Police arrested a Marine Corps veteran and firearms trainer last month on charges related to the Jan. 6 insurrection — including disorderly conduct in the Capitol — after the FBI followed up on a September 2021 news article published by Raw Story.
The federal government accused Richard Avirett, a Florida resident, of entering the Senate office of Sen. James Risch (R-ID) on Jan. 6, 2021. Raw Story identified Avirett by comparing images of him from open-source video at the U.S. Capitol with a photo from his LinkedIn page.
In the statement of facts supporting charges against Avirett, a task force officer assigned to the FBI Tampa Division’s Joint Terrorism Task Force cited “video from Raw Story” that depicts Avirett inside the Capitol building.
The image published by Raw Story that confirms Avirett’s presence inside the Capitol comes from a video shot by livestreamer Jeremy Lee Quinn. The video also shows Avirett looking at his phone in Risch’s office.
In January 2022, according to the statement of facts, the FBI task force officer interviewed one of Avirett’s longtime acquaintances.
“The individual viewed the Raw Story video noted above as well as other pictures of Avirett taken at the Capitol and positively identified Avirett in the pictures and video,” the task force officer wrote.
Later, law enforcement executed a search warrant on Avirett’s Facebook account, and found a photo taken from inside Risch’s office and a message stating, “I’m inside.”
When Avireitt spoke to Raw Story in September 2021, he denied going inside the Capitol.
"I wasn't even around there," Avirett said at the time.
The footage shot by Quinn that was published in Raw Story shows Avirett on the Lower West Terrace of the U.S. Capitol.
An unidentified man then shouts, “Last chance! Who wants to make history with me? Who’s a man? Who’s a patriot? I’m going into Capitol Hill by myself. Who wants to man the f*** up. Patriots, let’s do this right f***ing now.”
Later, the video shows Avirett inside a congressional office ransacked by rioters, with broken furniture strewn about. The video shows Avirett carrying a long, thin, white rod that looks like PVC pipe or shoe molding. Later, in Risch’s office, Avirett can be seen picking up a rectangular object that appears to be a computer keyboard.
Eight months after the Jan. 6 insurrection, Avirett posted a photo on Facebook showing a Trump flag being hurled into a line of police officers guarding the tunnel on the Lower West Terrace, near the window he allegedly used to enter the Capitol.
“One day we will look at the picture and know we were right and we had the chance,” Avirett wrote.
"Mr. Avirett, like more than 50,000 other Americans, arrived at the Capitol on January 6, 2021 with the intent to exercise their First Amendment rights, with the encouragement of the United States president," Robert Lee Jenkins Jr., Avirett's lawyer, told Raw Story in a statement March 8. "As we continue to gather information and prepare for trial, we're confident that when all the facts come out, it will be established that Mr. Avirett did not show up with the intent to commit any crimes, and that he did not participate in any violence or destruction of government property."
According to Avirett's LinkedIn page, he worked as a private military contractor for Blackwater USA in Iraq, where he provided special operations and protection services to the Department of Defense and State Department, and specialized in explosive ordinance disposal. After leaving Blackwater, Avirett's LinkedIn page says he started a tactical training company to teach "gun fighting and personal combat applications" and "consulted with media and theater actors and actresses on use of firearms and theatrical combat.
A warrant was issued for Avirett’s arrest by U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui on Jan. 19, according to court documents. Avirett was arrested three weeks later in Cleveland, Ga., northeast of Atlanta.
WXIA-TV reported that a local police officer took Avirett into custody when a license plate reader flagged him as a wanted person. The officer wrote in the report for the apprehension: “Mr. Avirett appeared very shocked to hear he had an arrest warrant.”
Avirett was released on Feb. 21 on a sworn promise to appear in court. He has a status hearing scheduled for April 18 in D.C. federal court.