A man identified by witnesses as a longtime Army Special Forces soldier and current military contractor has been charged with assaulting four police officers at the Capitol on Jan. 6, including by spearing one in the face with a flagpole.
Jeffrey McKellop — clad in tactical gear and, in some Capitol photos, a gas mask — was identified by two witnesses, according to an FBI affidavit describing his case, including one who claimed to have served with McKellop from 2001 to 2016. Both witnesses indicated that McKellop has since become a contractor and at times works overseas. One of the witnesses also identified the helmet and ballistic vest McKellop was wearing as the same gear he wore overseas.
Though dozens of former service members and police officers have been charged with crimes connected to the Capitol siege, McKellop appears to be the first Special Forces member accused of crimes connected to the breach. And his charges are among the gravest lodged among the 300-plus cases filed by federal prosecutors.
McKellop, who was arrested on Wednesday, is seen in social media footage and pictures, as well as recordings from police-worn body cameras, among the earliest waves of rioters to confront police at the Capitol that day. The FBI alleges that he donned a gas mask as he approached the police line and tried to wrest a canister of pepper spray from an officer who was using it for crowd control. Just before 2:30 p.m. that day, he finally breached the police line and engaged in a scuffle with multiple officers.
“During this confrontation, as MPD Officer 4 positions himself with the riot control spray aimed toward McKellop and the crowd, McKellop picks up a flagpole from the ground and shoves it into the face of MPD Officer 4,” according to the FBI case. “McKellop then throws the flagpole, similar in fashion to throwing a spear, at MPD Officer 4. McKellop’s actions caused a laceration to MPD Officer 4’s face.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the growing number of Capitol cases featuring former members of the military has underscored the need to root out extremism among the ranks.
“I think the numbers will probably be a bit larger than we would believe,” he said. “But I can tell you that a small number of people can have an outsized effect.”
Next week, an Army reservist who had been working at a New Jersey-based naval weapons facility is expected to be arraigned on charges that he participated in the Capitol siege. As part of the investigation, the Navy interviewed 44 of his colleagues and learned that he was widely viewed as a white supremacist and often made disparaging comments about Jews. He even sported a Hitler-style mustache to work, they said.