“I’m a Capitol Police officer who agrees with your political stance.”
It’s little secret that the mob of violent insurrectionists who stormed the United States Capitol on Jan. 6 seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election results was riddled with cops, troops, and other professionals ostensibly charged with public safety. It’s also been established that many of the people involved in the insurrection were welcomed with open arms into the Capitol building by the on-duty police officers tasked with protecting the members of Congress and their staffs.
On Friday, those two parallel narratives combined, with the arrest and indictment of Capitol Police officer Michael Riley, who stands accused of helping one of the people who breached the halls of Congress avoid the legal consequences of his actions.
In a six-page indictment filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia, Riley, a 25-year veteran of law enforcement, is described as allegedly contacting an online pal who had posted pictures of himself inside the Capitol during the insurrection to give them a warning that police were beginning to investigate anyone involved in the attack.
“[I]m a Capitol Police officer who agrees with your political stance,” the indictment claims Riley said in his initial, unprompted Facebook message to the apparent insurrectionist, sent on Jan. 7 — just one day after the attempted coup. “Take down the part about being in the building they are currently investigating and everyone who was in the building is going to charged. Just looking out!”
According to the indicting document, Riley was not on duty inside the Capitol itself during the insurrection, but was “aware — via USCP radio reports — of the violence and strife occurring” over the course of the day.
The pair then continued to chat online throughout the month of January, with Riley frequently giving his Facebook buddy, who is not named in the indictment, various updates on the at-the-time burgeoning investigation.
“It was a total shit show!!!” he wrote in one message. “Just wanted to give you a heads up ... I’m glad you got out of there unscathed. We had over 50 officers hurt, some pretty bad.”
“Get off social media,” he wrote in another message.
It was only after Riley’s online friend was arrested, and notified Riley that the FBI had been particularly curious about their communications, that Riley allegedly deleted his various conversations between the two and ended their back and forth saying he “felt like a moron” for believing that the person had been “pushed in the building with no other choice.”
Riley now stands indicted on two counts of obstruction: one for taking down his own messages, and the other for encouraging the accused insurrectionist to do the same. In a statement to CNN, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger confirmed that the department had known about the investigation into Riley for several weeks, and that he had been placed on administrative leave.
“[P]ending the completion of the case, the USCP's Office of Professional Responsibility will then open an administrative investigation” into Riley’s conduct, he added. During his initial court appearance Friday, Riley declined to enter a plea for either charge.