Oath Keepers planned to have armed presence around DC before Capitol riot, feds say
WASHINGTON - Three Oath Keepers tried to recruit people for an armed military-style presence just outside the District that would provide armed backup at the Capitol if the situation got out of hand, according to court documents.
The Jan. 6 incident stunned the District, and the nation, as protesters surged up from a rally featuring former President Donald Trump, to storm the U.S. Capitol.
READ MORE: 3 members of far-right group Oath Keepers indicted for participation in pro-Trump Capitol riot
But court documents filed to request a denial of pre-trial release for the Oath Keepers indicate that some of the protesters plotted ahead of time – and their plans were more sinister than those of peaceful protesters.
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In a filing for the pre-trial detention of Jessica Marie Watkins, Donovan Ray Crowl and Thomas Caldwell, prosecutors allege Watkins called for a "a quick reaction force [QRF] [that would be] bringing the tools if something goes to hell."
Another filing for Caldwell points to similar language in his communications with others planning to attend the Jan. 6 demonstration in D.C.
According to the filing for Caldwell, he floated the idea of supporters using boats to cross the Potomac with weapons if needed.
The Department of Justice characterizes the Oath Keepers as a far-right organization that distinguishes itself from others by prioritizing ex-military, law enforcement and first-responders.
READ MORE: DC Capitol riot body-camera video shows brutality of attack
Their name points toward the oath sworn by members of the military and the police to defend the constitution, which they believe is threatened by a shadowy conspiracy looming over the highest levels of government.
During the Jan. 6 riot, Oath Keepers were seen wearing military style gear and camouflage, distinguishing themselves with patches signaling their membership.
On Jan. 4, an Oath Keeper leader issued a call to members to act on behalf of President Donald Trump, who maintained that Democrats had fraudulently wrested away his victory in the 2020 election.
According to court documents, Watkins, an Ohio woman who served in the military, had planned and trained for a potentially armed attack on the capitol.
"Watkins’s premediated and coordinated conduct created an unprecedented danger, the effects of which continue to reverberate throughout this city and nation—and which demonstrate that there are no conditions of release that can reasonably assure the safety of the community. This Court should thus detain Watkins pending trial," prosecutors argued in court documents.
READ MORE: 5 people associated with the Proud Boys charged in connection with Capitol riot
They say Watkins and the co-conspirators sought to have a physical presence at the Capitol with the support of armed recruits.
According to court documents:
Watkins previously stated that the QRF [quick reaction force] provided ready access to guns during operations. As she explained to a contact when preparing to attend a November election fraud rally in Washington D.C., QRF was designed so that "If it gets bad, they QRF to us with weapons for us," but that, otherwise, "[w]e can have mace, tasers, or night sticks. QRF staged, armed, with our weapons, outside the city" and advised "to be prepared to fight hand to hand" while "guys outside DC with guns, await orders to enter DC under permission from Trump, not a minute sooner."
Prosecutors also provided surveillance photos and social media elements showing Watkins and Crowl outside and inside the Capitol building, pushing past law enforcement in one image, and pausing for a selfie in another.
They say it wasn’t necessary for Caldwell to be inside the building, asserting that his role as a kind of coach served his group’s violent ends.
Additional social media or published interviews indicate that both Watkins and Caldwell boasted about their involvement in the Capitol riot, relishing it as a triumph for their movement.
Less than 10 days after the Capitol riot, all three were arrested.