'I will shed more' blood: Judge orders oath-breaking former deputy to remain in jail to await MAGA riot trial

'I will shed more' blood: Judge orders oath-breaking former deputy to remain in jail to await MAGA riot trial
US Capitol Grounds East Plaza off First Street and East Capitol Street, Washington DC on Wednesday afternoon, 6 January 2021 by Elvert Barnes Photography

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A federal judge has ruled that a former sheriff’s deputy from Tennessee who is accused of dragging a Metropolitan police officer into a crowd of violent rioters at the US Capitol on Jan. 6 must stay in jail while he awaits trial.

Ronald Colton McAbee was employed by the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office in Tennessee at the time he and a friend joined the mob at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, according to the government. In his order requiring McAbee to remain in pretrial detention, issued on Dec. 21, 2021, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan cited evidence submitted by the government that McAbee was “excused from work” at the sheriff’s office due to a shoulder injury sustained during a recent car accident. According to a text submitted into evidence by the government, the 27-year-old sheriff’s deputy went to the doctor for CT scans and MRIs only two days before the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

McAbee texted his friend on Dec. 23, 2020, according to the government to ask whether he planned to go to Washington, DC on Jan. 6.

“I want to go, but only if you’re going,” McAbee reportedly wrote. “I’m not in shape to fight right now.”

When the friend indicated he was interested in the trip, McAbee reportedly wrote, “Let’s link up and go. I’ll slap a commie with this dead arm.”

McAbee is charged alongside six other men — Jack Wade Whitton, Jeffrey Sabol, Peter Francis Stager, John Michael Lopatic Sr., Clayton Ray Mullins and Logan James Barnhart — with assaulting law enforcement. McAbee was part of a group of rioters who were throwing and swinging various objects at the officers guarding the entrance to the tunnel at the Lower West Terrace, according to the government. At about 4:28 p.m., Whitton and Sabol allegedly knocked an officer identified as “AW” to the ground. Afterwards, Whitton reportedly boasted that he “fed an officer to the people.” The government alleges that McAbee grabbed Officer AW by his left leg and torso while Mullins grabbed his left leg, and the two men dragged the officer towards the stairs.

McAbee hovered over AW as he lay on the ground and screamed at other officers who were attempting to assist him, according to court documents. When an officer identified as “CM” pushed McAbee and hit him with a police baton, McAbee reportedly swung at him. At that point, Lopatic reportedly began punching CM, and McAbee turned his attention back to AW. McAbee reporetedly grabbed AW by the torso, and the two men tumbled down the steps into the mob. As AW struggled to get to his feet, the mob reportedly kicked him, struck him with poles and stomped him. They ripped off his helmet, stripped his baton and cell phone, and maced him. Officer AW had to go to the hospital with a laceration on his head that required two staples to close.

In an earlier ruling finding that McAbee should be released, Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Frensley in the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled that none of the government’s evidence showed that McAbee took “offensive action” and that other evidence suggested the defendant was in the area to “provide aid and assistance to individuals he saw who were in peril.”

Judge Sullivan refuted that finding in his Dec. 21 order.

“To the contrary, Mr. McAbee appears to have acted deliberately when he fought against MPD officers who were attempting to protect the US Capitol and when he used physical force to pull an officer into the violent and angry mob,” Sullivan wrote. “The government’s video evidence captures multiple angles of the horrifying scene that unfolded that day.

“Watching the video footage of these events unfold continues to elicit horror and sadness — this was, without a doubt, a crime that is unparalleled in our nation’s history,” Sullivan concluded.

McAbee wore a black tactical vest with one patch that read “SHERIFF” and another with the Three Percenter insignia, along with black gloves with hard, metal knuckles, while participating in the mob assault on the three officers, according to the government. Three Percenters typically view themselves as analogous to the American revolutionaries who took up arms against the British colonial government. As such they see themselves as a militant vanguard responsible for confronting a modern-day tyrannical government. Texts between McAbee and an individual identified as “Associate-1” that the government turned over to the court include an exchange that conveys a sentiment common among Three Percenters.

“I had to explain to [my child] last night why I was going to DC and what could happen,” Associate-1 reportedly said. “This is my fight so he doesn’t have to fight.”

“I will rise or fall along side you,” McAbee reportedly responded. “This is for future generations.”

The texts also show that Associate-1, who has not been charged to date, submitted an application to join the Proud Boys two days before the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.

McAbee reportedly texted Associate-1 with a light-hearted endorsement of the catchphrase the Proud Boys use to describe their beliefs.

“You western chauvinist lol,” he wrote.

Despite allegedly participating in an assault on officers protecting the Capitol, the government’s case against McAbee suggests that he tried to leverage his status as a member of law enforcement to get preferential treatment.

After the assault on the officers, the government alleges, the rioters surged back into the tunnel opening, pushing McAbee into the side of the archway and aggravating his preexisting shoulder injury from the car accident a month earlier.

“As Mr. McAbee tried to get away from the surging crowd and through the police line, he pointed to the lettering on his vest that said ‘SHERIFF’ as he asked to be let through,” Judge Sullivan wrote in his order.

After the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol, according to government evidence, McAbee reportedly sent an unidentified individual three photos showing a bloodied baseball hat and head injury. The texts suggests that McAbee viewed his actions on Jan. 6 as a fulfillment of his oath to the US Constitution even as he strengthened his resolve to commit an insurrection against the American government.

“I’ve shed blood for my country. By the hands of the swamp,” the 27-year-old McAbee reportedly wrote. “I will shed more in the days to come. But I will not forget the Oath I swore years ago to protect the America I once knew.”

The texts exchanged between McAbee and Associate-1 indicate that after Jan. 6 the two men were preparing for an escalation of violence as the Jan. 20 inauguration approached.

“Yeah, I’ve just put my go-bag in the car and told the girls to get ready,” McAbee texted on Jan. 9. “Idk what for. But just be ready.”

Other texts indicate that McAbee was following Lin Wood, the high-profile Atlanta defamation lawyer who spread conspiracy theories promoting the false claim that that the election was stolen from Donald Trump.

“Vatican is blacked out,” McAbee wrote to Associate-1. “Supposedly Pakistan is blacked out.” In the next text, he added, “Lin Wood on Parler.”

The following day, McAbee asked his friend if he planned to go to the inauguration.

“It will be bullets this time there,” he wrote. “Currently 6200 National Guardsmen, several police agencies throughout the US. Snipers everywhere.” He added, “I call for secession!”

Sullivan wrote in his order that he was troubled by the fact that McAbee was employed as a sheriff’s deputy at the time that “he participated in the riot at the US Capitol and physically assaulted MPD officers attempting to protect the building and members of Congress.” Sullivan approvingly cited the government’s argument that McAbee’s “occupation invested him with the responsibility to uphold and enforce the law. It also required an understanding of what constitutes a violation of that law. Yet, neither prevented the defendant from engaging in the assaultive, criminal conduct.”

Even worse, Judge Sullivan concluded, McAbee allowed his mistaken belief that the 2020 election was stolen “to override his sworn duty to uphold the rule of law as a law enforcement officer and even fight against officers with whom one would expect he held a mutual respect or kinship.”

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