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Former Marine arrested in Capitol riot appeared on 'Ellen' for rescuing dogs during hurricane

Ryan Nichols went viral for rescuing dogs during Hurricane Florence two years ago. Now, he's been arrested over his alleged involvement in the Capitol riot.
Image: Ryan Nichols
Volunteer rescuer Ryan Nichols of Longview, Texas, pets one of the dogs that were rescued in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence in Leland, N.C., on Sept. 16, 2018.Jonathan Drake / Reuters file

A former Marine who went viral in 2018 for rescuing dogs from rising floodwaters during Hurricane Florence in North Carolina has been arrested over his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Ryan Nichols, 30, from Longview, Texas, appeared on the "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" after his actions during Florence garnered widespread media attention. NBC News spoke with him in the midst of hurricane cleanup, after he had gone viral when he was caught on video rescuing six dogs that were left behind by their owners.

He said his home and business had been flooded during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, but he and a friend helped people in his community to safety.

"That’s when I decided, when we see a hurricane, we’re going to help," Nichols told NBC News at the time.

He said he and his friend drove about 1,200 miles from Texas to Leland, North Carolina, to rescue people from their floodwater-submerged homes.

But another trek across the country with a different friend has Nichols facing a slew of charges, including conspiracy and unlawful entry with a dangerous weapon; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; aiding and abetting; civil disorder; and assault on a federal officer using a deadly or dangerous weapon.

Nichols was arrested on Jan. 18 and is being held at the Smith County Jail in Tyler, Texas, according to jail records.

A criminal complaint against Nichols and Alex Kirk Harkrider, 32, says two witnesses informed the FBI of social media photos and videos showing the pair at the Capitol riot earlier this month.

Authorities have said the riot led to the deaths of five people, including a Capitol Police officer.

Harkrider was also arrested on Jan. 18 and is being held at the Gregg County Jail in Texas, records show.

Various photos and videos on Nichols' Facebook page show he and Harkrider inside and outside of the U.S. Capitol building with the mob, according to the criminal complaint. One photo is captioned "We're in."

“We ain’t done yet! We just got started!” says another caption.

In a later post on Nichols' Facebook page, where his cover photo was a shot of him appearing on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," he wrote: “Patriots stood their ground today!"

"We aren’t done yet, either! You want to steal our election, and not hear us in court? Good! Now you’ll hear our civil unrest!” the post continued.

Image: Alex Harkrider Ryan Nichols
A post on Ryan Nichols' Facebook page, discovered by investigators. FBI

Other photos and videos show the pair standing first in front of a smashed window and then, inside the building, on the other side of the broken window with Harkrider leaning out of it.

Video shows both men on the ledge of the window, with Nichols holding a bullhorn and a crowbar.

“If you have a weapon, you need to get your weapon!” Nichols can be heard yelling into the bullhorn. “This is the second revolution right here folks! ... This is not a peaceful protest," he yells.

Nichols was also caught on video spraying what appears to be pepper spray at an unknown agent guarding the Capitol building, the criminal complaint said.

The two men were recorded with other rioters chanting "Heave! Ho!" as the crowd "rocks back and forth in the direction of the entrance," the complaint said.

Harkrider, meanwhile, on Snapchat posted, "We’re in. 2 people killed already. We need all the patriots of this country to rally the f--- up and fight for our freedom or it’s gone forever. Give us liberty, or give us death. We won't stand for it.” The photo posted appears to show a baton inside his jacket, authorities noted.

Image: Alex Harkrider
Photo evidence in FBI affidavit of Alex Harkrider during the Capitol riot, posted to his Snapchat.FBI

Investigators also discovered a second Facebook page allegedly operated by Nichols. One post was a picture of a bullet and said, "By Bullet or Ballot, Restoration of the Republic is Coming."

On Dec. 28, 2020, Nichols posted on the same Facebook page that “Pence better do the right thing, or we're going to MAKE you do the right thing," the criminal complaint said.

It is unclear if either Nichols or Harkrider have lawyers. Efforts to reach both men by phone Friday afternoon were unsuccessful.