A man from Virginia was arrested Tuesday after prosecutors say he sported a cowboy hat and armed himself with a stick before striking police officers during the Capitol insurrection, sometimes aiming for their unprotected necks between their helmets and body armor.
Jonathan Gennaro Mellis, 34, from Williamsburg, is also accused of proudly taking responsibility on his Facebook page for “storming the Castle,” arguing Black Lives Matter and Antifa would rather focus on burning down businesses than defending “election integrity,” according to a screenshot included in the criminal complaint.
Mellis was taken into custody without incident at his home in Williamsburg on Tuesday, Christina Pullen, a spokeswoman for the FBI Norfolk Field Office, told Fox News over the phone. He is being held at Western Tidewater Regional Jail in Suffolk before a remote bond hearing scheduled for Friday in the U.S. District Court in Norfolk.
Mellis is charged with violating multiple federal laws related to assaulting and interfering with officers, knowingly entering a restricted area or building, and engaging in physical violence and abusive conduct on Capitol grounds, according to the statement of facts authored by a special agent assigned to the FBI Washington Field Office and filed in federal court on Feb. 11. The document was unsealed Tuesday.
At least two tipsters supplied the FBI with screenshots from Mellis’ personal public Facebook page under the name “Jon Gennaro” that showed him wearing a large, white cowboy hat with a design on top, and sporting thick, rimmed, black glasses at the incident at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, court documents say.
Photos showed Mellis, also with dark brown, wavy, shoulder-length hair, sporting a beard, goatee and mustache and wearing a black, quilted jacket, at various locations on the National Mall approaching the U.S. Capitol Building Complex, on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol and inside the west-facing entryway to the U.S. Capitol Building at the top of the western steps.
One screenshot included in the criminal complaint showed Mellis’ Facebook post with several photos and selfies outside the Capitol captioned, “Storming the Castle. The world heard US!!! Finally not ignored. (Antifa and BLM will burn your city down for Marxism.) We storm THE SWAMP for FREEDOM!!! We want a forensic audit of the vote. Simple. We will not go away. We will not surrender.”
In another Facebook comment, Mellis allegedly wrote: “Don’t you dare try to tell me that people are blaming this on antifa [sic] and BLM. We proudly take responsibility for storming the Castle… You have so much compassion for Marxist burning your businesses down. Our side is actually fighting for freedom and the constitution. We are fighting for election integrity.”
Footage from body cameras worn by D.C Metropolitan Police officers, who responded to the insurrection to assist Capitol Police, showed Mellis, along with other identified and unidentified people, using sticks and other items as weapons to assault various police officers protecting the U.S. Capitol, according to the statement of facts.
The footage later reviewed by the FBI showed Mellis, wearing the same straw-colored cowboy hat, conferring with another individual who is wielding a stick in front of officers, taking the stick from the individual, and following him toward the officers.
Mellis can be heard saying “Knock their masks off” before the body-worn camera shows Mellis’ hand — wielding the stick — come over the top of the first person, striking at the officers who were protecting the entryway to the Capitol Building, the court documents say.
Another video retrieved by law enforcement of that altercation shows Mellis repeatedly striking and making stabbing movements toward the officers with the weapon in his hand. He appears to be making contact or attempting to strike the officers’ necks between their helmets and body armor where they are not protected. Forceful strikes to the neck with or without the aid of a weapon to enhance impact is more than sufficient to cause serious physical injury or death, the court documents say.