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Cowboys for Trump founder arrested after allegedly leading Capitol rioters in prayer

Couy Griffin, a county commissioner in New Mexico, planned to return to the Capitol with guns on Jan. 20, the FBI said.
Image: Capitol riot
A Trump supporter confronts police and security forces at the Capitol on Jan. 6.Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP - Getty Images file

A New Mexico county official was arrested Sunday after federal authorities said he entered a restricted section of the U.S. Capitol during the deadly pro-Trump incursion and led rioters in prayer.

Couy Griffin, an Otero County commissioner and founder of Cowboys for Trump, was arrested in Washington, D.C., and faces a single charge of knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building without lawful authority, a federal criminal complaint said.

In an affidavit, a Metropolitan Police detective said a Cowboys for Trump videographer told authorities that after he and Griffin saw the group push past security barriers, they scaled the Capitol building’s wall before making their way to an outside deck.

There, Griffin used a bullhorn to lead the group in prayer, the document states.

In a video cited by the affidavit, Griffin also told the crowd that it was a “great day for America” and that “people are showing that they’ve had enough.”

“People are ready for fair and legal elections, or this what you’re going to get,” he said, according to the affidavit.

In a Facebook post on the Cowboys for Trump page, Griffin later said he planned to return to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20 for a possible “2nd Amendment rally” that would include “blood running out of that building,” the affidavit says.

At a Jan. 14 Otero County meeting, Griffin told other officials that he planned on taking a rifle and a revolver when he returned to Washington, according to the affidavit.

Additional information about Griffin’s arrest was not detailed in the document, and it wasn't clear whether he had retained a lawyer. A message left with Cowboys for Trump was not immediately returned Sunday.

In an interview with police, Griffin said he had gotten “caught up” with the crowd and that authorities never asked him to leave, according to the affidavit.

He told authorities he left the area peacefully and hoped there could be a change in leadership “without a single shot being fired.” He added that there's “no option that’s off the table for the sake of freedom,” the affidavit says.

Dozens of people have been arrested and charged for allegedly participating in the Capitol takeover, including a Kentucky man who was taken into custody Sunday for appearing to use a rolled-up Trump flag to smash a window in the Speaker’s Lobby, which leads to the House chamber, according to an affidavit filed in federal district court in Washington.

Chad Barrett Jones faces charges of assault on a federal officer, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and other crimes. It was unclear Sunday if Jones had a lawyer.

Court documents said Jones was arrested when a relative contacted authorities after seeing him in news coverage.

Another person arrested Sunday, Bryan Betancur, was captured on video holding a Confederate battle flag in a restricted section on the west side of the Capitol, the FBI said in court documents.

Betancur, who was on probation for a burglary conviction, was wearing an ankle bracelet, and GPS data showed he was in the area for three hours on Jan. 6, according to the documents.

Betancur faces charges of participating in unlawful activities on restricted grounds and other crimes. It was unclear Sunday night whether he had a lawyer.

In court documents unsealed Sunday, a Colorado man described as an affiliate of the 3 Percenters, a far-right militia group, was charged with assaulting a federal officer, aiding and abetting destruction of federal property and other crimes.

In an affidavit, an FBI agent said the man, Robert Gieswein, was captured on video spraying law enforcement officers with an unknown substance before he and others knocked down a barricade and scrambled into the building.

The agent said Gieswein, who was seen wearing goggles and military-style gear, appears to run a private paramilitary training group, the Woodland Wild Dogs. Court records did not list a lawyer for him.

A University of Kentucky student, Gracyn Courtright, faces charges of theft, knowingly entering a restricted building and other crimes, according to court documents unsealed Sunday.

In Indiana,the FBI announced the arrest of Jon Schaffer, a guitarist with the metal band Iced Earth, who allegedly used pepper spray on Capitol Police. He faces six charges, including engaging in physical violence in the Capitol, the FBI said.

In a Facebook post, Iced Earth's bassist, Luke Appleton, said other band members "DO NOT condone nor do we support riots or the acts of violence that the rioters were involved in on January 6th at the US Capitol building. We hope that all those involved that day are brought to justice to be investigated and answer for their actions."

It was unclear Sunday night whether Schaffer had a lawyer.

Authorities still have hundreds of other open cases linked to the riot, in which five people died, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. The FBI released photos Sunday of seven men it said assaulted a Washington police officer.