The Justice Department has charged a member of the Proud Boys who allegedly used pepper spray against police officers during the US Capitol insurrection, according to court records.
Prosecutors say Christopher Worrell of Florida came to the Capitol on January 6 armed with pepper spray, and later used it against a line of police officers who were guarding the complex. He was photographed near the Capitol wearing a tactical vest and a radio earpiece, assembled outside the building with other members of the Proud Boys, a right-wing extremist organization.
He has been charged with five federal crimes: Engaging in violence on restricted grounds, knowingly entering restricted grounds, disorderly conduct on restricted grounds, violent entry onto Capitol grounds, and obstructing Congressional proceedings. He hasn’t yet entered a plea.
Worrell appeared in federal court on Friday and was released by a federal judge in the Middle District of Florida. The Justice Department promptly appealed that decision and the chief judge of the federal court in Washington, DC, temporarily halted his release pending further review.
Worrell’s lawyer, Landon Miller, told CNN that he plans to plead not guilty and that he denies using pepper spray against police. Miller said Worrell only came to Washington and marched to the Capitol because he was inspired by former President Donald Trump’s “invitation” to do so.
“Mr. Worrell is overcharged without supporting evidence,” Miller said in an email Sunday. “Mr. Worrell adamantly asserts that at no time did he pepper spray toward any law enforcement personnel nor intended to spray any law enforcement personnel. He also asserts that he went to Washington, D.C. and then the Capitol grounds at the direction of former President Trump.”
The charging papers don’t include direct photo evidence of police getting sprayed, but an FBI affidavit says, “the likely intended target of Worrell’s pepper spray assault was the line of law enforcement officers.” He wasn’t charged with the specific crime of assaulting federal officers.
The criminal complaint against Worrell includes pictures of him wearing Proud Boys gear and flashing the “OK symbol” that is associated with white nationalism. Other videos show Worrell with the leader of the Proud Boys, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, at a shopping mall in Naples, Florida.
When an FBI agent later asked Worrell about the group, Worrell said, “the Proud Boys were not a racist white supremacist group like the media tries to portray,” according to court documents.
Nearly 20 people affiliated with the Proud Boys have been charged in the Capitol riot, according to a CNN review of court documents. These include well-known leaders of the organization, people who participated in Proud Boys rallies, and others who donned Proud Boy’s insignia.
This story has been updated Sunday with comment from Worrell’s lawyer.
This content was republished with permission from CNN.