On January 6th, Derrick Vargo was severely injured when he was pushed off a ledge on the West side of the Capitol. Vargo was climbing up the outside of the railing with a flag as Capitol Police officers attempted to hold the landing mid-way up the North West staircase. Video shows Vargo turning around to retreat just before a Capitol Police officer in a blue motorcycle helmet and a black mask reaches out and pushes Vargo off the staircase. Vargo was carried off from the scene unresponsive.
Court documents released last month reveal the identity of the masked Capitol Police Officer as Bryant Williams. Although many of these facts were brought to my attention by a confidential source, they are verifiable via publicly available material. I am sharing this information because I believe in accountability.
United States v. RAMEY
Officer Williams was named as a victim in the government's case against Barry Bennet Ramey. Ramey was accused of spraying two officers including Williams with a chemical agent. Although Ramey was found guilty of charges including obstruction and violence, he was found not guilty of using a "deadly or dangerous weapon" in the commission of those crimes. Besides Officer Williams' testimony in the case describing his location and appearance, we also have a labeled screenshot from the government's post-trial brief:
Following the Trail
Officer Williams is first seen at the foot of this staircase around 1:00 pm, shortly after rioters had overrun the police line at the perimeter of Capitol Grounds.
1:00 - 1:48 pm - foot of the NW staircase
As reinforcements arrive, the Capitol Police are able to re-stabilize a line across the lower plaza, between the two massive staircases leading up to the West Terrace. On January 6th, the staircases had been covered with scaffolding in preparation for the inauguration. Although there were officers like Williams guarding the entrance to the North West staircase, they were somewhat cut off from the more heavily armored officers in riot gear to the South, across the plaza, and to the North, across the lawn.
During this period, between 1:00 pm and 1:48 pm, the police are actually able to slowly push their line forward. They also begin deploying flashbangs into the crowd at approximately 1:20 pm (including setting a man on fire and all that fun stuff).
1:48 pm - foot of the NW staircase
Although the police have been able to more than hold their own on this side of the Capitol for nearly an hour, an incident at 1:48 pm involving Officer Williams is going to turn the tide against them. This is the first of a series of events on the North West staircase which will end up with the police abandoning the staircase, allowing rioters to outflank the main police line and breach undefended entrances like the Senate Wing Door, which will be the first entry into the actual Capitol Building.
The incident appears to start with an unidentified man in a grey hoodie referred to as "#lemongrey" by the "Sedition Hunters". As far as I can tell from the video, it is Officer Williams who initiates the scuffle by shoving #lemongrey as he turns to walk away. However, it quickly turns into a general assault and the police retreat up the staircase. Ramey was found guilty of assault for his use of a chemical spray at this time.
1:48 pm - 2:02 pm - returning to duty on the NW staircase
According to Officer Williams' testimony in the Ramey trial, he was incapacitated by the chemical spray, and even collapsed due to the burning in his face. Before he had a chance to receive decontamination, he headed back over to defend the NW staircase (referred to as the "Senate stairs"). Williams also testified that "everything started getting kind of blurry", and that he is still suffering vision impairment from the incident.
14:02 pm - Derrick Vargo
The police have retreated up to a landing on the middle of the staircase, and are attempting to hold the line. At this point, one Trump supporter named Derrick Vargo begins climbing up the outside of the railing on the staircase.
When Vargo hits the ground, there is an immediate reaction in the crowd below, as many witnessed the incident and believe the police officer is responsible. Shortly after Vargo is carried off on a bicycle rack used as an improvised stretcher, members of the crowd below the staircase begin throwing objects at the police on the landing. Under assault from two directions, these police retreat.
Although the police do briefly attempt to hold a line of fencing at the top of the staircase, they quickly scatter, giving the rioters unimpeded access to the West Terrace. Some quickly make their way over to the Senate Wing Door and break in through the windows, marking the first breach into the Capitol Building on January 6th.
One of the facts I find astonishing is that, despite the presence of Deputy Chief Eric Waldow on this staircase during this critical 20+ minute period, none of the heavily armored police on the plaza below appear to be sent to reinforce the beleaguered police on the NW staircase. Instead, the unit of armored Metropolitan Police which arrives during this period marches right past the foot of the staircase to join the main police line on the plaza.
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