West Virginia Lawmaker Among Those Arrested in Wake Of Capitol Riots

Jan. 6 Capitol rioters / Getty Images
January 8, 2021

Federal authorities have announced a wave of arrests connected to Wednesday's assault on the Capitol, including a West Virginia state lawmaker.

Prosecutors and FBI agents said Friday they have charged Lonnie Leroy Coffman of Alabama, Richard Barnett of Arkansas, and West Virginia delegate Derrick Evans with various crimes connected to the violence, among others.

The charges, the first of many expected to follow Wednesday's unprecedented events, show an emphasis on detaining assailants who went viral in the press or on social media. Coffman's arsenal of homemade bombs was frequently mentioned in coverage of the riot, while an image of Barnett lounging behind a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D., Calif.) office was splashed across newspapers around the country. Evans's colleagues in the West Virginia House of Delegates have discussed expelling him from the chamber if he does not resign.

"We literally have hundreds of prosecutors and agents working from three command centers on what is really a 24-7 operation," Steven D'Antuono, the assistant director in charge of the FBI's Washington field office, said on a conference call.

Newly unsealed court documents show the weapons Coffman possessed were more dangerous than previously known. Authorities recovered 11 Molotov cocktails from Coffman's pickup truck, which were full of gasoline and melted styrofoam. Together those materials create "the effect of napalm insofar as it causes the flammable liquid to better stick to objects that it hits upon detonation," according to a federal explosives expert quoted in court filings.

Bomb-sniffing dogs flagged the incendiaries for authorities. A search of the vehicle also yielded an M4 carbine assault rifle and a black handgun. Coffman was detained after he attempted to return to his vehicle. He was carrying two additional handguns at the time of his arrest. None of the weapons are registered to him, according to court records.

Coffman appeared Thursday morning before Magistrate Judge G. Michael Harvey in a Washington, D.C., federal trial court. He will be detained pending his next court appearance, which is set for Jan. 12. He is charged with possession of a destructive device and carrying a pistol without a license. Additional charges are possible.

Barnett, who goes by the nickname "Bigo," was arrested in Little Rock, Ark., Friday morning. A national frontman for the riots, Barnett described his exploits to the New York Times and Arkansas press.

"I wrote her a nasty note, put my feet up on her desk and scratched my balls," he told a New York Times reporter outside the Capitol. The letter read: "Nancy, Bigo was here you bitch."

D'Antuono emphasized that rioters who have since left Washington, D.C., will not escape legal consequences.

"I want to stress this—just because you've left the D.C. region, you can still expect a knock on the door if we find out that you were part of the criminal activity at the Capitol," D'Antuono said.

On a separate call Thursday, acting U.S. attorney Michael Sherwin said federal investigators are using cell service location information to triangulate rioter movements in and around the Capitol. Federal investigators are also using tips from the public and social media to identify and arrest assailants.

One person identified via social media is Evans, who was among the rioters who forced open a door on the Capitol's east front and passed through the building's main floor. The video, since deleted, also shows he did not engage in vandalism and discouraged others from doing so.

Evans's attorney, John Bryan, said in a lengthy statement that he has no plans to resign and denied that he broke the law.

"He was exercising his constitutionally protected rights to engage in peaceful protest and to film the events which were unfolding," Bryan said.

Federal prosecutors have opened about 55 cases connected to the Capitol assault. Sherwin described those matters as a first step on Thursday.