The Capitol Siege: The Cases Behind the Largest Criminal Investigation in US History


Insurgency Database Photos // DOJ/NPR

Updated January 14, 2022 4:15 PM ET

Editor’s note: This story was first published on February 9, 2021. It is regularly updated and includes explicit language.

On January 6, 2021, hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump broke through police lines and stormed the US Capitol, forcing a panicked evacuation of key political leaders and threatening the country’s peaceful transfer of power. The violent attack was an act of domestic terrorism, according to to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

About 140 law enforcement personnel were injured in the attack, many at the hands of rioters wielding pepper spray, metal pipes and clubbed American flags. These injuries included brain damage and crushed spinal discs. Five people ultimately died during or shortly after the riot, although not all of their deaths were directly attributed to the events of that day. A woman, Ashli ​​Babbitt, was shot and killed by Capitol police. Over $1 million in damage was done to the Capitol building.

In response to the attack, the Justice Department launched what became the largest criminal investigation in American history, involving dozens of federal investigators and prosecutors across the country.

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So far, more than 740 people have been charged with crimes, and that number continues to grow steadily. The FBI estimated that 2,000 people may have been involved in the attack that day. Law enforcement has arrested suspected rioters in nearly all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia. The defendants appear to be largely white, but not entirely. Federal prosecutors say far-right militia members dressed in tactical gear rioted next to a county commissioner, a New York City sanitation worker and a a double Olympic gold medalist.

In an effort to better understand the violent attack on the Capitol, its alleged perpetrators, and the threat it posed to American democracy, NPR is tracking every criminal case arising from the events of that day. This database makes publicly available – and can be searched – data on hundreds of cases, including measures such as the age of the defendants, their location, their alleged affiliation with extremist organizations, their experience past or present in law enforcement or military matters, and the latest status of their case.

In public comments and court documents, the Justice Department roughly classified the cases into three categories: those who conspired for days, weeks, and even months to attack the Capitol; those who would have violently attacked the police, often with weapons; and the rest who broke into the building as part of the mob, but committed no further crimes. 55 defendants were charged with conspiracy. And 189 defendants were charged with violence.

So far, 192 people have pleaded guilty to one or more charges stemming from the riot. Judges handed down sentences against 82 people. 46% of those convicted were sentenced to prison terms. The average jail term for all defendants who have pleaded guilty is 106 days. One defendant had his charges dismissed.

Among the other discoveries of this database:

NPR found that at least 14% of those charged appear to have ties to the military or law enforcement. The presence of current and former law enforcement officers, as well as military and veterans, particularly alarmed government officials.

At least 119 defendants have alleged ties to known extremist or fringe organizations, such as the pro-Trump QAnon conspiracy theory; the Proud Boys, a far-right group known for street violence; the Oath Keepers, an anti-government group; and the Three Percenters, part of the anti-government militia movement. However, a large majority of those charged have no known links to established extremist groups. This has led scholars to worry about how extremist ideologies have become more mainstream.

Explore the database below.

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