Ohio residents who allegedly were part of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., are in the news again as more motivations behind their actions come to light.
Jessica Watkins of Champaign County was federally charged in January with entering restricted grounds, violent entry, and obstruction of a congressional proceeding as Congress was voting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. A grand jury indicted Watkins on Jan. 27.
Now Watkins, a leader of a far-right, military-style Oath Keepers group in Ohio, says that she was in Washington at former President Donald Trump’s behest to provide security for legislators and meet with Secret Service agents. Her attorney says that she did not engage in violence at the Capitol.
“Ms. Watkins was present not as an insurrectionist, but to provide security to the speakers at the rally, to provide escort for the legislators and others to march to the Capitol as directed by the then president, and to safely escort protesters away from the Capitol to their vehicles and cars at the conclusion of the protest. She was given a VIP pass to the rally. She met with Secret Service agents,” Reuters reports her attorney as saying.
Photos and footage from prosecutors place Watkins at the scene with hundreds of people who violently stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 to disrupt Congress certifying Joe Biden as the U.S. President.
Oath Keepers are predominantly former armed forces members and law enforcement who believe the government is stripping freedoms away from Americans, the Ohio Capital Journal reports. Members have been convicted of acts of violence and weapons charges even before the Jan. 6 riot.
Watkins is a former Army ranger who had served in Afghanistan, WBNS-TV reports.
An older retired couple from Ohio also have been charged for their alleged actions in the Jan. 6 riot, the Daily Beast reports.
For their roles, Sandra Parker and her husband Bennie Parker, both of Warren County, have been federally charged with conspiracy, destruction of government property, and aiding and abetting, according to a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court last week.
Prosecutors identified the Parkers through photos, hotel records and phone records. In the complaint, both Sandra and Bennie Parker are shown as having texted Watkins in December while making plans for Jan. 6, discussing clothing/tactical gear options and weapons. Records also show the Parkers communicating with Watkins on the day of the insurrection as well as in the days after.
NPR reports that more than 250 suspects have been identified from the riot, with many having ties to extremist groups or military/law enforcement. NPR reports that 11 people from Ohio have been arrested thus far.
Five people died during the riot, including a U.S. Capitol police officer. Many others were injured. Members of the Senate and House were evacuated, including former Vice President Mike Pence.