAL and two members of a rural Virginia police department.

Capitol Combo
From left, retired Air Force officer Larry Rendall Brock Jr., who was photographed on the Senate floor on Jan. 6, 2021, wearing a helmet and heavy vest, and carrying zip-tie handcuffs; Rocky Mount (Va.) Police Department Sgt. Thomas “T.J.” Robertson and officer Jacob Fracker pose in the Capitol; Capt. Emily Rainey, a U.S. Army psychological operations officer who led a group of people from North Carolina to Washington; a still image from a Jan. 5 Facebook video post by Adam Newbold, a retired Navy SEAL; and Stewart Rhodes, a U.S. Army veteran and founder of the Oath Keepers citizen militia, shown June 25, 2017, who said before the Jan. 6 riot that his group was preparing for civil war “if the president calls us up.” – Photos via AP, from left: Grapevine (Texas) Police Department; U.S. Capitol Police; WRAL-TV; Facebook; AP Photo / Susan Walsh

The story, accompanied by AP photos and video produced by Krysta Fauria,was the most-clicked offering on the AP News app on a very busy news day. It also led several major news websites and appeared on several newspaper front pages,including The Boston Globe.

For timely and insightful reporting that sheds light on the backgrounds and capabilities of Capitol Hill rioters,Biesecker, Bleiberg and LaPorta win AP’s Best of the States award.

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