The feds arrested Six California men, four of whom identify as members of Three Percenter militias. Allan Hostetter, 56, of San Clemente; Russell Taylor, 40, of Ladera Ranch; Erik Scott Warner, 45, of Menifee; Felipe Antonio “Tony” Martinez, 47, of Lake Elsinore; Derek Kinnison, 39, of Lake Elsinore; and Ronald Mele, 51, of Temecula are charged with federal offenses that include conspiracy, obstructing an official proceeding, and unlawful entry on restricted building or grounds. Taylor is also charged with obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder and unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on Capitol grounds. Warner and Kinnison are also charged with tampering with documents or proceedings.
The Indictment alleges that, through the late fall and early winter of 2020, the men communicated with each other to plan and coordinate their effort to obstruct and interfere with the joint session of Congress at the Capitol on Jan. 6, to certify the electoral college vote. The men communicated through various messaging applications and social media, including the encrypted messaging application Telegram, to share information regarding the election; coordinate travel to Washington, D.C.; and promote events sponsored by the American Phoenix Project, which Hostetter founded to oppose government-mandated restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Dec. 28, Warner initiated a group text message thread in which he, Mele, Kinnison and Martinez discussed logistics and expenses for a cross-country road trip. On Dec. 29, Hostetter and Taylor texted each other regarding travel and whether they would bring firearms.
On Jan. 1, Taylor created a Telegram chat called “The California Patriots-DC Brigade,” which the men, and more than 30 others, joined and used to identify themselves, communicate and coordinate with each other. In the “about” section, Taylor wrote: “This group will serve as the Comms for able bodied individuals that are going to DC on Jan 6. Many of us have not met before and we are all ready and willing to fight. We will come together for this moment that we are called upon.”
All of the men joined this Telegram group and used it to plan and coordinate their actions together and with others. He explained the purpose of the group and stated, “This thread is exclusive to be utilized to organize a group of fighters to have each other’s backs and ensure that no one will trample on our rights. Also, if there is key intel that we need to be aware of [or] possible threats.” He added: “I am assuming that you have some type of weaponry that you are bringing with you and plates as well.” Taylor also asked members to identify if they had previous law enforcement experience, military experience or “special skills relevant to our endeavors.”
Also in the chat, Kinnison explained that he, Mele and Warner “are part of so cal 3%[.] we work well and train with each other” and that the group was “[l]eaving tomorrow and driving instead of flying because our luggage would be too heavy. We will have lots of gear from medical kits, radios, multiple cans of bear spray, knives, flags, plates, goggles, helmets…I think we should clear all text in this chat in the morning of the 5th just in case for opsec purposes.”
Before leaving California for Washington, D.C., Kinnison, Mele, Martinez and Warner continued to exchange messages on a group text thread to coordinate and plan their trip, including whether they wanted to bring firearms with them on their cross-country drive. Mele told the group “shorter the better. Mine will be able to be stashed under the seat. I’ll bring it. 18” barrel.”
At 11:28 p.m. on Jan. 5, Taylor posted a photo to a chat on another encrypted messaging service showing gear arranged on a bed, including a khaki backpack, a black plate-carrier vest, two hatchets, a walkie talkie-type radio, a stun baton, a helmet, a scarf and a knife. In the caption, he wrote, “Now getting ready for tomorrow.”
On Jan. 6, the defendants congregated on the National Mall for the rally, where Mele, Martinez, Kinnison and Warner posed for a photo. Martinez, Kinnison and Warner flashed a hand signal showing affiliation with the Three Percenter group. Taylor, Hostetter and others walked down Pennsylvania Avenue toward the Capitol, and Taylor took a selfie-style video as he walked, in which he stated, “We are on the move. Heading up to the Capitol.” At 2:13 p.m., Warner entered the Capitol through a broken window. At approximately 2:30 p.m., Taylor and Hostetter joined rioters on the lower west terrace who were pushing through the line of law enforcement officers. Taylor was carrying a knife in the front chest pocket of his plate carrier vest and urged on rioters before pushing through the police line and moving up the stairs and onto the upper west terrace.
In the 150 days since Jan. 6, about 465 people have been arrested on charges related to the Jan. 6 Capitol breach, including over 130 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. The investigation remains ongoing.