The New York Times has identified two police officers from Virginia who were lauded for dancing with protesters after George Floyd‘s killing last year but are now facing federal charges for participating in the Jan 6. attack on the Capitol.
The lengthy feature chronicles the story of Rocky Mount Police Sgt. Thomas Robertson and officer Jacob Fracker, who were seen in Facebook photos dancing to the “Electric Slide” at a Franklin County protest organized by Bridgette Craighead after Floyd’s death in May 2020.
The officers came, held up signs and danced with the protesters, giving Craighead and others the false impression that they were allies.
But six months later, Robertson and Fracker made local headlines for participating in the deadly attack on the Capitol Building that led to five deaths and the desecration of the building. Those who attacked the building were armed with guns, pipe bombs and zip handcuffs.
*2 police officers from Rocky Mount VA have been fired after participating in Capitol riot.
*Officer T.J. Robertson says termination letter cited “conduct unbecoming an officer.”
*Officer Jacob Fracker bragged about using Speaker Pelosi’s toilet. https://t.co/AaxVrjJJKu
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) January 25, 2021
Both officers shared photos of themselves inside the Capitol Building, according to The New York Times.
The two are now facing federal charges of obstruction of an official proceeding, and violent entry and disorderly conduct. Both have since been fired from the police force.
Fracker was so unrepentant about his actions that he spoke to a British news outlet after breaking into the building.
The story gained traction online because many people had mixed feelings about dozens of photos and videos released last summer showing police officers kneeling or dancing next to protesters, as ABC News reported.
While the photos and videos were presented as evidence that police stood with protesters, others told ABC News that they felt like they were public stunts and not legitimate acts of solidarity.
“We don’t want anybody to take a knee, a knee doesn’t help me heal the wounds. They shot me seven times on Saturday. It does not help my boy who has two broken bones in his skull right now because they aimed a cannon at his head with rubber bullets,” actor and organizer Kendrick Sampson told ABC News.
Craighead said she commented on the photo of the two inside the Capitol and immediately got dozens of nasty responses from people who agreed with the assault on the Capitol.
She has since received death threats, according to The New York Times.
“If you think for one second that congress cares about black Lives, you aren’t watching the news or paying attention to what they are doing for the black community. Congress and government are BOTH of our enemies,” Robertson wrote in response to Craighead’s message.
The two officers deleted the photos and their posts from Facebook but were arrested days after returning home from Washington D.C., according to USA Today.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia released statements made by both men online showing they were proud of their actions on Jan 6.
“Lol to anyone who’s possibly concerned about the picture of me going around… Sorry I hate freedom? …Not like I did anything illegal…y’all do what you feel you need to,” Robertson wrote in a now-deleted post shared by the Justice Department.
The two made waves as some of the first people arrested by the Justice Department for their role in the attack, and Fracker specifically was notable because he was the first known service member arrested in connection with the attack. He served as an infantryman in the Virginia National Guard, according to NBC News.
“The actions by two have driven our beautiful town into the national spotlight in ways that do not reflect our whole community and the people who call Rocky Mount home,” town manager James Ervin told NBC News.
“Our town is a patchwork of people rooted to and connected by their love for this area and that is where we want to focus moving forward,” he added.