How a Special Forces patch led to charges related to Capitol riot for former Green Beret
By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: May 3, 2021
FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — A former Special Forces soldier who served at Fort Bragg has been indicted on 10 charges related to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Retired Sgt. 1st Class Jeffrey McKellop, 55, of Virginia, was arrested March 17, according to court records from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C.
McKellop served more than 20 years in the Army, including 9 years with Special Forces and serving in the 3rd Special Forces Group, which is at Fort Bragg, his military records show.
Records also show that he retired out of Fort Bragg and honorably retired Aug. 12, 2010.
McKellop has been indicted on charges of: assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon, inflicting bodily injury; assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon; civil disorder; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon; disorderly conduct in a capitol building; and act of physical violence in the capitol grounds or buildings.
Court records state that the FBI special agent who filed a warrant for McKellop's arrest identified him through surveillance video, photos and screenshots of the riot.
The agent wrote that federal officials recognized a military-type carrier bag. Within 48 hours of asking the public to help identify people from the riots, the FBI received two online tips identifying McKellop.
One of the tipsters asked to remain anonymous and indicated they knew McKellop for about six years "and described him as a retired U.S. Army Special Forces soldier and a military contractor," the warrant states.
The second witness also said McKellop was a retired Special Forces soldier who the witness served with between 2001 and 2016.
The second witness told investigators that they were 99% sure McKellop was the person shown in photos.
The special agent wrote that federal officials identified additional social media footage from the riots showing McKellop carrying a flagpole with the "Blue Line national flag" and a 13-star "Keep America Great" flag.
The special agent wrote that the same video shows a Special Forces patch on McKellop's backpack.
The special agent wrote that video shows McKellop allegedly approaching the Metropolitan Police Department line of officers and "using his hands to push officers back."
The special agent wrote that the video allegedly shows McKellop attempting to grab a riot control spray canister from an officer, pushing the officer and throwing a bottle at a line of Metropolitan Police Department and U.S. Capitol Police officers.
McKellop allegedly breached the line of officers near a scaffold, pushed a second and third officer and threw a flagpole at a fourth officer who positioned himself with riot-control spray aimed toward McKellop, the agent wrote in the warrant.
McKellop's alleged actions caused a laceration on the face of the fourth officer, and McKellop allegedly used the flag "to thrust" into the officer's face, the warrant states.
Court documents filed by McKellop's lawyers, Seth Peritz and Gregory Hunter, state that the flag in FBI photos does not appear to be the same one McKellop brought with him, and questioned whether McKellop is the same person in the photos.
A motion filed by McKellop's lawyers requesting that he be released from pre-trial custody notes his military service and stated that he served nearly 22 years in active-duty service and about a year in inactive service.
The motion notes McKellop's military decorations, including three Bronze Stars, and states he deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.
His lawyers said McKellop has no record of drug or alcohol abuse, nor any criminal history.
McKellop's lawyers wrote that he traveled to Washington, D.C., for the Jan. 6 rally for then-President Donald Trump.
His lawyers said that there's no evidence to indicate he planned to go to the Capitol and that McKellop was not armed.
His lawyers said McKellop attended Trump's rally with a friend and they did not intend on rioting.
A letter from that friend, Scott Steiert, is included in court documents.
Steiert wrote that McKellop did not plan on "doing what he did."
Steiert wrote that he planned to attend Trump's rally but was apprehensive about "a possibility of anti-Trumpers" attacking him for his political views, or that "some radical group" might emplace an improvised explosive device or conduct a mass shooting.
Steiert wrote that's why he asked McKellop to attend the rally with him and that McKellop brought his body armor with him as a defense against "any attack possibly from anti-Trumpers."
"He never ever, not one single time that I remember, mentioned fighting police or the government," Steiert wrote.
Steiert wrote that he is shocked by the alleged actions of McKellop, which he said is out of character, and is sad to learn that law enforcement officers were injured.
McKellop contacted a lawyer Feb. 7 to begin the process of reaching out to the government, and his lawyer was contacted March 14 to discuss a self-surrender, court documents state.
McKellop's lawyers said that he surrendered March 16 to the FBI.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia Faruqui ruled that McKellop was not a flight risk, but that there was sufficient evidence to support a finding of dangerousness to the community, court documents state.
McKellop's lawyers said the alleged offenses do not depict that McKellop intended to enter the Capitol, and there's no allegation that he breached the building.
A counter-motion filed by acting U.S. Attorney Channing Phillips states that McKellop's alleged conduct "is gravely troubling" and "despite many opportunities to reconsider his actions, he continued his" alleged assault.
"The defendant, Jeffrey McKellop, weaponized his extensive military training and experience to attack the U.S. Capitol and facilitate its breach during Constitutional proceedings on Jan. 6, 2021," Phillips wrote.
McKellop's lawyers wrote he is not a danger to the community or any person.
"The strength of Mr. McKellop's character is shown through his extensive and distinguished military service, his cooperation with the FBI as relates to his arrest, his lack of criminal record, his lack of involvement in organization involved in the riot, and his willingness to surrender himself and potential evidence," his attorneys wrote.