Recently arrested Capitol rioter texted with Proud Boys leader -- a signal of broader coordination
Courtesy of FBI

Federal court documents allege that one of two men recently arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 assault on the US Capitol communicated in advance with a Proud Boys leader, pointing to a wider organizational footprint in the execution of the effort to overwhelm the Capitol and prevent transfer of the presidency from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

Ronald Loehrke, 30, was arrested today in Cummings, Ga. and charged with obstruction of law enforcement, unlawful entry on restricted buildings and grounds, and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, according to the government. James Haffner, 53, was arrested in South Dakota on Wednesday, on the same complaint. He faced the same charges, along with an additional charge of assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers.

The two men marched with the Proud Boys and were part of the mob that overwhelmed US Capitol police officers during the initial breach at the northwest pedestrian path. The government alleges that shortly after the crowd broke through the police line, Loehrke helped another rioter over the barricade and then waved protesters towards the Capitol. As thousands of rioters surged over a toppled fence, a statement of offenses in the case alleges that Loehrke and Haffner made their way to a line of officers equipped with riot gear at the west plaza outside the Capitol.

According to the document, Loehrke chastised the other rioters for allowing themselves to be “stopped by twenty-five officers.”

“Don’t back down, patriots!” Loehrke reportedly shouted while Haffner stood nearby. “The whole f*cking world is watching. Stand the f*ck up today!”

The statement of offense indicates that Loehrke and Haffner then made their way to the east side of the Capitol, potentially indicating a broader coordinated strategy to breach the building from multiple sides. Several members of the Proud Boys, who are charged with conspiracy, ascended the scaffolding stairs.

Another Proud Boy, Dominic Pezzola, who has been indicted along with two others in a separate conspiracy case, used a stolen police shield to break out a window, allowing the first wave of rioters to enter the building.

The statement of offense in support of the charges against Loehrke and Haffner includes text messages exchanged in late December 2020 between Loehrke and Proud Boys leader Ethan Nordean that hint at a coordinated plan for Jan. 6 extending beyond the Proud Boys.

A Seattle-area leader of the Proud Boys, Nordean was propelled to fame within the organization when he delivered a knockout punch to a left-wing counter-protester during a 2018 protest in Portland, Ore. On Jan. 6, 2021, Nordean led the Proud Boys march, along with Joe Biggs. Nordean, Biggs and two other Proud Boys leaders are charged together in a separate conspiracy case.

The government alleges that Nordean texted Loehrke, whose number was saved in his cell phone as “Ron (Lisa’s friend),” on Dec. 27, 2020, asking if Loerke was coming to Washington, DC. Loehrke, who also lived in Seattle at the time, responded affirmatively. The government alleges that Nordean then texted Loehrke to tell him that he wanted him “on the front line” with him, and Loehrke responded that he planned to bring three “bad mother f*ckers” with him.

Two photos included in the statement of offense show Loehrke at the Washington Monument, where the Proud Boys mustered before marching to the Capitol. Biggs is pictured in both photos and Lohrke can be seen shaking hands with a third unidentified individual.

After diverging from the larger Proud Boys group and heading towards the east side of the Capitol, the statement of offense alleges that Loehrke and Haffner dismantled three sets of barricades. After dragging aside the third set, the government alleges that Loehrke encouraged the other rioters by saying words to the effect of, “Let’s go! Get in there!”

The government alleges that the two men ascended the east stairs and as they stood a few rows back from the mob attempting to break through the Columbus Doors, Haffner sprayed an aerosol substance at the Capitol police officers. Soon after, the rioters breached the doors, and Haffner and Loehrke followed them in.

Inside the Capitol, the government alleges that Loehrke engaged in a confrontation with a Capitol police officer, citing a Getty Images photograph, and made it inside of Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office.