Proud Boys leader no longer in custody but ordered to leave DC and stay away

Proud Boys leader Henry “Enrique” Tarrio takes part in a Portland, Oregon, rally in this September 2020 file photo. D.C. police accuse him of burning a Black Lives Matter banner that had been torn down from a historic Black church in D.C. last month. (AP Photo/Allison Dinner, File)

The leader of the far-right extremist group the Proud Boys, who was arrested Monday ahead of protests planned by supporters of President Donald Trump, is no longer in custody but has been ordered to leave D.C. and stay away until his next court appearance.

Henry Tarrio, who goes by Enrique, was arrested shortly after arriving in D.C. on Monday afternoon.

Tarrio is accused of being involved in the tearing down and burning of a Black Lives Matter banner from a historically Black church in downtown D.C. during a pro-Trump rally last month.

In addition to destruction of property charges, the 36-year-old is also facing two felony weapons charges: D.C. police said officers found him with two high-capacity firearm magazines when he was arrested.

D.C. Superior Court Magistrate Judge Renee Raymond ordered Tarrio released on his own recognizance. However, Tarrio, who lives in Miami, was ordered to stay away from D.C. in its entirety until his next appearance in June.

Tarrio, through his attorney Lucas Dansie, pleaded not guilty to both the destruction of property and weapons charges. Dansie had asked the judge to order him to stay away only from Black Lives Matter Plaza and the surrounding areas rather than the entire District.

The judge cited statements and memes Tarrio posted on social media, suggesting he would vandalize other Black Lives Matter signs and banners.

“There are ‘Black Lives Matter’ banners, posters, placards, signs in front of people’s homes and the like throughout Washington, D.C.,” the judge said. “So, I’m denying your request.”

Prosecutors had not asked for Tarrio to be held in jail.

D.C. police say Tarrio had these two high-capacity firearm magazines in his book bag when he was arrested Monday. The magazines had “Proud Boys” insignia on them. (Courtesy D.C. Superior Court case file)

D.C. police, who had obtained an arrest warrant for the banner burning on Dec. 30, said they were looking for Tarrio and arrested him when the Honda Crosstour he was riding in as a passenger was stopped by police in the Third Street tunnel at 4:18 p.m.  Monday.

Police said they found two high-capacity firearm magazines compatible with an AR-15/M4 in his book bag when he was arrested.

The magazines were decorated with “Proud Boys” insignia including a laurel wreath and a rooster.

Tarrio told police he had the gun magazines with him because he sold them on his website and was personally delivering them to a customer in D.C. after the items had been returned because of a wrong address. He offered to show officers “invoices and stuff,” including a USPS shipping label.

Court docs cite Proud Boy’s own words, social media memes

Regarding the burning of the church’s Black Lives Matter banner, the arrest affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court relies on publicly available videos of the church banner vandalism, as well as interviews Tarrio gave to The Washington Post and other news outlets — and even memes Tarrio posted in which he takes credit for the vandalism.

However, despite Tarrio’s claims, police make clear in the documents that though the videos show him participating in the vandalism of the banner, none of them actually appear to show Tarrio lighting it on fire.

Among the videos cited in the court documents is one that shows a group of people in black and yellow garb that police said are affiliated with the Proud Boys, walking on K Street in front of Asbury United Methodist Church, carrying a banner.

Later, the video shows the Black Lives Matter banner unfurled in the intersection of 11th and E streets. The video shows an unknown person dousing the banner in what appears to be lighter fluid, then various members of the group begin chanting, “Light it up!” and “Light the edges!” Eventually, the banner goes up in flames.

Tarrio is seen in the video, crouching down by the banner, holding a white paper cup. At one point, “an open flame is momentarily seen beneath” his cup, “but the source of the flame is unclear due to the angle of the camera.”

In another video, it appears Tarrio is holding a lighter that he moves from his left hand to his right hand, but the banner “appears already to be engulfed in flames” at that point.

The affidavit also pointed to statements Tarrio has given claiming credit for the burning. In a Dec. 18 post on the online platform Parler, Tarrio wrote: “Against the wishes of my attorney I am here to admit that I am the person responsible for burning of this sign.”

But Tarrio, who is of Afro-Cuban descent, denied that the act was a hate crime. “I did it out of love. Love for a country that has given my family SO MUCH.”

He added: “I did it. Come get me if you feel like what I did was wrong. We’ll let the public decide.”

When he was later contacted by a D.C. police officer via text message, Tarrio replied that he would be taking the Fifth — referring to his right not to incriminate himself.

Around the same time, according to police, Tarrio posted a meme to his Parler page containing the following text:

FBI: NOOOO you can’t burn a BLM banner! thas a hate crime!”

Enrique Tarrio: I’LL [expletive] DO IT AGAIN!”

In the accompanying post, Tarrio wrote, “Ayo … Pass me the lighter.”

Similarly, the affidavit includes excerpts from interviews Tarrio gave to media outlets, including a Dec. 18 interview with DCist in which the publication quoted Tarrio as claiming he burned the banner and that he decided to come forward after seeing the burning characterized as a hate crime.

In a Dec. 18 interview with The Washington Post, also excerpted in the affidavit, Tarrio again claimed he burned the banner but denied the vandalism was racially motivated.

“We didn’t Google the church and go, ‘Oh, it’s a Black church, let’s target it.’ The sign was taken down because of what it represents. If they want to get me for destruction of property, I won’t even give them a fight. I’ll tell them guilty.”

Although the charges Tarrio now faces don’t focus on the motive, prosecutors could ask a D.C. grand jury if they would charge him with a hate crime.

WTOP’s Neal Augenstein and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined WTOP.com as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at Nextgov.com, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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