Members of a so-called “B Squad” subgroup of a right-wing militia showed up at the U.S. Capitol ready for violence on Jan. 6 before facing off against police and ultimately breaching the building, according to a criminal complaint filed by the Department of Justice on Wednesday.
In a 40-page probable cause affidavit filed Wednesday, federal investigators detailed the alleged actions of five men from Florida at the tunnel of the Capitol on Jan. 6: Benjamin Cole, 38, John Edward Crowley, 50, Brian Preller, 33, Jonathan Rockholt, 38, and Tyler Quintin Bensch, 20.
Cole, Crowley, Preller, and Rockholt are charged with interfering with a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder, a felony, as well as misdemeanor trespassing and disorderly conduct charges. Bensch faces only the misdemeanor charges.
“The FBI is investigating a group of individuals that self-identify as B SQUAD,” the probable cause affidavit says. “The following interchange occurred on social media on December 2, 2020, between an individual whose identity is known to the FBI and another individual who acts as one of the leaders of B SQUAD—subsequently referred to herein as B Leader.”
That exchange, according to the DOJ:
Individual 1: Now, I think it would be hysterical if you got morale patches that said “plan B” or “B squad” because I think it’s one of the top 3 funniest things I’ve personally ever heard from politicians as they try to dance around the M word lmao
B Leader: Hahahahaha
I am going to name DC operation plan B
According to a footnote, the agent who signed the affidavit says: “Based on information gained through the course of this investigation, I believe that when Individual 1 referred to the ‘M word,’ they are referring to militias. I further believe that when they discuss a plan B/B Squad, they are referring to an alternate plan to be in place if they do not get the desired electoral outcome (i.e., the former president remaining in power)[.]”
According to a report from NBC News, the person identified as “B Leader” is actually Jeremy Liggett, a Republican congressional candidate from Florida who ran in the primary earlier this year.
The B Squad, prosecutors say, is an offshoot of the “Three Percenters,” a militia group that takes its name from the inaccurate claim that only three percent of American colonists look up arms against British rule during the American Revolution.
DOJ: Defendants ‘Assisted the Crowd in Confronting the Police Officers’ at the Tunnel
According to the filing, these “B Squad” members were key players in the confrontation between Donald Trump supporters and police at the Lower West Terrace tunnel on Jan. 6. The affidavit describes the scene as a siege that lasted for more than two hours, during which rioters “pushed into The Tunnel and were repelled in a constant back-and-forth of heave-ho efforts by the rioters and resistance by the officers.”
According to a DOJ press release, the men came to Washington prepared for violence.
“Cole wore a tactical vest,” the press release said. “Preller wore a tactical vest with a chemical irritant spray attached to the front, as well as large goggles and a green helmet with the word ‘monster’ on the back. He also carried a long black walking stick and wore a shirt that read ‘waterboarding instructor.’ Rockholt wore a tactical vest and carried what appeared to be a knife in his front right pocket; he also wore a baseball helmet. Bensch wore a tactical vest, as well as a military-style helmet with goggles and a black gas mask. He also carried a chemical irritant in front of the vest.”
According to the affidavit, the men “displayed various indicia of membership in the [Three Percenters], Guardians of Freedom, or B SQUAD on their clothing while committing criminal acts.”
As to the “riot gear” the men allegedly wore and carried — including expandable metal batons, knives, and particularly the walking sticks — the affidavit alleges that the men “intended to use them as impact weapons, as opposed to being mere walking aids.”
“None of the individuals who carried the long wooden poles are known to have a condition that requires the use of a walking stick,” the affidavit added.
The affidavit went on to describe the role these members of the “B Squad” allegedly played in the fight at the tunnel:
A full review of the applicable surveillance footage, including video of such individuals approaching the entrance to the tunnel, shows that Cole, Preller, Crowley, and Rockholt went into The Tunnel while Bensch remained only just outside. While inside The Tunnel, Cole, Preller, Crowley, and Rockholt confronted and assisted the crowd in confronting the police officers that were preventing The Tunnel and the Capitol from being breached. Specifically, while inside The Tunnel, Cole, Preller, Crowley, and Rockholt added their force, momentum, bodies, and efforts to the other rioters in a “heave-ho” effort. This put intense aggregate pressure on the police line in front of the rioters.
On the south side of The Tunnel, Preller was the closest in proximity to police, pushing his way forward to a point where Preller was essentially the person behind the person who was directly against police officers. Also, on the south side of The Tunnel, Crowley and Cole were in what is roughly equivalent to the third and fourth rows of rioters behind the police line. On the north side of The Tunnel, Rockholt was similarly in the third or fourth row, joining the rioters in pushing against the police line. Due to the tightly packed nature of the rioters in The Tunnel, Cole, Preller, Crowley, and Rockholt were all within a matter of feet of the police line when they lent their bodies to the rioters’ collective “heave-ho” efforts to breach the line of police officers and force their way into the Capitol.
The affidavit says that after the officers succeeded in repelling the B Squad, Rockholt picked up a clear riot shield with a Capitol Police seal that appeared to have been taken from officers by other rioters. As they left the tunnel, Bensch could be seen rinsing out Rockholt’s eyes, the affidavit says.
The accused rioters, however, weren’t above using chemical spray themselves.
“While on the Lower West Terrace, Bensch used one of his chemical irritants to spray the face of an individual who an unknown member of the crowd claimed was ‘Antifa,”” the affidavit says. “Based on a review of a video of this incident, it does not appear that the individual who was sprayed by Bensch posed any type of threat to Bensch or others.”
‘B Leader’ Allegedly Reserved Dozens of D.C. Hotel Rooms for the ‘Black Group’
According to the affidavit, the “B Leader” organized lodging for dozens of members of the right-wing militia group coinciding with the Capitol attack.
“Between on or about December 23 to 25, 2021 [sic], a client called the ‘Black Group’ reserved fifteen hotel rooms for January 5 to 7, 2021, at the Hampton Inn Washington-Downtown Convention Center,” the complaint says. “The ‘Client Representative’ for the group was B Leader (whose identity is known to the FBI). A credit card in B Leader’s name was used to reserve the rooms.”
Around 40 people associated with that Black Group reservation checked in to the hotel between Jan. 4 and 5, the affidavit says, including the person known as B Leader.
“According to Witness 1, a hotel employee, the group use white and gray Chrysler minivans, and, on January 6, 2021, group members were wearing tactical gear such as military style vests, zip ties, pepper spray, and clip-on knives, and had police-type batons, helmets, and masks,” the filing says.
The group apparently checked out of the hotel on Jan. 7.
Prior to Jan. 6, “B Leader” had allegedly posted a video to social media that was meant to be instructive to those planning on being in Washington that day.
“On January 3, 2021, B Leader published a video on his Facebook account intended for those traveling to Washington, D.C.,” the affidavit says. “The video was accompanied by the following written comment: ‘Quick safety video for your trip to DC! […] See you all January 6th #patriotsriseup.’”
The affidavit describes the video, in which “B Leader” — seen wearing a black tactical vest with the words “B SQUAD” and a patch associated with the Three Percenters group — did the following:
1. Advised that the video was for “all of you Patriots out there that are going to Washington, D.C., [ . . . ] to support Trump, to have your voices heard” and that “we are going to have four more years of Trump, we all know that”;
2. Warned that “we all know in D.C., once the sun goes down, things get a little bit violent and the reason why things get a little bit violent is because you have socialist, leftist, Marxist, communist agitators like Black Lives Matter and Antifa […]”;
3. Described so-called “defensive tools” to take to Washington, D.C., including “the strongest pepper spray commercially available to use,” an ASP baton (i.e., an expandable metal baton), knives with blades that were 3 inches or less, a walking cane, and a taser, all items that B Leader incorrectly claimed were legal in Washington, D.C.; and
4. Said that he was “super excited about DC on the 6th of January,” and he advised “patriots [to] keep up the fight.”
Throughout the video, B Leader stands in front of a group of individuals wearing military-style gear and face coverings, many of whom appeared to possess assault rifles.
“B Leader” also spoke at an event in Freedom Plaza in Washington on Jan. 5, the affidavit said.
A spokesperson for the DOJ declined to comment on the “unidentified individuals” in the filing. Liggett did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
You can read the complaint below:
[Images via FBI court filing.]
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