Longview man pleads guilty to his role in Jan. 6 riot at U.S. Capitol

Ryan Nichols
Ryan Nichols(Smith County Jail)
Published: Nov. 7, 2023 at 2:24 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 7, 2023 at 2:40 PM CST
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (KLTV) - A Longview man pleaded guilty Tuesday to two felony charges related to his alleged conduct during the breach of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Ryan Taylor Nichols, 32, pleaded guilty in Washington, D.C. to obstruction of an official proceeding and assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers, both felony offenses. U.S. District Judge Court Judge Royce C. Lamberth accepted the plea and remanded Nichols into custody. A sentencing hearing will be held at a later date. The charges carry a combined maximum sentence of 28 years in federal prison.

“This has been a difficult road for Ryan Nichols, who was less than perfect on January 6. Today was about acceptance and responsibility for his actions on that day,” said Nichols’ attorney, Joseph McBride.

Nichols is a Marine Corps veteran who started a search and rescue nonprofit after leaving the service. He read a statement in court taking responsibility for his actions, saying he betrayed what matters most in life.

Federal Judge Royce Lamberth said he expects sentencing in more than 90 days.

According to court documents, Nichols traveled from his home in Longview to Washington, D.C., with his friend and co-defendant, Alex Kirk Harkrider, 36, of Carthage, based on their belief that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent. Nichols and Harkrider exchanged text messages in the preceding days, planning and organizing for the trip to D.C. In one message, Nichols sent Harkrider a photograph of body armor and pricing, stating that the body armor would protect against various bullets. In another series of messages to Harkrider, Nichols stated that, “Dad and I are building a gun container in the truck today. Just know I have intel that Washington will be a warzone. Big possibility that actual battle goes down.”

Court documents say that Nichols and Harkrider each brought two firearms with them on their trip, transporting them in a box that Nichols and another individual specifically constructed in the back of Nichols’ truck for the trip. On the night of Jan. 5, 2021, Nichols and Harkrider attended a rally on the streets of Washington, D.C. At one point, Nichols shouted, “Cops don’t know what’s going on. Too many of us, not enough of them.” Later, Nichols shouted, “Those people in the f— Capitol building are our enemy.”

On Jan. 6, 2021, Nichols and Harkrider attended a rally in support of then-President Trump near the Ellipse and later marched toward the U.S. Capitol building. Nichols and Harkrider both wore body armor. Nichols was armed with a crowbar, and Harkrider allegedly was armed with a tactical tomahawk axe. The two then arrived at the Capitol grounds and joined a large crowd of rioters that had gathered in front of an arched entrance to the Lower West Terrace doors, also known as the Tunnel. This was the site of some of the most violent assaults on law enforcement officers on January 6th. Rioters at the Tunnel battled officers for hours as they attempted to storm the Capitol building.

At approximately 3:56 p.m., Nichols waved the crowd forward toward the Tunnel as both he and, allegedly, Harkrider pushed with the crowd against the officers in synchronized movements, rocking back and forth as the crowd chanted, “Heave! Ho!” At approximately 4:01 p.m., Nichols again called for the crowd to push forward, extended his palm, and beckoned with his fingers for a large red canister of O.C. or pepper spray that was being passed through the crowd. Nichols took hold of the canister and delivered two streams of spray into the Tunnel, hitting multiple law enforcement officers.

At about 4:13 p.m., Nichols observed another rioter trying to break a window to the Capitol with a canister of police pepper spray. Nichols and, allegedly, Harkrider then entered the Capitol through a broken window and emerged from a room inside the building and stood on a window ledge. Nichols then, holding his crowbar in one hand and a bullhorn in the other, shouted to other rioters, “Get in the building, this is your country, get in the building, we will not be told ‘No’,” “This is the second revolution,” “This is not a peaceful protest,” and “If you have a weapon, you need to get your weapon!” Nichols and Harkrider then exited the Capitol building at about 4:35 p.m.

Later that day, back at his hotel room, Nichols posted a video to Facebook, in which he stated, in part, “So, yes, I’m calling for violence! And I will be violent! Because I’ve been peaceful and my voice hasn’t been heard. I’ve been peaceful and my vote doesn’t count. I’ve been peaceful and the courts won’t hear me. So you’re f— right, I’m going to be violent now! And I’m here in Washington, D.C. and it just got started. So if you want to know where Ryan Nichols stands, Ryan Nichols stands for violence.”

Nichols was arrested on Jan. 18, 2021 in Smith County by the FBI.

Harkrider is currently awaiting trial on charges related to his alleged conduct on January 6th.

Previous reporting:

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

Trial delayed for East Texas man accused in Jan. 6 riot