First active duty service member arrested over Jan. 6 riot
A Marine Corps officer was arrested Thursday over his involvement in the Jan. 6 insurrection, making him the first active-duty service member charged over the Capitol attack.
The Justice Department said in a statement that Maj. Christopher Warnagiris, 40, “violently entered the Capitol on Jan. 6, after pushing through a line of police officers guarding the East Rotunda doors.”
He then allegedly used his body to prop a door open to allow more people to rush into the Capitol.
“When a U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) officer tried to pull the doors shut, Warnagiris refused and continued pushing it open. Warnagiris can be seen pushing the officer in an effort to maintain his position in the open door in security camera footage and publicly available video footage,” the Justice Department said.
Warnagiris, of Woodbridge, Va., is stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico. He is being charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder; and obstruction of justice, among other charges.
He is slated to make his first court appearance Thursday afternoon.
The Marine Corps confirmed Warnagiris is an active-duty member. He joined the Marines in October 2002 and has deployed at least four times, including to Afghanistan and Iraq, according to his service records.
Warnagiris, whose speciality is as a field artillery officer, is currently assigned to the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Staff Training Program, which the Marines Corps website describes as training to “improve the warfighting skills of senior commanders and their staffs.” His awards include three Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, a Meritorious Service Medal and a Defense Meritorious Service Medal, according to the records.
“The Marine Corps is clear on this: There is no place for racial hatred or extremism in the Marine Corps,” Maj. J.A. Hernandez, a spokesperson for the service, said in a statement. “Our strength is derived from the individual excellence of every Marine regardless of background. Bigotry and racial extremism run contrary to our core values.”
Hernandez highlighted the service’s “multi-layered, policy-based approach” to screening new recruits, as well as Marine Corps policy prohibiting harassment, unlawful discrimination and “any type of abuse,” including “surpemracist activity.”
“Participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage, and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated by the Marine Corps,” Hernandez said. “Those who can’t value the contributions of others, regardless of background, are destructive to our culture, our warfighting ability, and have no place in our ranks.”
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby later on Thursday said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin “is aware of the arrest of a Marine Corps officer in connection with the events of Jan. 6,” but because it is a “law enforcement matter” the department would not comment further.
Asked whether there was any investigation or inquiry into whether the Marine’s fellow officers knew about his involvement in the insurrection, Kirby said he is unaware of any such investigation.
He also would not comment on any action the Pentagon might take with the individual under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ.)
“This is right now a federal law enforcement matter. That process needs to continue. At this stage, it’s too early to speculate about any UCMJ actions that may or may not be taken. Right now, this is squarely in the Justice Department lane and we’re going to respect that,” Kirby said.
“Under our system, you’re innocent until proven guilty. We need to let the legal process play out. … I think it’s really important that none of us get ahead of that and do anything that could prejudice that process in any way.”
Warnagiris is one of about 440 people who have been charged over their involvement in the insurrection, which sought to halt Congress’s certification of the 2020 Electoral College results. The attack led to the deaths of several people.
While the rioters failed to halt the certification, the attack sent lawmakers fleeing to safety and fueled a flood of concerns over security measures in Congress.
Numerous military veterans, along with several reservists and National Guard members, have been arrested over their involvement in the insurrection, sparking concerns about extremism in the armed forces.
The Pentagon last month moved to establish new screening procedures, including setting up a working group charged with finding ways to address the issue and launching a study on extremist behavior in the ranks. The working group is expected to update the Pentagon’s definition of extremism and form standardized questionnaires to screen recruits to catch current or previous extremist behavior.
— Rebecca Kheel contributed.
Updated at 8:55 p.m.