State engineer at Rhode Island nuclear power plant charged with felony assault during Capitol riot
(DOJ Photo)

A prominent official at Rhode Island’s only nuclear power facility was arrested today on charges of felony civil disorder and physical violence in connection with the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Bernard Joseph Sirr, 47, of North Kingstown, is accused by the FBI of having taken part in the front line of a group of protesters who were attacking Capitol Police.

“He is seen pushing against the police line with his hand pressed against a police shield. He also participated in a struggle in which a group of rioters chanted “Heave! Ho!” in unison as they moved together as a team against the officer,” according to a news release from the Department of Justice.

Sirr earns an annual salary of $82,009 as nuclear facilities engineer for the R.I. Atomic Energy Commission at the University of Rhode Island’s Bay Campus in Narragansett, the Providence Journal reported. The commission runs Rhode Island’s only nuclear reactor.

IN OTHER NEWS: Ammon Bundy won’t respond to lawsuit, so St. Luke’s Health System takes more legal action

Sirr is listed as “Facility Engineer” for the Rhode Island Nuclear Science Center on the state’s website. On Sirr’s Facebook page, he describes himself as “Reactor operator/Facility Engineer.

Sirr was on leave from his job from January 5-7, 2021, according to FBI arrest documents. Here’s how the Boston Globe described official reaction to Sirr’s arrest:

“We really don’t have much in the way to comment,” Jeff Davis, assistant director of the Rhode Island Nuclear Science Center, told the Globe. “If he participated in the protest that’s OK. It doesn’t have anything to do with our security efforts. We are doing what they guide us to do.”

“We are a very small agency,” Davis added. “We have 8.6 full-time equivalents employees... This is someone I worked with for years and I have a sense of his character. We don’t see him as a threat.”

R.I. Department of Administration spokesperson Laura Hart told the Globe: “Jeff Davis is speaking for himself and not representing the agency.” Sirr has been placed on paid administrative leave, she said.

A Globe journalist posted this Tweet showing Sirr being pursued by reporters after leaving the federal courthouse.

You can read the FBI statement of facts here.