- Prosecutors say alleged Oath Keepers stored weapons in a “quick reaction force” outside of DC ahead of January 6.
- In a new filing, they say members of the paramilitary group likely stashed weapons in a suburban hotel.
- Twelve alleged Oath Keepers are defendants in a high-profile conspiracy case tied to the attack.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right paramilitary group involved in the January 6 Capitol insurrection, likely stored a cache of weapons in a suburban hotel outside of Washington, DC, in the lead-up to the riot, federal prosecutors say.
In a late Monday filing, prosecutors provided details for the first time on the alleged “quick reaction force” or “QRF” of stored weaponry outside of DC that they have claimed members of the Oath Keepers compiled ahead of the attack as part of their preparations for the possibility of even more violence.
Until the most recent filing, prosecutors had provided little evidence of the QRF’s existence, according to Politico. Despite Oath Keeper messages indicating the existence of a cache of weapons, Judge Amit Mehta, who is presiding over the group’s conspiracy case, has repeatedly pressed prosecutors for proof that the QRF actually existed.
Now, prosecutors say they have evidence that members of the Oath Keepers – 12 of whom are defendants in a high-profile conspiracy case tied to the insurrection – used a Comfort Inn in Arlington, Virginia, to store weapons ahead of January 6.
Monday’s filing is in part, an effort to deny pretrial release to alleged Oath Keeper Kenneth Harrelson, who prosecutors say can be seen in a photograph from the Comfort Inn on January 7, carrying what looks to be a weapon inside the hotel.
According to court documents, Harrelson texted a group chat on January 5 asking for the “QRF hotel address.” Another alleged Oath Keeper and defendant, Kelly Meggs, reportedly responded and told Harrelson to direct message him.
Prosecutors say about three hours after sending the text inquiring about the QRF location, Harrelson arrived at the Comfort Inn, where he stayed for about an hour, before driving to Washington, DC.
Cell phone data shows that Harrelson spent the rest of January 5, all of January 6, and the morning of January 7, in downtown DC. Meggs and other known Oath Keepers rented multiple rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn in Washington, DC, where prosecutors say Harrelson spent the nights of January 5 and 6.
Prosecutors say it is “reasonable to believe” that Harrelson dropped his weapons off at the QRF at the Arlington Comfort Inn on January 5, then picked them up again on January 7, after asking in a group chat about the location of his “s—” the day after the siege. Another member responded by asking Harrelson if he had left it in the “Comfort Inn in that room.”
“Indeed, surveillance video from the Comfort Inn shows what appears to be Defendant Harrelson rolling what appears to be at least one rifle case down a hallway and towards the elevator,” on the morning of January 7, prosecutors wrote in Monday’s filing.
Harrelson and other alleged Oath Keeper members who have appeared in court have pleaded not guilty, according to CNN.
Judge Mehta has kept some of the members in jail awaiting their trials, while releasing others because he said they didn’t pose an ongoing danger to the community, CNN reported.
Prosecutors have been fixated on proving the existence of the QRF, in part, to convince the judge that the defendants pose a more significant threat than the majority of their fellow Capitol rioters. Prosecutors have also been eager to disprove claims by the Oath Keeper’s defense attorneys that the group’s planning was actually about guarding against violence by antifa, and not storming the capitol, Politico reported.