Grandma gossip helped lead FBI to Capitol riot suspect, officials say

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A conversation between two women led to the arrest of a New Jersey man in connection with the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to court documents.

More than a week after the siege led by supporters of former President Donald Trump, the mother of Robert Lee Petrosh told a friend her son had participated in the mob that stormed into the Capitol, authorities said. That friend then told her grandson, who informed the FBI about his alleged role, according to the document.

Federal authorities first learned of Petrosh when an anonymous online tipster told the FBI he "was on the steps" of the Capitol on Jan. 6, according to the complaint. Petrosh's mother's friend's grandson and an FBI officer who knew Petrosh for about 15 years identified him in photos later that month, the document said.

Robert Lee Petrosh is seen during the Jan. 6 raid of the U.S. Capitol.
Robert Lee Petrosh is seen during the Jan. 6 raid of the U.S. Capitol.

The photos were taken from inside the federal building, authorities said. In one of them, Petrosh appears to hold a cellphone in one hand while wearing a black long-sleeved T-shirt, blue jeans and a green cross-body bag. The photo showed him sitting on a bench inside the Capitol.

In the second photo, he appears to wear the same outfit standing near the House wing door at about 3:20 p.m.

The FBI officer previously worked with and attended social gatherings with Petrosh, authorities said. He also said he occasionally sees Petrosh gardening.

Robert Lee Petrosh is seen inside the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6.
Robert Lee Petrosh is seen inside the U.S. Capitol during the riot on Jan. 6.

Petrosh, 51, of Mays Landing, New Jersey, turned himself in earlier this week.

He was charged with entering or remaining in any restricted building, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building, disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a Capitol building, according to court documents.

He was released Tuesday on a $50,000 bond and is expected to appear in a Washington, D.C., court via Zoom on May 11.

Steven Sheffler, his lawyer, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Petrosh was one of hundreds across the country who have been charged in connection with the attack, which left five people dead, including a Capitol Police officer.

The siege led to the unprecedented second impeachment of Trump, who held a rally before the riot occurred promoting false claims of election fraud. He was later acquitted in the Senate.