Man accused of spraying officers with chemical irritant in Capitol riot makes 1st court appearance

Nov 13, 2023, 1:03 PM

A New Jersey man accused of spraying police officers with a chemical irritant in the 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol made an initial federal court appearance Monday and was ordered held without bail until trial.

The FBI released photos at the U.S. District Court hearing in Trenton, saying they showed Gregory Yetman spraying the liquid on officers during the Jan. 6, 2021 riot. Yetman, 47, was assigned a federal public defender at the appearance.

He is charged with assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers; obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds; and committing an act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds or buildings, according to the FBI.

Yetman did not enter a plea. That is expected to occur when he is arraigned at a yet-unscheduled hearing in Washington.

During the hearing, authorities unsealed an affidavit from an FBI officer whose identity was withheld. It included photos from body-worn cameras from officers from Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department that show a man the FBI identified as Yetman spraying liquid toward a group of officers during the riot.

The FBI said the liquid was a chemical irritant.

On Jan. 14, 2021, according to the affidavit, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command received information that Yetman, a National Guard member, had admitted being at the Capitol riot in a series of Facebook posts.

“As someone who supports our President and loves this country but hates where it’s going thanks to corruption and fraud by a tyrannical governing class, I can’t sit by and do nothing,” he wrote in one post submitted into evidence, adding “what happened at the Capitol was unfortunate and unacceptable.”

Yetman wrote that while he was present at the Capitol, he had positioned himself between rioters and people who were there “just to protest the sham of an election.”

“To my brothers and sisters in blue, I’m sorry for what happened at the Capitol,” he wrote. “We’re better than that.”

On Jan. 22, 2021, FBI agents interviewed Yetman, according to the affidavit. He acknowledged being at the Capitol on Jan. 6 but said he was trying to help people exposed to chemical irritants by pouring water into their eyes, according to the court document.

“Yetman told the interviewing agents that he supports law enforcement and that anyone entering the Capitol or assaulting officers should be prosecuted,” the affidavit read.

Nonetheless, photos included with the document show a man identified by the FBI as Yetman spraying a stream of liquid at officers that the FBI identified as MK-46H, a type of chemical irritant used by law enforcement.

The FBI special agent said another rioter had been using the canister to spray police, then put it on the ground, and that Yetman picked it up and sprayed its contents at officers for 12 to 14 seconds.

The federal public defender assigned to represent Yetman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday, and a message left at Yetman’s home last week was not returned.

Yetman eluded authorities for two days last week when they arrived at his Helmetta, New Jersey home to arrest him by running into a wooded area, according to the town’s mayor. Yetman surrendered peacefully on Friday.

Approximately 1,200 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Over 800 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or judge after a trial. More than 700 of them have been sentenced, with roughly two-thirds receiving terms of imprisonment ranging from three days to 22 years.

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Man accused of spraying officers with chemical irritant in Capitol riot makes 1st court appearance