A half-dozen Southern California men, including four Riverside County residents and a former Orange County police chief, were indicted in connection with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, federal prosecutors announced Thursday.
Derek Kinnison, 39, Felipe Antonio Martinez, 47, both of Lake Elsinore, along with Ronald Mele, 51, of Temecula and Erik Scott Warner, 45, of Menifee, were arrested after the Capitol breach.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the four men, as well as 56-year-old former La Habra police Chief Allan Hostetter of San Clemente and 40- year-old Russell Taylor of Ladera Ranch, were indicted on charges of conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding and unlawful entry on a restricted building or grounds.
Federal prosecutors allege the defendants communicated via social media, primarily Telegram, to plan the disruption, aimed at halting the certification of Electoral College votes in favor of Joe Biden.
According to the indictment, Warner initiated a group message on Dec. 28, conversing with Kinnison, Martinez and Mele about traveling to the nation’s capital. On Jan. 1, Taylor in response initiated a chat titled “The California Patriots-DC Brigade,” which included the defendants and over 30 others as members.
“This group will serve as the `Comms’ for able bodied individuals that are going to DC on Jan 6,” according to the message. “Many of us have not met before and we are all ready and willing to fight. We will come together for this moment that we are called upon.”
Taylor went on to establish that the thread was for the “exclusive” use of the DC Brigade, characterized as “fighters (who) have each other’s backs and ensure that no one will trample on our rights,” according to court papers.
“I am assuming that you have some type of weaponry that you are bringing with you and plates as well.” the government quotes Taylor as saying. He additionally inquired whether anyone in the group had prior law enforcement experience, military experience or “special skills relevant to our endeavors.”
Kinnison wrote in one message that he, Martinez, Mele and Warner were part of “SoCal 3%,” according to the indictment.
“We work well and train with each other,” Kinnison allegedly said. “We will have lots of gear from medical kits, radios, multiple cans of bear spray, knives, flags, plates, goggles, helmets. I think we should clear all text in this chat in the morning of the 5th just in case for opsec purposes.”
Taylor posted pictures on the night of Jan. 5 showing he had a protective vest, two hatchets, a portable radio, a stun baton, a helmet, scarf and knife, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said that the men joined tens of thousands who gathered on the National Mall on the morning of Jan. 6 to hear former President Donald Trump recite a litany of what he claimed were fraudulent actions in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin that cost him the election. The same allegations were made within a few days of the Nov. 3 general election and repeated multiple times by Trump.
After the mall rally, the defendants joined thousands of others to march on the Capitol Building, and Kinnison, Martinez, Mele and Warner posed for a group photo, prosecutors said.
The indictment alleges that Kinnison forced his way inside the building via a broken window at 2:13 p.m. Roughly 15 minutes later, Hostetter and Taylor joined others on the west terrace of the building, where there was a confrontation with law enforcement officers.
The ensuing melee inside the building broke up the Electoral College vote deliberations and culminated in the fatal shooting of a Southern California resident. U.S. Air Force veteran Ashli Babbitt, 35, of Ocean Beach, was struck by a single bullet fired at point-blank range by a Capitol police officer as she climbed through a broken window.
According to the DOJ, the investigation into the Jan. 6 breach is ongoing, and in the last five months, 465 people have been arrested for a variety of alleged offenses.