Profiles of Two Perpetrators of the Capitol Insurrection | Facing History & Ourselves

Profiles of Two Perpetrators of the Capitol Insurrection

Examine the choices of two people who illegally entered the Capitol building during the January 6 insurrection.


  • History
  • Social Studies


English — US



  1. Robert Reeder

    The following excerpt is from The Washington Post article Desperate, angry, destructive: How Americans morphed into a mob.

    One defendant, Robert Reeder of Harford County, Md., is a registered Democrat who told FBI agents he found the former president distasteful. But he liked the message of “Make America Great Again,” and after the election, he touted groundless claims of fraud on Facebook.

    “Civil war is coming,” he wrote in December. “This time the conservatives will stand their ground and the radicals will die.”

    He later said he only decided to attend Trump’s rally that morning. He had never been to a protest before.

    “I wasn’t with anyone; I didn’t have any battle gear,” Reeder said in an interview with FBI agents. “The only thing in my backpack was two protein bars.”

    Reeder told the FBI that he did not see himself as part of the mob that fought its way into the Capitol, even though he entered the building twice, going through tear gas and pepper balls and engaging physically with police officers, according to court filings.

    “This is not me,” he told the agents, “and yet here we are.”

    That night, he called his brother and said “how bad he felt about being there,” David Reeder testified at sentencing in early October. He said his brother wasn’t one of the “wack jobs.” The family was “appalled by his participation,” his brother said, but a harsh punishment would also be “appalling.”

    Reeder — who pleaded guilty to demonstrating in the Capitol — apologized profusely at sentencing, calling the riot “disgusting” and his actions “shameful, inexcusable.” When pressed by U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan of Washington, Reeder admitted to shoving a police officer but said it was an accidental response to getting hit.

    The judge, calling his account “disingenuous” and “prevaricating,” sentenced Reeder to three months in jail.

    Reeder was not simply swept along by events, the judge said.

    “It’s become evident to me in the riot cases, the post-riot cases, that many of the defendants who are pleading guilty are not truly accepting responsibility,” Hogan said. Reeder was present for large stretches of the riot and would have heard alarms, felt pepper spray and seen people pushing and charging in to police, the judge added: “It’s rewriting history and the facts to say you didn’t know what was going on. . . . I’ve had too many people say that to me.” 1


    • Who is this person?
    • What choices did they make before or during the insurrection?
    • Why do you think they participated in the insurrection?
  2. Ethan Nordean

    Note: Ethan Nordean is a leader of the Proud Boys, which is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Members of the Proud Boys regularly spread misogynistic, racist, and anti-Muslim ideas.

    The following excerpt is from the NPR article Prosecutors: Proud Boys Gave Leader 'War Powers,' Planned Ahead For Capitol Riot.

    A document filed in federal court on [March 1, 2021] sheds new light on the Proud Boys' tactical preparation for and movements during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

    . . . Thirty-year-old Ethan Nordean allegedly helped coordinate members' storming of the Capitol in an effort to interrupt the Electoral College certification of President Biden's victory . . . 

    On the day of the attack, [prosecutors] say, the "defendant — dressed all in black, wearing a tactical vest — led the Proud Boys through the use of encrypted communications and military-style equipment."

    "He led them with the specific plans to: split up into groups, attempt to break into the Capitol building from as many different points as possible, and prevent the Joint Session of Congress from Certifying the Electoral College results". . . 

    [P]articipating Proud Boys were instructed to meet at the Washington Monument at 10 a.m. [on January 6] to await further orders, wearing plain clothes and "no colors."

    "In order to increase the odds that their plan would succeed, Defendant [Nordean] and those Proud Boys following him dressed 'incognito' and spread out to many different locations from which they could force entry into the Capitol," prosecutors wrote . . .  A group gathered accordingly and began walking toward the Capitol with Nordean in the lead . . . The filing notes that the group marched to a pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds — secured by a small number of police officers and a waist-high metal barrier — around 12:53 p.m. ET.

    Then-President Donald Trump's speech on the Ellipse did not end until after 1 p.m., prosecutors noted.

    "Defendant [Nordean] and those he was leading were not present for any part of the speech, because hearing the speech was not in their plan," they wrote. "While other persons who would later participate in the Capitol riot were watching former President Trump speak, Defendant [Nordean] was leading Proud Boys members on a march around the Capitol and positioning them at an entrance to the Capitol grounds that was guarded by only a handful of Capitol Police officers."

    The document details how at various entrances, Proud Boys members worked to dismantle metal barricades set up to protect the grounds from the advancing mob . . . 

    Nordean and other Proud Boys leaders are accused of using social media to "cast doubt on the legitimacy" of the presidential election, starting as early as Nov. 4. They also encouraged others to join the group in "protesting and preventing" the certification of the Electoral College votes, according to the filing.

    Prosecutors point to several social media posts between November and Jan. 4 in which accounts belonging to Nordean describe claims of a stolen election and the need to take action. 2


    • Who is this person?
    • What choices did they make before or during the insurrection?
    • Why do you think they participated in the insurrection?

How to Cite This Reading

Facing History & Ourselves, “Profiles of Two Perpetrators of the Capitol Insurrection”, last updated January 4, 2022.

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