Two Virginia police officers who photographed themselves inside theduring the January 6 riot have been fired. Sergeant Thomas Robertson and Officer Jacob Fracker are also facing federal charges.
Robertson and Fracker were terminated from their jobs with the Rocky Mount police department on Tuesday, according to a statement from the town of Rocky Mount. The two wereon January 13 with unlawful entry into a restricted area and violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and had been on unpaid leave from their jobs during a town review.
Officials said the town does not normally comment on personnel matters, but the “very public nature” of the situation led them to release the statement.
“We hear those who have communicated their anger and frustration about the actions of these individuals or our response to those actions,” the statement said. “There is no playbook for dealing with what occurred on January 6.”
It noted that town officials took the review seriously. “Our officers are held to high standards for how they conduct themselves on and off-duty and we are proud of the dedication and sacrifice made to keeping our community safe,” the statement said. “The process we have gone through reinforces how seriously we aim to uphold these standards and how important it is to communicate that the department works in the best interest of everyone’s safety.”
The officers’ actions have thrust the central Virginia town of about 1,000 into the national spotlight “in ways that do not reflect our whole community and the people who call Rocky Mount home,” the statement said.
Robertson and Fracker, who were off-duty at the time, bragged about storming the Capitol on social media. The social media posts and a selfie of the two standing in front of a statue inside the Capitol, with one of them pointing and the other making an obscene gesture, were cited by federal investigators in a criminal complaint.
In a comment on social media, Robertson allegedly said he was “proud” of the photo because it showed he and Fracker were “willing to put skin in the game,” the complaint said.
Robertson previously told CBS station WDBJ that he and Fracker were at the back of the Capitol building and did not see or participate in any acts of violence.
“We were allowed by Capitol police to be where we were and were given water bottles and told where we could go and where we couldn’t,” Robertson told the station.
The complaint makes note of Robertson’s claims to several media outlets that Capitol police didn’t object to their presence inside the building. But it also points to another social media post by Robertson that read: “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us.”
“Robertson made these claims notwithstanding his previous posts that he had ‘attacked the government’ and ‘took the f**** Capitol’,” the complaint states.
Dozens of people are facing charges in the January 6 assault on the Capitol that left five dead. At least 31 law enforcement officers in 12 states are under review by their supervisors for their alleged involvement, or face criminal charges for participating in the riot, an Associated Press survey of law enforcement agencies found.