WASHINGTON — Federal authorities have arrested and charged five members of a militia alleged to be run by a former candidate for Congress in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
A criminal complaint names only one of the five people, Brian Preller, who, according to court records, was arrested in Vermont in connection with the case. Four of the people face a felony count of civil disorder apiece, while one faces two misdemeanor counts.
The other men are John Edward Crowley, Jonathan Alan Rockholt, Tyler Quintin Bensch and Benjamin Cole, a federal official told NBC News. Crowley, Rockholt and Bensch were set to appear in federal court in the Middle District of Florida on Wednesday, while Cole was scheduled to appear in the Western District of Kentucky.
The people all refer to themselves as members of the “B Squad" and were associated with the Three Percent movement, authorities said in the criminal complaint. They wore “Guardians of Freedom” logos on Jan. 6, 2021.
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The name "B Squad" and references to "plan B," the FBI affidavit suggests, referred to "an alternate plan to be in place if they do not get the desired electoral outcome (i.e., the former president remaining in power)."
The leader of the group, referred to as “B Leader” in court filings, is not charged.
Although the Justice Department did not name "B Leader," it included several screenshots from a video of him in the complaint. NBC News was able to identify “B Leader” as Jeremy Liggett, a Florida man who ran in a Republican primary for the U.S. House this year, based on social media posts, including a copy of the video the Justice Department used, which Liggett posted on social media.
Liggett was also in Washington on Jan. 6 and coordinated the militia members' travel to the city, according to the complaint. The complaint states that he reserved a block of rooms in a Washington hotel and that "approximately forty other members of B Squad stayed on the same floor of that hotel on January 5, 2021."
A phone number listed for Liggett was busy. Liggett did not immediately respond to requests for comment via email.
He said in a Facebook post Wednesday that the FBI had served a search warrant on his home earlier in the day.
A Justice Department spokesperson declined to comment on Liggett.
Authorities allege that four of the five men arrested Wednesday were in a confrontation with law enforcement at the tunnel on the western side of the Capitol, where some of the worst violence took place on Jan. 6.
"While inside The Tunnel, Cole, Preller, Crowley, and Rockholt confronted and assisted the crowd in confronting the police officers that were preventing The Tunnel and the Capitol from being breached," the FBI said in its affidavit. "Specifically, while inside The Tunnel, Cole, Preller, Crowley, and Rockholt added their force, momentum, bodies, and efforts to the other rioters in a 'heave-ho' effort. This put intense aggregate pressure on the police line in front of the rioters."
Rockholt picked up a riot shield once police forced the mob back, while Bensch — who faces only misdemeanor charges — used a chemical irritant against a third party, according to the Justice Department.