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FBI arrests first Capitol rioter to breach tunnel where melee broke out on Jan. 6

Brett Rena Rotella, a shorts-wearing Trump supporter known to online sleuths as #SleevelessRedTattoos, has been charged by federal authorities.
Brett Rena Rotella at the Capitol
Brett Rena Rotella at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.District Court for the District of Columbia

WASHINGTON — More than 2½ years after the Jan. 6 attack, the FBI has arrested the first man to enter the tunnel on the lower west terrace, the site of some of the most brutal incidents during the U.S. Capitol siege.

Brett Rena Rotella, a resident of North Carolina, was arrested Tuesday and was to make his first court appearance in North Carolina on Wednesday. Rotella, who was identified by online "Sedition Hunters" in early 2021, was known by the nickname #SleevelessRedTattoos, and he was notable because he was wearing shorts even though the temperature was in the 40s on Jan. 6, 2021. He faces felony charges of obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers, in addition to misdemeanor charges.

Video shows that Rotella was the first rioter to breach the tunnel that day. As police officers retreat inside the Capitol after the mob overwhelmed them on the inauguration stage, at least one officer fires pepper balls at Rotella to stop his advance. Rotella, wearing a red Trump beanie and carrying a flagpole, turns his back and continues advancing toward police. Within 20 seconds, dozens of people flood into the tunnel, setting off a fight that goes on for hours.

An FBI affidavit says Rotella helped lead the mob chasing police toward the building and took part in a "heave ho" effort with other rioters. Federal law enforcement observed Rotella at his home in July after it received tips about his identity, the affidavit says. After having snapped photos of him inside an Aldi store, officials reviewed Rotella's tattoos and confirmed his identity.

The FBI has arrested about 1,100 people in connection with the Capitol attack, and online sleuths have identified hundreds of additional rioters who have not been arrested. The statute of limitations on most of the crimes committed at the Capitol expires five years after the incident, in early 2026.

The FBI this month arrested an amateur St. Louis Cardinals mascot known as Rally Runner. A guest on Tucker Carlson's old Fox News show had told the audience that Runner was "clearly a law enforcement officer," an "agent provocateur" meant to make Trump supporters look bad.