2 Ohio militia members charged in deadly Capitol protest
The FBI investigation used media footage as well as social media posts made from within the Capitol building to identify those involved.
MONTGOMERY COUNTY, Ohio (FOX19) - Two Ohio residents are facing federal charges related to the violent Jan. 6 protest at the U.S. Capitol building in which five people, including a Capitol police officer, died, according to court documents obtained by FOX19 NOW.
Jessica Watkins, 38, and Donovan Crowl, 50, were arrested by federal agents early Monday in Champaign County. They are being held at the Montgomery County Jail.
Crowl is reportedly a former Marine.
Both are members of the Ohio State Regular Militia, according to an FBI investigation, with Watkins claiming at the top of her Parler account page to be the militia’s commanding officer.
The militia is a dues-paying subset of the Oath Keepers, which FBI agents describe as a “large but loosely organized collection of militia who believe the federal government has been corrupted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”
The FBI says the Oath Keepers explicitly focus on recruiting current and former military, law enforcement and first responder personnel. It also says members have been arrested previously in connection with “a wide range of criminal activities” including conspiracy to impede federal workers, possession of explosives and threatening public officials.
Affidavits signed by FBI special agents, together with the criminal complaints against Watkins and Crowl, were filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia Jan. 16.
The affidavits allege both Watkins and Crowl traveled to D.C. for the protest event, where they “knowingly and willfully joined and encouraged a crowd of individuals who forcibly entered the U.S. Capitol and impeded, disrupted and disturbed the orderly conduct of business by the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.”
The investigation matched media footage with social media posts and DMV photos to confirm Watkins’s and Crowl’s identities.
FBI agents primarily worked off footage posted on YouTube showing individuals in paramilitary equipment moving in “organized and practiced fashion” to force themselves in front of a crowd at the door of the Capitol.
A woman believed to be Watkins appears in the video without a mask.
In several Parler posts timestamped before and during the invasion, Watkins allegedly declared her intent to force entry into the building, published photos of herself inside and once filmed herself saying: “Yeah. We stormed the Capitol today. Teargassed, the whole 9. Pushed our way into the Rotunda. Made it into the Senate even. The news is lying (even Fox) about the Historic Events we created today.”
Another post by Watkins depicted a man believed to be Crowl in paramilitary gear standing inside the Capitol. According to the affidavit, the post read: “One of my guys at the Stop the Steal Rally today #stopthesteal #stormthecapitol #oathkeepers #ohiomilitia”
The investigation confirmed the man’s identity as Crowl using his distinctive military attire as well as labels and patches on his clothing.
Watkins allegedly gave an interview to the Ohio Capitol Journal days after the event in which she confirmed her participation and suggested she had clashed with the Capitol police.
The journal quotes her as saying: “We never smashed anything, stole anything, burned anything, and truthfully we were very respectful with Capitol Hill PD until they attacked us. Then we stood our ground and drew the line.”
Crowl gave an interview to the New Yorker in which he also allegedly confirmed his presence at the Capitol.
The New Yorker verified with U.S. Navy spokespeople that Crowl served as a Marine and that he is no longer on active duty.
Watkins and Crowl are charged with entering a restricted building; willfully or knowingly engaging in disorderly or disruptive conduct at the Capitol; and corruptly obstructing, influencing or impeding a proceeding before the Congress.
UPDATE: According to AP, Watkins, Crowl and a Virginia man also face conspiracy charges after FBI investigators discovered signs of coordination prior and during the attacks.
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