WASHINGTON – A Marine Corps officer was arrested Thursday and charged with assaulting police officers at the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, making him the first service member on active duty charged for his role in the deadly riot, the Justice Department said.
Maj. Christopher Warnagiris is accused of forcing his way inside the Capitol by pushing through a line of officers guarding the building’s East Rotunda doors. Video footage showed Warnagiris keeping the door open for others to get in and later pushing a Capitol Police officer who tried to close it, the Justice Department said.
Warnagiris, 40, of Woodbridge, Va., is facing several charges, including assaulting, resisting or impeding officers, obstruction of law enforcement, and obstruction of justice. He is among several dozen people with ties to the military who are facing charges related to Jan. 6. The Justice Department said it has charged more than 40 veterans, guardsmen and reservists.
The U.S. Marine Corps, which confirmed Warnagiris is on active duty, said: “The Marine Corps is clear on this: There is no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps. Our strength is derived from the individual excellence of every Marine regardless of background. Bigotry and racial extremism run contrary to our core values.”
Warnagiris is a field artillery officer assigned to the training staff at Marine Corps Base Quantico, known as the “Crossroads of the Marine Corps,” about a half hour outside Washington, D.C. Warnagiris had combat deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, according to his service record. He joined the Marine Corps in 2002.
Prosecution in civilian court precludes court martial. However, administrative actions, such as involuntary discharge, can still be taken.
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Hundreds of supporters of former President Donald Trump, some of whom carried Confederate flags and chanted for the death of Vice President Mike Pence, stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, disrupting Congress as it counted state-certified Electoral College votes. The breach was a culmination of weeks of resentment fueled by Trump’s false claims that the election had been stolen.
The Justice Department has so far charged about 440 people in connection to the Capitol breach. More than 125 were accused of assaulting police officers. These numbers are expected to grow.
Testifying before a Senate committee Wednesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland described the assault on the Capitol as a “fundamental” effort to interfere in a peaceful transfer of power between administrations and said prosecuting those involved is a high priority for the Justice Department.
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“I think it is fair to say that in my career as a judge and in law enforcement, I have not seen a more dangerous threat to democracy than the invasion of the Capitol,” Garland told senators.
Warnagiris, who appeared in court Thursday afternoon, has been released under certain conditions. Prosecutors did not seek for him to be jailed while his case is pending.