What to Know
- Thomas Webster surrendered Monday at the FBI's Hudson Valley office on charges filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. related to the deadly U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6
- Webster, who spent 54 years living in New York raising his three kids with his wife apart from time served in the Marines, was honorably discharged and had no prior arrests, his defense attorney said
- This latest development follows a myriad of arrests and charges against a number of tri-state residents in connection to the violent events that unfolded early last month
A retired NYPD officer who had been assigned for a time to work perimeter security at City Hall and at Gracie Mansion, the mayor's official residence, has been accused of using a pipe to attack a U.S. Capitol officer during the Jan. 6 siege, law enforcement officials with knowledge of the case told News 4 Tuesday.
Thomas Webster surrendered to the FBI's Hudson Valley office Monday to face charges in the ongoing investigation. A day later in White Plains federal court, prosecutors said the former U.S. Marine attacked a Capitol police officer with an aluminum pole while holding a Marine Corps flag. Webster then allegedly ripped off a mask and caused the officer to choke, prosecutors said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Gianforti said video footage at the Jan. 6 events showed Webster “clear as day” attacking an officer. Prosecutors described a look of rage on Webster, captured on video, that was reflective of a man about to unleash violence. And they accused him of doing just that.
"These videos shock the conscience," the prosecutor said, alleging Webster "goes after that cop like a junkyard dog -- teeth clenched and fists clenched."
Webster was seen in body camera footage carrying a large metal flagpole with a red U.S. Marines flag attached to it, according to a criminal complaint. It alleges that Webster berated a Capitol police officer with a curse-laden diatribe, as he "aggressively" shoved a metal barricade into the officer and armed himself with the metal rod.
The alleged rioter then brings the flagpole above his head and swings it downward, striking the metal barrier right in front of the officer, the complaint reads. Webster then attempted to attack the officer by lunging toward him with the flagpole, striking the cop several times, according to the criminal complaint.
The cop is eventually able to wrestle the pole away from Webster, and begins retreating further behind the barricades. But that doesn't stop the attack, the papers allege, as Webster breaks through the barriers and charges right at the officer with "clenched fists." He lunges again at the law enforcement officer and tackles him to the ground, where Webster allegedly attacks him for 10 seconds, the complaint reads.
Different angles on social media allegedly show Webster pinning the officer to the ground and straddling him while he tries to forcefully remove the face shield and gas mask. The officer later said that the helmet stayed on due to the chin strap, which began to choke him during part of the alleged assault, according to the criminal complaint.
The 54 year-old Webster Webster is later seen in a video that was posted to YouTube on a staircase leading to the Capitol building, the complaint says, saying into the camera "Send more patriots. We need some help."
Gianforti said the videos also show “a look of pure rage on the defendant’s face.”
“His teeth are gritted. This is a man who is about to unleash some kind of violence on somebody and, in fact, he did on that poor police officer,” the prosecutor said.
Webster was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time, implying he was prepared for physical conflict, prosecutors added. The 20-year NYPD veteran brought a gun to Washington, D.C., the day of the siege, prosecutors say. Webster claimed he left it in the hotel, but he was wearing bulky clothing in the video footage shared by FBI. Regardless, it's against the law just to carry a weapon in Washington, D.C.
"We believe he had a gun at the Capitol and thank God he didn't fire a shot then," prosecutors said.
Defense lawyer James Monroe said Webster did go to the U.S. Capitol to participate in a protest that January day but was not part of any group or organization. Monroe said his client was hit by the Capitol officer before retaliating; he never fired a shot in his decades-long career with the NYPD.
Monroe said Webster, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Marines and spent the rest of his 50-plus years raising his three children with his wife in New York, went to D.C. that January day to protest at an event at the behest of the former president of the United States. He has no prior arrests.
The FBI had released an image, later identified by law enforcement officials as Webster, as part of their ongoing investigation into the violence last month. When Webster learned his image had been circulated on social media, he went to Monroe, who told him the best course was to surrender in a show of good faith.
Webster turned over the weapons he owns of his own volition, along with his pistol permit and his passport, Monroe said. Webster does not deny he was the man in the red jacket seen in FBI-circulated video and imagery, Monroe said. But he said his client has no history of political activism.
Webster "poses no danger to the community. He has done a terrific job as a husband and a father," Monroe said. The lawyer offered to agree to monitoring and travel restrictions as part of a deal to keep Webster out of jail pending trial. Monroe asked that Webster be released on unsecured bond. He said his client plans to plead not guilty.
A judge agreed Webster was not a flight risk but ordered him held without bail over the potential threat he could pose to the community. U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew E. Krause said it appeared from bodycam footage that Webster came “running up” to the officer just before the attack began. He said he saw no evidence Webster was punched.
Krause praised the right to free speech, but said “what we see in this video ... goes well beyond First Amendment speech and moves into criminal activity,” calling what transpired on video "disturbing."
Gianforti said federal sentencing guidelines would recommend a prison term of at least five years in prison if Webster chose not to go to trial and pleaded guilty to the charges. If convicted at trial, the recommended prison term would be much higher, he said.
The Police Benevolence Association denounced Webster's actions, saying in a tweet that the riot was a "disgusting assault" on the Capitol police, the U.S. government and what "NYC police officers stand for. Even worse: the suspect once wore our uniform. Justice must be swift and severe."
Webster's arrest is the latest in a series of charges against a growing number of tri-state residents in connection with the events that unfolded early last month when a mob of former President Donald Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.
Nearing two months after the siege, the FBI continues to make arrests throughout the country. Since the violent riot, a number of tri-state residents have been arrested and charged with various crimes in connection to the deadly event, including a New York City sanitation worker, the brother of a retired NYPD officer, an MTA worker and an Upper West Side community leader.