Ex-NYPD cop who gouged Capitol officer's eyes during Jan. 6 riot says he was just doing a defensive 'hockey' move
A former NYPD cop charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection says he was merely performing a defensive "hockey type of move" when he allegedly tried to gouge a Capitol police officer's eyes.
The claim by Thomas Webster is one of numerous revelations about his case contained in a new report from the New York Times, which chronicles his descent from a highly respected NYPD officer — once assigned to an intelligence detail protecting Mayor Michael Bloomberg — to the insurrectionist who became known as "#EyeGouger."
"Webster said he was not trying to gouge the officer's eyes, but called grabbing his mask a kind of defensive maneuver: 'a hockey type of move type thing where you don't want to fight somebody,'" the Times reports.
Webster's former NYPD colleagues told the Times they were shocked to learn that he committed one of the more violent attacks during the insurrection, after he apparently got swept up online in former president Donald Trump's false claims of fraud in the 2020 presidential election.
"He was not known for voicing political extremes, had no social media presence or ties to extremist groups, and once worked to protect the halls of New York City governance," the Times reports. "Now he had attacked an officer doing essentially the same duty in Washington, charging at a man who, one may imagine, looked to be both enemy and mirrored reflection."
Webster, a former Marine, had retired from NYPD and started a landscaping company, Semper Fi, in Florida, New York. He has a wife and three children, and his neighbors described him as "a cheerful family man with little visible interest in politics." He taught local children how to ride ATVs, and would mow the lawns of sick neighbors without even telling them.
Webster told FBI agents he had never protested before and on the day of the insurrection, he "just went down there just to show support for something." However, prosecutors have pointed out that Webster came to Washington "armed and ready for battle" with body armor, a map of the area, M.R.E.s, and a handgun, the Times reports.
Webster also claimed he was acting in self-defense — saying he had been sucker-punched — when he slammed through a police barricade and attacked a Capitol officer using his Marine flagpole, yelling "Commie" and shouting profanities.
"You wanna attack Americans?" he shouted, challenging the Capitol officers to "take your sh*t (body armor) off."
"In seconds, he and the officer are on the ground, Mr. Webster on top, reaching down for the officer's gas mask," the Times reports. "The officer later told investigators that he was being choked by his own chin strap and could not breathe for 10 seconds."
Webster then quickly disappeared into the crowd, but later looked into another man's camera outside the Capitol and said, "Send more patriots. We need some help."
Following a weeks-long manhunt that played out online, thanks to video and images released by the FBI, Webster turned himself in on Feb. 22. He was initially denied bond and spent four months in jail before being released, following a hearing during which his attorney said the weapon he used — a flagpole — weighs less than a pound, and claimed his client was angry because he had seen the Capitol officer push a woman to the ground earlier.
Webster is now on house arrest pending trial, barred from having firearms or using the Internet. He declined comment when a reporter from the Times knocked on his door.
Watch the full video from Webster's attack on the Capitol officer below.
Some conservatives in recent months have speculated that more Americans are believing in QAnon because they don't go to church as much anymore and instead look to conspiracy theories to fill the void.
However, Economist Pollster G. Elliott Morris on Tuesday shared new data showing that the exact opposite is true -- namely, that church-going evangelical Christians are the most likely to believe in QAnon.
"And it's not just QAnon," Morris adds. "Our Economist/YouGov data show white evangelical Christians are also disproportion likely to believe other conspiracies -- eg about the 2020 election, but also about vaccines and the moon landing. True even after controlling for demographics and politics."
In contrast to this, writes Morris, people who express no religious beliefs are the "least credulous" about conspiracy theories about Bill Gates using vaccines to implant people with microchips.
Pollster Daniel Cox of the American Survey Center replied to Morris's tweet and essentially confirmed his findings in his own poll.
"This is consistent with our work as well," he wrote. "Evangelical Republicans are more likely to believe in conspiracy theories."
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was clearly pandering to the Republican Party's lowest common denominator when he picked Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio as one of the five Republicans he wanted to serve on Speaker Nancy Pelosi's select committee on the January insurrection — a pick that Pelosi flatly rejected, inspiring McCarthy to angrily respond that if Pelosi wouldn't accept all of his picks, she couldn't have any of them. But Pelosi made a wise decision, given how aggressively Jordan promoted the Big Lie and former President Donald Trump's bogus elect fraud claims. And author Sidney Blumenthal, in an op-ed published by The Guardian on July 27, lists some things that Jordan might be asked if he testifies before Pelosi's committee.
Blumenthal is a former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
One right-wing Republican who Pelosi herself picked for the committee is Rep. Liz Cheney, who wholeheartedly agrees with Pelosi's decision to keep Jordan off her January 6 committee. Cheney has said that Jordan should be kept off the committee because he "may well be a material witness to events that led to that day, that led to January 6."
On October 20, Jordan tweeted, "Democrats are trying to steal the election, before the election." In light of that tweet, Blumenthal writes, the committee could ask: "What does Jordan know about the creation of the 'stop the steal' myth? Were his statements about a fraudulent election and attacking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for its role in 'stealing the election' made in coordination with anyone at the White House or known to them in advance? If he got marching orders, where did he get them from?"
A few days after the 2020 presidential election, Jordan promoted the Big Lie at a "Stop the Steal" rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania that was organized by Scott Presler, a former field director for the Virginia Republican Party. And Pelosi's committee, according to Blumenthal, could ask: "Who funded the Harrisburg rally? What is Jordan's relationship to Scott Presler? What are the communications between Jordan, his staff and Presler?"
On January 11, the day the U.S. House of Representatives impeached Trump for incitement to insurrection, Trump gave Jordan the Presidential Medal of Freedom. And Pelosi's committee, Blumenthal writes, should ask: "What conversations did Jordan have at the ceremony with Trump or others about overturning the election and how to defend Trump?"
On December 4, Jordan tweeted, "Over 50 million Americans think this election was stolen." And in light of how much Jordan promoted the Big Lie that month, Blumenthal writes, Pelosi's committee should ask: "Did Jordan coordinate his statements with Trump, the White House staff, other Republican House members, or Trump's legal team led by Rudy Giuliani?"
On December 21, according to Politico, Jordan privately met with Trump and other Republicans in the hope of finding ways "to overturn the election results." And according to Blumenthal, Pelosi's committee should ask: "What was said at that meeting? What were those plans? Was the rally discussed? Was the idea discussed of sending Trump supporters to intimidate and interrupt members of Congress in the certification process? Was Jordan's role on the House floor on 6 January against certification raised at that meeting? What did Jordan say?"
The committee, Blumenthal writes, should also ask: "Did Jordan broadcast falsehoods in order to encourage Trump supporters to come to Washington on 6 January?"
In a January 12 hearing, Jordan claimed, "I never once said that this thing was stolen." And the committee, according to Blumenthal, should ask: "Why, then, did he tweet that the election was being stolen before it had occurred, appear at a 'Stop the Steal' rally and claim that 'crazy things' had changed the vote in swing states in addition to many other statements?"
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