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“No direct evidence rioters who stormed US Capitol had formed kill capture teams”

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The comments by acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin appeared to be an effort to walk back claims that federal prosecutors in Arizona had made in a court filing

A man calls on people to raid the building as Trump supporters clash with police and security forces as they try to storm the US Capitol in Washington DC on January 6. Picture: Joseph Prezioso / AFP

WASHINGTON – The top federal prosecutor in Washington DC said on Friday there is no “direct evidence” to suggest that rioters who stormed the US Capitol had formed “kill capture teams”.

The comments by acting US Attorney Michael Sherwin appeared to be an effort to walk back claims that federal prosecutors in Arizona had made in a court filing late on Thursday, in which they claimed there was evidence that rioters intended “to capture and assassinate elected officials”.

Sherwin said that his office is leading the prosecution effort, but as local offices help to run down suspects in their districts, there may have been a “disconnect” on the evidence obtained so far in the cases.

Late on Thursday, federal prosecutors had made sweeping claims about the ongoing investigation in a filing as they asked a judge to detain Jacob Chansley, an Arizona man and QAnon conspiracy theorist photographed wearing horns as he stood at the desk of Vice President Mike Pence in the chamber of the US Senate.

A detention memo, written by Justice Department lawyers in Arizona, goes into greater detail about the FBI’s investigation into Chansley, revealing that he left a note for Pence warning that “it’s only a matter of time, justice is coming”.

“Strong evidence, including Chansley’s own words and actions at the Capitol, supports that the intent of the Capitol rioters was to capture and assassinate elected officials in the United States government,” prosecutors wrote.

The prosecutors’ assessment came as prosecutors and federal agents have begun bringing more serious charges tied to violence at the Capitol, including revealing cases on Thursday against one man, retired firefighter Robert Sanford, on charges that he hurled a fire extinguisher at the head of one police officer, and another, Peter Stager, of beating a different officer with a pole bearing an American flag.

In Chansley’s case, prosecutors said the charges “involve active participation in an insurrection attempting to violently overthrow the United States government,” and warned that “the insurrection is still in progress” as law enforcement prepares for more demonstrations in Washington and state capitals.

They also suggested he suffers from drug abuse and mental illness, and told the judge he poses a serious flight risk.

“Chansley has spoken openly about his belief that he is an alien, a higher being, and he is here on Earth to ascend to another reality,” they wrote.

The Justice Department has brought more than 80 criminal cases in connection with the violent riots at the US Capitol last week, in which Trump’s supporters stormed the building, ransacked offices and in some cases, attacked police.

Many of the people charged so far were easily tracked down by the FBI, which has more than 200 suspects, thanks in large part to videos and photos posted on social media.

– REUTERS

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