Federal authorities on Friday arrested a Spring man who allegedly participated in the Jan. 6 attack at the U.S. Capitol, making him the first in the Houston area to be charged in the deadly insurrection.
Joshua Lollar, 39, faces three criminal charges after the FBI combed through his Facebook page and found a myriad of now-deleted posts detailing involvement in the riot, according to court documents. He is one of at least 100 people who have been arrested and 47 charged in federal court over the event, numbers that are expected to grow as FBI authorities said they were “aggressively” seeking out people in the violent mob.
Five people, including one Capitol police officer, died as a result of the riot. The large group of Trump supporters stormed the government building after the president called for them to fight Congress’ vote approving the results of Joe Biden’s election. Senators and representatives took shelter and were evacuated as some of the mob raided the building, even entering some members’ offices.
Lollar was believed to be at the front of a group trying to push past a line of Metropolitan police officers into the Capitol, a FBI special agent wrote in court documents.
“Given the close proximity of the MPD officers to the camera lens, and the fact that there is no person or property visible in between the camera and the bodies of the MPD officers, it appears that Lollar was at the front lines of a physical confrontation with MPD officers,” the agent wrote.
Lollar spoke with investigators and admitted to traveling to and being at the riot, the agent said. He willingly handed over his cell phone, as well as his password.
The Spring resident made his initial appearance in a Houston federal court Friday afternoon. Handcuffed, he told U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Edison that he understood the charges against him.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Johnson said he would oppose Lollar’s release on bond until he forfeits his guns. He told court officials that he owned guns but “refused” to tell them what type of weapons he owned and where they were located.
“We’re not comfortable with him being out until then,” Johnson said.
Authorities first heard of Lollar through a tip to the FBI’s National Threat Operations Center, according to court documents. The tipster said he believed the defendant was one of many Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol following the president’s speech at the Ellipse.
The tipster said he was friends with Lollar on Facebook and saw many photos and a livestream video of him clashing with police officers. He sent several screenshots, including a photo with the caption, “Busting in,” and another with the caption “inside the Capitol.”
Another screenshot showed the post: “Sorry they are jamming the phones so I can’t do much about a live stream or uploading. I’ll do my best, it’s about to get spicey boi!”
After one of his Facebook friends asked how the riot was going, federal prosecutors allege that the profile associated with his name wrote, “They ran us out of the Capitol area. Antifa was randomly in our groups. They forgot to take off the black block. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I will try to do more vids”.
Authorities interviewed Lollar on Monday. He said he had driven from Spring to D.C., attended Trump’s speech, and then followed the crowd to the Capitol, the special agent said. He told them he did enter the Capitol and recorded several videos for Facebook — most or all of which were removed but were still on his phone.
In the photos and videos on the device, Lollar was seen at times wearing a “Keep America Great” cap, a tan body armor vest and a gas mask, the filing alleges.
Another video showed Lollar as part of a crowd unsuccessfully attempting to push through a line of law enforcement officers, documents show.
That night, he posted, “Yeah, I’m good. Just got gassed and fought with cops that I never thought would happen”.
The post continued, “I don’t know what we can do, but I’m trying my best to get it done peaceful. We can’t loose [sic] our America.”
A Facebook user appearing to be Lollar’s sister urged him multiple times to remove the posts because of the potential of federal prosecutions.
Lollar is not currently employed and receives disability benefits, he told Edison Friday.
He is being charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building without lawful authority and impeding or disrupting official functions; obstructing or impeding law enforcement officer during civil disorder and obstruction federally protected functions; and violent entry and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds.
Those charges could result in various fines and up to one year in prison, five years in custody and six months in custody for the respective charges.
Lollar’s charges fall under the same process expected for most of the riot-related prosecutions. Non Washington D.C.-based U.S. attorneys are mostly expected to help out with local arrests and search warrants in connection with prosecutions of the mob participants in Washington, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick said.
After initial appearances in court, many defendants will be moved to Washington for further proceedings, he said.
Patrick, who represents the Southern District of Texas, said Justice Department officials in Washington will likely pursue cases that involve violence, theft, property damage, criminal mischief, trespassing or knowingly entering or remaining in restricted building or grounds without permission.
If someone involved in the melee lived in the sprawling 43-county Southern District, Patrick said, he would investigate locally whether the person planned in advance to travel to Washington to incite a riot.
The Houston Police Department officer who was believed to be at the Capitol has not yet been charged. The former lawman Tan Pham resigned Thursday.
Christina Garza, spokesperson for the FBI in Houston, said the agency welcomes tips that will help identify people who instigated rioting and violence at the Capitol and elsewhere in Washington. Witnesses with information, photos, multimedia or videos related to this investigation can submit materials through a form at fbi.gov/USCapitol or call 1-800-CALL-FBI or 1-800-225-5324.
Lollar is due back in court 10 a.m. Tuesday.
Gabrielle Banks contributed to this report.