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Capitol riot incidents outlined in court filing

by Bill Bowden | April 17, 2021 at 7:30 p.m.
Richard “Bigo” Barnett is seen sitting in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. On Thursday, a federal judge denied bail for 60-year-old Barnett, of Gravette, and criticized his behavior that day in a forceful ruling that called Barnett “one of the stars of this assault.’ (Special to the Democrat-Gazette/AFP/Getty Images/Saul Loeb)

Richard “Bigo” Barnett of Gravette approached a line of police officers in the U.S. Capitol rotunda on Jan. 6.

“We’re American citizens,” Barnett shouted. “We’re patriots. Your boys maced me. This is my house. Y’all maced me in my own house. This is gonna get real bad, not necessarily today. We’re going to calm down and leave, but y’all gotta remember something: Y’all gotta pick a f###### side. This civil war, this isn’t ‘Oh, somebody broke the law.’ The f###### Communists have declared war on us, boys.”

The confrontation was caught on officers’ body-worn cameras, according to a filing Monday in federal court in the District of Columbia.

Barnett should remain in jail pending trial because he “poses an ongoing and specific threat of prospective danger,” Mary L. Dohrmann, assistant U.S. attorney, wrote in the court document.

Her filing was in response to a motion from Barnett’s attorneys seeking his release pending trial. Since January, Barnett has been incarcerated in Washington, D.C.

After entering House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Jan. 6 and posing for photos with his feet on a desk, Barnett became one of the “stars of this assault,” Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell said after a Jan. 28 hearing in which she ordered pretrial detention for Barnett.

A grand jury indicted Barnett on seven charges in connection with the riot, including 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(1) and (b)(1) (A), Entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The weapon was a ZAP Hike N’ Strike 950,000 Volt Stun Gun Walking Stick that Barnett purchased at Bass Pro Shops in Rogers on Dec. 31, the filing said.

Barnett was carrying the collapsible stun gun extended to the length of a walking stick when he approached a line of police officers in the Capitol, Dohrmann wrote.

His attorneys argue that it wasn’t a dangerous weapon because it had no batteries in it during the Capitol melee.

That is “pure fiction,” according to federal prosecutors.

“The defendant purchased the stun gun shortly before the insurrection, chose a device that could be concealed as a walking stick, proudly discharged the stun gun for a crowd of onlookers the night before, appears to be aware of the device’s location during a confrontation with an officer, and … hid or discarded the device before his apprehension,” according to Monday’s filing.

On April 6, Barnett’s attorneys filed a motion saying Barnett should be released on bond. He got swept up by the crowd and carried into the Capitol, they wrote. Once inside, he was looking for a restroom when he wandered into Pelosi’s office, they said.

But that’s not the way federal prosecutors see it.

Dohrmann wrote that Barnett “invaded” Pelosi’s office during a “mass siege” of the U.S. Capitol.

“At the time, the defendant was outfitted with a stun gun purchased for the occasion, and he went on to pose for a photographer, confront officers, give an interview with a reporter, and take to a bullhorn to rile up the crowd,” wrote Dohrmann. “He then returned to his home in Arkansas, where he hid or destroyed evidence.”

Besides the stun gun, police also haven’t recovered the cellphone Barnett had with him at the Capitol, but they did find a QAnon decal during a search of Barnett’s house, according to Monday’s court filing.

Dohrmann’s response begins by quoting a note Barnett left behind for Pelosi: “Nancy, Bigo was here, you b###h.”

At his hotel in Washington on Jan. 5, Barnett gave a group of onlookers a demonstration, discharging the stun gun in the hotel’s bar, and was captured on surveillance video, wrote Dohrmann.

“Additional footage, recorded just before the siege at the U.S. Capitol, shows the defendant near a parking garage at his hotel shouting, ‘We own this motherf#####. This is our country. This is our District. You want to f### with us, bring it on!’” according to the motion. “The defendant was ready for a fight.”

After leaving Pelosi’s office, Barnett proceeded to the Capitol rotunda, wrote Dohrmann.

There, Barnett confronted police who were trying to clear the Capitol, according to the filing. Barnett had left an American flag in Pelosi’s office and wanted to retrieve it, the filing said.

“Footage recorded by body worn cameras worn by Metropolitan Police Department officers shows the defendant aggressively demanding either to be allowed to go back to the Speaker’s office, purportedly to get the American flag he left there, or that an officer leave their post, retrieve his flag, and bring it to him,” wrote Dohrmann. “At one point during the confrontation, which lasts several minutes, as an officer attempts to press him back, the defendant can be seen gripping the stun gun device, which is under his clothing at his waist.”

When a melee broke out between a different rioter and an officer on the same police line, Barnett could be seen yelling and waving his hand in the air, inviting the crowd behind him forward, according to Monday’s court filing.

The officers held their ground. According to the filing, Barnett said: “’Y’all better get my flag, I’m gonna bring ’em in, they’ll shove you right through here if I don’t get my flag. It’s in Nancy Pelosi’s office. It’s going to get really bad, I’m telling you. Hey, we’re fixing to call them in brother. Get my f###### flag.’

“The interaction ends when the crowd surges toward the police line and, apparently, tear gas is deployed,” the filing said.

About 20 minutes later, Barnett was seen on body-worn cameras in the Capitol rotunda, approaching the line of police officers, the filing said.

At some point before leaving the Capitol grounds on Jan. 6, Barnett used a bullhorn to give a speech to the crowd, declaring to loud cheers, “We took back our house, and I took Nancy Pelosi’s office,” according to Monday’s court filing.

He then gloated about leaving a note for her.

Monday’s filing mentions two previous events in Fayetteville — on July 25 and Sept. 20 — in which Barnett was armed with a rifle. Police officers spoke with him but didn’t arrest him at either event, the filing said.

On Sept. 20, Barnett said he was “standing security” for a “Save the Children” rally, according to the court filing.

Save the Children is “a slogan associated with a discredited QAnon conspiracy theory politicizing an imaginary child sex-trafficking ring,” Dohrmann wrote in Monday’s filing.

At another event, on Oct. 10, Barnett was photographed “holding a pistol fitted with a silencer alongside two young people, one of whom wields a firearm, and in a larger group of individuals all carrying firearms surrounding a sign stating, “Dead Pedophiles Don’t Reoffend,” wrote Dohrmann.

At an Oct. 7 rally in Bella Vista, which wasn’t mentioned in Monday’s court filing, Barnett had expressed his contempt for “these freaking government officials.”

“We’re beyond Democrat versus Republican. We are actually [at] the point of freedom and good versus evil,” Barnett told a videographer during an interview at the Patriots, God & Country rally.

With an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle in his right hand and another firearm on his hip, Barnett addressed not only the nation’s ills but also the camera angle, concerned that it might not be capturing the image of the rifle.

“I don’t know if he’s panned out to show you what I’m carrying right now, but I’m not playing,” he said. “It’s time for us to stand up. This is our country. This is the last bastion of freedom in the world. When this is gone, it’s over, people.”

In the video from the Oct. 7 event, Barnett said: “These freaking government officials, they work for us. They’ve gone way too long and way too far thinking that we work for them.

“We need term limits. But before we even need that, we need to clean up our country,” he said. “We have got to vote; we have to take this snake off at the head.”

Besides the weapon charge, Barnett also faces these charges:

  • 18 U.S.C. 1512(c)(2) and 18 U.S.C. 2; Obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting.

  • 18 U.S.C. 1752(a)(2) and (b)(1)(A); Disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon.

  • 40 U.S.C. 5104(e)(2)(C); Entering and remaining in certain rooms in a Capitol building.

  • 40 U.S.C. 5104(e)(2)(D); Disorderly conduct in a Capitol building.

  • 40 U.S.C. 5104(e)(2)(G); Parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol Building.

  • 18 U.S.C. 641; Theft of government property (the envelope).


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