By Michael Kunzelman,
WASHINGTON (AP) — A police officer frequently provided Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio with internal information about law enforcement operations in the weeks before other members of his far-right extremist group stormed the U.S. Capitol, according to messages shown Wednesday at the trial of Tarrio and four associates.
A federal prosecutor showed jurors a string of messages that Metropolitan Police Lt. Shane Lamond and Tarrio privately exchanged in the run-up to a mob’s attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Lamond, an intelligence officer for the city’s police department, was responsible for monitoring groups like the Proud Boys when they came to Washington for protests.
Less than three weeks before the Jan. 6 riot, Lamond warned Tarrio that the FBI and U.S. Secret Service were “all spun up” over talk on an Infowars internet show that the Proud Boys planned to dress up as supporters of President Joe Biden on the Democrat’s inauguration day.
Justice Department prosecutor Conor Mulroe asked a government witness, FBI Special Agent Peter Dubrowski, how common it is for law enforcement to disclose internal information in that fashion.
“I’ve never heard of it,” Dubrowski said.
Tarrio was arrested in Washington two days before the Capitol attack and charged with burning a Black Lives Matter banner taken from a historic Black church during a protest in December 2020. He was released from jail before the riot and wasn’t in Washington on Jan. 6.
In a message to Tarrio on Dec. 25, 2020, Lamond said Metropolitan Police Department investigators had asked him to identify Tarrio from a photograph. He warned Tarrio that police may be seeking a warrant for his arrest.
Later, on the day of his arrest, Tarrio posted a message to other Proud Boys leaders that said, “The warrant was just signed.”
Before the trial started in January, Tarrio’s attorneys said Lamond’s testimony would be crucial for his defense, supporting Tarrio’s claims that he was looking to avoid violence. Mulroe said Lamond has asserted his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.
Tarrio’s attorneys have accused prosecutors of bullying Lamond into keeping quiet by warning the officer he could be charged with obstructing the investigation into Tarrio, a Miami resident who was national chairman of the Proud Boys. Prosecutors deny that claim.
Sabino Jauregui, one of Tarrio’s attorneys, said other messages show Tarrio routinely cooperated with police and had provided Lamond with useful information. Jauregui said prosecutors “dragged (Lamond’s) name through the mud” and falsely insinuated he is a “dirty cop” who had an inappropriate relationship with Tarrio.
“That was their theme over and over again,” Jauregui told U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly during a break in testimony.
Lamond was placed on administrative leave by the police force in February 2022, according to Mark Schamel, an attorney for the officer. Schamel said Lamond aided in Tarrio’s arrest for burning the Black Lives Matter banner.
In a statement Wednesday, Schamel said Lamond’s job required him to communicate with a variety of groups protesting in Washington and his conduct “was appropriate and always focused on the protection of the citizens of Washington, DC.”
“At no time did Lt. Lamond ever assist or support the hateful and divisive agenda of any of the various groups that came to DC to protest,” Schamel said. “More importantly, Lt. Lamond is a decorated official who does not condone the hateful rhetoric or the illegal conduct on January 6th and was only communicating with these individuals because the mission required it.”
Tarrio and his four lieutenants are charged with seditious conspiracy for what prosecutors said was a plot to stop the peaceful transfer of presidential power and keep former President Donald Trump in the White House after the 2020 presidential election. Thousands of rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, disrupting a joint session of Congress for certifying the Electoral College vote.
Proud Boys members describe the group as a politically incorrect men’s club for “Western chauvinists.” They often brawled with antifascist activists at rallies and protests for years before the Capitol attack.
In a message to Tarrio on Dec. 18, 2020, Lamond said other police investigators had asked him if the Proud Boys are racist. The officer said he told them that the group had Black and Latino members, “so not a racist thing.”
“It’s not being investigated by the FBI, though. Just us,” Lamond added.
“Awesome,” Tarrio replied.
In another exchange that day, Lamond asked Tarrio if he had called in an anonymous tip claiming responsibility for the flag burning.
“I did more than that,” Tarrio responded. “It’s on my social media.”
In a message to Tarrio on Dec. 11, 2020, Lamond told him about the whereabouts of antifascist activists. The officer asked Tarrio if he should share that information with uniformed police officers or keep it to himself.
Two days later, Tarrio asked Lamond what the police department’s “general consensus” was about the Proud Boys.
“That’s too complicated for a text answer,” Lamond replied. “That’s an in-person conversation over a beer.”
Tarrio’s co-defendants are Proud Boys chapter leader Ethan Nordean, of Auburn, Washington; Joseph Biggs, of Ormond Beach, Florida, a self-described Proud Boys organizer; Zachary Rehl, who led a Proud Boys chapter in Philadelphia; and Dominic Pezzola, a group member from Rochester, New York.
They are among a slew of Proud Boys members facing charges in the riot. In a separate case this week, the president of a West Virginia chapter of the group, Jeffrey Finley, was sentenced to 75 days behind bars after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor illegal entry charge. The Associated Press sent an email to Finley’s attorney seeking comment Wednesday.
Associated Press reporter Alanna Durkin Richer in Boston contributed to this report.
This report was originally published on apnews.com