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Federal judge rules to detain Longview, Carthage men accused in siege of US Capitol

Ryan Nichols arrives for detention hearing at the Tyler federal courthouse.
Ryan Nichols arrives for detention hearing at the Tyler federal courthouse.(KLTV)
Updated: Jan. 22, 2021 at 9:04 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Two East Texas men who joined the U.S. Capitol Building riot Jan. 6 were ordered to be detained until trial.

Magistrate Judge K. Nicole Mitchell handed down the ruling Friday evening after hours of testimony by and cross examination of witnesses regarding the actions of Ryan Nichols, 30, of Longview, and Alex Kirk Harkrider, 33, of Carthage during the siege of the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

Nichols is charged with conspiracy and unlawful entry with a dangerous weapon, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds; civil disorder, assault on a federal officer, using a deadly or dangerous weapon and aiding and abetting.

The FBI affidavit included this screenshot of an alleged Facebook post by Ryan Nichols (right)...
The FBI affidavit included this screenshot of an alleged Facebook post by Ryan Nichols (right) showing him and Alex Harkrider in front a large crowd at the U.S. Capitol Building. (Source: Department of Justice)(Department of Justice)

Harkrider’s charges include conspiracy and unlawful entry with a dangerous weapon, violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, and aiding and abetting.

Judge Mitchell noted that her decision to detain both Nichols and Harkrider was due to the evident nature of their participation in the events at the U.S. Capitol Building, and also due to factors such as Nichols’ apparent removal or destruction of evidence prior to arrest, as well as Harkrider’s PTSD and previously confessed suicidal ideation.

Evidence brought against the two men, both former members of the U.S. Marine Corps, included video footage of their participation in the riot while breaching a Capitol Building window, and text messages that included wording such as “I’ll bring every freedom blaster I own” from Harkrider. There were also multiple photos of the two men dressed in body armor in and around the Capitol grounds. Nichols was noted as having brandished a crowbar during the riot, while Harkrider brought a tomahawk-style hatchet. Harkrider’s defense attorney argued that the tomahawk was intended purely for defensive use, however.

The key witness for the prosecution, led by Asst. U.S. Attorney Ryan Locker, was Tyler Police Department Detective Gregory Harry who worked the case as part of a joint FBI task force. Harry said they were able to piece together a significant portion of the evidence that led to Nichols’ and Harkrider’s arrests thanks to social media posts by both men, screen captures of posts submitted to authorities, as well as multiple videos posted online by third parties.

Prosecution also focused a significant amount of time on Nichols’ behavior prior to the events of Jan. 6. These included alleged psychedelic drug use, an April 2020 incident where Nichols’ allegedly shot at a low-flying aircraft near his home, as well as an incident where he allegedly assaulted construction workers near his home. The investigation into the aircraft is still ongoing, while charges pertaining to the alleged assault were dropped.

As for Harkrider, Locker zeroed in on the footage of Harkrider emerging from the broken Capitol Building window while yelling and making slashing motions across his throat, a text where he asked, “Who’s y’all’s favorite domestic terrorists?” as well as the fact that he suffers from PTSD and may be suicidal.

In his testimony, Harry noted that Harkrider had made the statement, “I wish I had been shot at the door,” though he noted he was uncertain if Harkrider meant the door of the Capitol Building or the door of the house he was in when authorities arrested him.

Nichols’ defense, led by attorney Buck Files, focused on his history of humanitarian aid and disputed claims that Nichols had actually performed any truly violent acts. Nichols gained national recognition in 2018 for his nonprofit work assisting and aiding hurricane and flood victims when he appeared on Ellen Degeneres’ weekday television show. Additionally, Files argued that there was no tangible proof that Nichols intended or came close to harming police officers while using pepper spray, nor was there proof that Nichols succeeded in “riling up the crowd” as he shouted through a bullhorn.

Harkrider’s defense, led by attorney Greg Waldron, focused on the fact that he readily cooperated with law enforcement, was forthcoming with statements, and also did not destroy or knowingly remove any evidence from his home prior to arrest the way Nichols had. Additionally, Waldron noted that there was no evidence that Harkrider had destroyed or otherwise vandalized any property once inside the building.

Both men were remanded back into federal custody to await trial, though no date has yet been set.

Ryan Nichols (Source: Smith County Jail)
Ryan Nichols (Source: Smith County Jail)(Smith County Jail)

Nichols and Alex Kirk Harkrider, 33, of Carthage, were arrested on Monday. Both arrived in federal court on Friday for a detention hearing.

Alex Harkrider (Source: Gregg County Jail)
Alex Harkrider (Source: Gregg County Jail)(Gregg County Jail)

Previous story: 2 East Texans accused of taking part in U.S. Capitol siege charged with federal crimes

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