OPINION: Another Tennessee man, a deputy, charged in Jan. 6 insurrection

·5 min read

Aug. 22—A Middle Tennessee sheriff's deputy (and former Georgia sheriff's deputy) became the 606th person charged in the Jan. 6 riot and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. attorneys say 27-year-old Ronald Colton McAbee was the man seen in an officer's body camera footage fighting a Metropolitan Police Department officer and dragging another Metro officer into the mob.

Court documents indicated McAbee is part of a seven-person indictment group all charged with assaulting officers on the day of the insurrection. His co-defendants included Jack Wade Whitton, a Georgia fitness trainer, who is accused of using a crutch to attack an Metropolitan police officer, and Jeffrey Sabol, who is accused of holding a baton across an officer's neck.

Before McAbee went to work in November 2020 for the Williamson County Sheriff's Office, he worked as deputy in the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office in Georgia. That would make him a seasoned law enforcement officer now accused of trying to hurt other law enforcement officers.

So much for "Blue Lives Matter."

But McAbee was by no means the only law enforcement officer or military veteran — or Tennessean, Georgian or Alabamian who were part of the insurrection.

At least 81 of those charged in the would-be coup have either military or law enforcement ties, according to an NPR database of those charged in the Jan. 6 aftermath. You may remember another one: 40-year-old Joseph Lino Padilla of nearby Cleveland, who, according to the FBI, threw a flagpole at officers being attacked by rioters on the steps leading into the Capitol. Padilla was honorably discharged as an E-5 sergeant from the Tennessee Army National Guard in 2012.

Altogether now, Tennessee can boast of 16 people, while Georgia can tout 14 and Alabama, 10 — all part of what the FBI has classified as an act of domestic terrorism and what the Justice Department calls "the biggest criminal investigation in U.S. history."

Before McAbee's arrest, probably the most memorable Tennessee participant was "the zip tie guy," Eric Gavelek Munchel of Nashville. Other Volunteer State rioters charged include Michael Timbrook of Cookeville, Michael Lee Roche of Murfreesboro, Bryan Wayne Ivey of Crossville.

McAbee was on leave from the Williamson County Sheriff's Office during the Capitol riot because of an injured shoulder and hip from a car accident on Dec. 27, 2020, according to The Tennessean.

Video captured during the riot shows a man the FBI identified as McAbee wearing a red MAGA hat and black tactical vest with a sheriff patch and an insignia with the Roman numeral III encircled in stars — an emblem associated with the Three Percenters anti-government militia movement. The man in the video believed to be McAbee also was wearing black gloves with hard metal-colored knuckles.

Prosecutors said after McAbee assaulted a fellow law enforcement officer, he tried to use his status as an officer to gain access inside the Capitol, according to the Tennessean. The video captured during the riot shows him appearing to hurt his shoulder as the crowd surged the Capitol police line. He was seen bent over apparently in pain in the archway of the Capitol, and he said his shoulder was broken. He then pointed to the sheriff patch and told Capitol police he couldn't go back the way he came.

He was arrested in Nashville on Tuesday, and in a pre-trial motion prosecutors pointed to that action as "powerful evidence of his lack of regard for legal authority." He tried to use his status as a law enforcement officer to gain access, despite having just assaulted several Capitol officers. Prosecutors also argued he should be held without bail because he was a "spoke in the wheel" that caused the riot and he was a "threat to the peaceful functioning of our community."

It's good to see these cases continue to be probed and prosecuted — unlike what we've seen so far in Congress as politicians play with words and stall.

In May, Republicans — anxious to "move on" with no additional looks at Donald Trump's or their own actions — voted to block a bipartisan Jan. 6 commission to probe the violence.

A month ago, Kevin McCarthy abruptly withdrew his five nominees to serve on a special Jan. 6 House select committee organized by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. McCarthy's tantrum came after Pelosi rejected two of the nominees, ardent Trump supporters and Reps. Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, each of whom had made statements making clear that their minds were closed to any new facts or revelations.

Three weeks ago, four of the officers assaulted by the mob at the Capitol testified before Congress.

"I was grabbed, beaten, tased, all while being called a traitor to my country," Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Fanone testified. "I was at risk of being stripped of and killed with my own firearm, as I heard chants of, 'Kill him with his own gun.'"

Two weeks ago, the key House Oversight Committee postponed its scheduled interviews with former Justice Department aides and announced that its separate probe of the Trump DOJ would instead be handed off to the select panel.

Sooner or later, we'll know more about that awful day — much of it possibly as these 606 cases work their way through federal courtrooms. That will be 606 days of testimony that the GOP can't scuttle.

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