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FBI Agent And Former Prosecutors Explain Why So Many People From Pa. Were Involved In Jan. 6 Capitol Riots

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- An FBI agent and former prosecutors explain why so many people from the Pittsburgh area were involved in the Jan. 6 Capitol Riots.

The FBI and federal prosecutors mounted an unprecedented sweep on the country, arresting nearly 500 people and charging them in connection with the riots.

With 63 charged, Pennsylvania is a close second to Florida in the number of citizens arrested. Many of them are your neighbors.

Rachel Powell, the organic yogurt saleswoman and mother of eight who is known as the "Bullhorn Lady," allegedly barked out orders to those inside the building, instructing them on where to go.

Jordan Mink, of Oakdale, was seen using a baseball bat to break into the Capitol, where he's accused of stealing property and passing it out to fellow rioters.

Robert Morss, a teacher from Shaler who served his country as an Army Ranger, used his military training to coordinate an attack and overpower Capitol police, prosecutors say.

Though each of them frame their actions in terms of free speech and not intending to inflict bodily harm, prosecutors are vigorously pursuing each of them.

They face potentially lengthy stays in prison for participating in what former U.S. Attorney David Hickton calls an insurrection.

"Let's call it what it is," Hickton said, "It's domestic terrorism."

Pennsylvania has always been a hotbed for militia and paramilitary groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Hickton said their extremist views have found their way into the mainstream. With industrial decline and the fading promise of the American Dream, they've found a fertile breeding ground in western Pennsylvania.

"Our region has been particularly hard hit, and I would even say left behind by some of the policies of our government," Hickton said. "It's the breach of the covenant that if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead, you can build a better life for your family."

Angry citizens who fall prey to disinformation -- not just that the election was stolen but embracing wild conspiracy theories -- like convicted Q-Anon follower Matthew Perna, who posted an eight-minute video in the Capitol saying "It's not over, trust me. The purpose of today was to expose (Vice President Mike) Pence as a traitor."

"People of good will and people who are not of good will have been allowed to spin themselves into an almost absurdity with nonsense," Hickton said.

Former FBI agent and now LaRoche University professor Larry Likar said many of those now facing charges are gullible people who have been led astray by groups like the Oath Keepers, Proud Boys and the Boogaloo Boys —- extremist groups that the FBI believes may have mounted a coordinated attack on the Capitol.

"The ultimate objective is to get to the ringleaders of the various movements that were rolled into the attack on the Capitol," Likar said.

Both Hickton and Likar want the Department of Justice and Congress to accelerate their investigations, determine if this was a coordinated attack, and bring those responsible to justice. They said this kind of assault on Democracy cannot happen again.

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