Washington, DC – Two Rocky Mount police officers have been federally charged for being inside the U.S. Capitol at the time of the Jan. 6 riot.
A veteran Houston police officer is also expected to be charged for the same behavior, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told KTRK on Wednesday.
Rocky Mount Police Department (RMPD) Sergeant Thomas “T.J.” Robertson, 47, and Officer Jacob Fracker, 29, were arrested Wednesday on charges of knowingly engaging in conduct that disrupts government business, knowingly entering a restricted building without authority to do so, and engaging in disruptive conduct at the Capitol in order to interfere with a session of Congress, according to The Roanoke Times.
Sgt. Robertson and Officer Fracker, both of whom are military veterans, were charged after they shared a photo of themselves posing in front of the John Stark statue inside the U.S. Capitol, according to The Roanoke Times.
The image showed Officer Fracker making an obscene gesture while Sgt. Robertson stood next to him holding onto the wooden pole of an American flag.
The statue behind them was that of Revolutionary War officer John Stark, who is known for having penned New Hampshire’s state motto, “Live free or die,” The Roanoke Times reported.
Sgt. Robertson said in a Facebook comment that he was “f—king PROUD” of the photo, according to the paper.
“If you are too much of a coward to risk arrest, being fired, and actual gunfire to secure your rights, you have no words to speak I value,” he wrote.
He said in a statement on Monday that he did not witness any violence in the area that he claimed U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) had ushered them into, WAVY reported.
“This is a photo I took from where I was at the Capitol. No riots, violence, tear gas, or theft. I understand that most of the violence occurred on the street side. I was nowhere near there,” he said.
Sgt. Robertson referred to the riot as an “attack” in another post, according to BuzzFeed News.
“CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business,” he wrote, according to court records. “The right IN ONE DAY took the f–king U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.”
Sgt. Robertson vehemently denied allegations that he and Officer Fracker had participated in any violence during the riot, according to multiple media outlets he spoke with.
The sergeant said USCP allowed them inside the building through an open door, where two USCP officers provided them with some water and asked them to stay inside the roped-off areas, WSET reported.
“There was absolutely no indication that we were anything but welcome to check out certain places,” Sgt. Robertson told WSET. “We did not participate in any violence or property damage.”
He said they remained inside for about 10 minutes.
Sergeant Robertson says the photo inside was sent as a joke to friends checking in on them. He says they were ushered inside by Capitol Police. Robertson says at one point they were given water, & saw folks taking selfies with officers. @ABC13News
— Maggi Marshall (@MaggiABC13) January 12, 2021
The sergeant further argued that he and Officer Fracker would never do anything to harm fellow law enforcement officers.
In a statement released late Tuesday, Officer Fracker said that his participation in the protest was an “expression of grief against what very many Americans would consider tyranny,” according to The Roanoke Times.
“My entire adult life has been dedicated to protecting my fellow Americans. I’ve never once cared about skin color, religion, political views, sexual orientation or anything. Americans are Americans, we bleed the same,” he wrote. “I have fought against terrorists who threatened our way of life. I’ve put away drug dealers who would have seen to our children getting addicted to their product just so they could make a buck.”
Officer Fracker, a four-year veteran of the RMPD, said he served in Afghanistan after enlisting in the U.S. Marine Corps in 2010, The Roanoke Times reported.
After being honorably discharged at the rank of corporal, he joined the Virginia Army National Guard, where he continues to serve.
“My love for my fellow countrymen has no bounds, to go as far as me willingly giving my life for any other person in this country,” his statement read.
Sgt. Robertson, a U.S. Army veteran, received Ranger and sniper training during his five-year military career, the Daily Beast reported.
He was deployed to Iraq for 15 months, then worked with the Department of Defense as a private contractor to help recruit and train local troops in Afghanistan.
While working as a private contractor, a shell exploded about 30 feet away from where he was embedded alongside Afghan security forces and an Army platoon, leaving him with shrapnel injuries, the Daily Beast reported.
Sgt. Robertson also served as a Roanoke police officer before joining the RMPD.
Officer Fracker and Sgt. Robertson were placed on paid administrative leave after the photo of them inside the Capitol began circulating on Jan. 9, WSET reported.
The RMPD announced on Sunday that the department had notified federal investigators that two of its officers had been at the Capitol on the day of the riot, according to The Roanoke Times.
“We’re very much aware that this is a keen and important issue to the community,” Rocky Mount Town Manager James Ervin told the paper on Wednesday. “At this point, it’s a criminal matter and we have to allow the authorities to prosecute their case as they see fit.”
Officer Fracker and Sgt. Robertson appeared for a federal court hearing via Zoom after their arrests on Wednesday, and were released on $15,000 unsecured bonds, The Roanoke Times reported.
Magistrate Judge Robert Ballou ordered Sgt. Robertson and Officer Fracker to stay away from all public assemblies in light of anticipated additional protests in the coming week, The Roanoke Times reported.
The judge refused to require the officers to wear GPS devices, but banned them from possessing firearms while the case is pending.
Ballou said they are free to seek relief from the weapons restriction portion of the order if necessary, The Roanoke Times reported.
Both officers remained on paid administrative leave after being charged, according to the Daily Beast.
Sgt. Robertson and Officer Fracker face up to one year in jail if convicted, The Roanoke Times reported.
They are due back in court on Jan. 19.
Houston Police Chief Acevedo announced on Wednesday that he is also expecting one of his officers to face federal charges for entering the U.S. Capitol on the day of the riot.
“On Sunday, I received information from an individual that one of my officers may have been in D.C. for the protest and that they may have participated in the attack on the Capitol,” Chief Acevedo told KTRK. “This individual has been determined that, on his own time to not only have attended a rally, which is their First Amendment right, but this individual is determined to have actually penetrated the Capitol.”
The chief said he contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and notified them that Houston Police Officer Tam Pham, a 48-year-old, 18-year department veteran with no history of disciplinary issues, had allegedly participated in the riot, KTRK reported.
Officer Pham was placed on administrative leave on Wednesday morning and was given notice of a disciplinary hearing scheduled for Friday.
“There’s a high probability that this individual faces federal charges,” Chief Acevedo said. “I’ll be surprised if they show up Friday to my hearing.”
Houston Police Officers’ Union President Douglas Griffith said he does not support Officer Pham, and expects him to resign before he is fired, KTRK reported.
“It was completely horrible those people over-taking the Capitol and that group should all be held accountable,” Griffith said. “Every single one of them.”