Court docs allege ‘ringleader’ of statue vandals lit a cigarette with monument’s flames
Jason Charter, who was booked Thursday as the alleged “ringleader” in the June 22 attempt to destroy the Andrew Jackson statue in Lafayette Square near the White House, was also allegedly involved in the destruction of the Albert Pike Historical Statue in Washington on June 20 — and even lit a cigarette in the flames engulfing that monument.
That’s according to court documents that underscore federal authorities’ ongoing efforts to unmask and punish individuals who deface national monuments. President Trump has pushed authorities to go after rioters who take down statutes, signing an executive order to beef up security and penalties.
In June, the FBI tracked down one alleged firebomber even though she was wearing a mask — with the help of a T-shirt she was wearing, and a subpoena to the Etsy store where she bought the clothes.
In Charter’s case, the FBI’s charging documents make clear that open-source surveillance footage and interagency cooperations were again critical to making an arrest. One of the many head-turning revelations in the documents, for example, is that a Washington, D.C. police officer who had given Charter a ride in the past was able to confirm his identity, along with social media commenters.
“Members of MPD, FBI and USPP have reviewed online open source videos,” the FBI’s summary of facts states, including “videos from MPD body-worn camera footage, and footage recorded by the Secret Service” in order to “identify the individuals who attempted to remove the Jackson Statue from its base and damage it, including the cannons at the statue’s base.”
Charter has not spoken publicly since his arrest but had a court hearing scheduled for Thursday.
Charter, the bureau states, was spotted on a camera “entering the grounds of Lafayette Park on June 22, 2020, at approximately 6:16:52 PM,” wearing not only a white face mask and ski goggles, but also an “armband on his right arm, holding a walking cane, and a “Swiss Gear logo backpack with a bicycle helmet dangling from the side.”
Charter was then allegedly “boosted up onto the statue by an unknown subject and then appears to request ropes from people on the ground level.”
He was carrying the “same Swiss Gear logo backpack, bicycle helmet, walking cane, and armband,” the FBI went on, as he was seen taking part in the attack on the Pike statue days later.
On June 20, Charter “is seen … standing over the toppled Pike Statue, pouring an unknown liquid onto the statue,” the FBI states. “He is then observed waving others away from the statue, and squatting down behind the statue where his hands are not visible. Seconds later, the statue catches fire. Charter is seen standing over the flames as it burns.”
Charter is “visible with his face covering removed, lighting a cigarette in the flames engulfing the Pike Statue,” the FBI continues.
Officials estimate that repairing the Pike statue, including removing graffiti and restoring its burned facade, could cost up to $250,000. For the Jackson statue, Park officials have said the “historic cannon carriages at the base of the statue were irreparably damaged, that some parts of the statue were bent and that other parts of the statue sustained damage from blunt objects and chemicals,” according to the FBI.
The estimated replacement cost for the historic cannon carriages is $76,000, according to the documents, and the “estimated cost to repair one of the bent portions of the statue is $2,000.”
Problematically for Charter, the FBI goes on to allege that at points, Charter was photographed in both instances without any face coverings.
And Lieutenant Jason Bagshaw of the Metropolitan Police Department told the FBI he has interacted with Charter on numerous occasions and was able to positively identify him. Charter has “called Lieutenant Bagshaw on his cell phone to discuss these matters on a regular basis, and Charter even rode with Lieutenant Bagshaw to a convenience store following a protest in June of 2020,” according to the FBI.
Park authorities went online on June 26 and “observed a white male being physically assaulted by a male dressed in black, wearing a black helmet, red goggles, and holding a blue cane” in a video they found.
“In the comments section underneath the video, the male in black was identified as Jason Charter,” the FBI goes on. “Officers were able to locate the Twitter account belonging to Jason Charter.”
“Further investigation revealed that on June 20, 2020, shortly after the destruction of the Pike Statue, Charter posted an image on his Twitter page of the Pike Statue on fire with the caption, ‘Tearing down statues of traitors to the nation is a service to this nation not a crime,'” according to the charging documents. “Law enforcement has also identified a Facebook account belonging to Charter where he posts images at 1:50 a.m. on June 20, 2020, of the Albert Pike Statue burning on the ground, along with the caption, ‘Death to all Confederate Statues.'”
The Twitter account that the FBI alleges belongs to Carter was still online Thursday afternoon. The Daily Caller’s Chuck Ross pointed to a tweet, apparently since deleted, in which Charter apparently confuses fetal alcohol syndrome with alcoholism.
Charter wrote in a July 2 tweet: “I find it hilarious people think that my dark eyes are from drugs and not from the countless hours I dedicate to work, activism, my love life, and my hobbies.”
Law enforcement sources tell Fox News that Jason Charter was arrested at his residence Thursday morning, without incident, and charged with destruction of federal property. He was arrested by the FBI and U.S. Park Police as part of a joint task force.
These sources add that Charter has connections to Antifa and was in a leadership role on the night of June 22 when a large group of protesters tried to pull down the Andrew Jackson statue.
“They were very organized,” a federal law enforcement official said. “Charter was on top of the statue and directing people … they had acid, chisels, straps and a human chain preventing police from getting to the statue.”
Last month, the Justice Department revealed it has filed dozens of charges for riot-related federal offenses in the aftermath of George Floyd’s in-custody death — including for aiming a green laser pointer at an FBI aircraft overhead in Milwaukee, torching the Third Precinct police station in Minneapolis, and impersonating a U.S. Marshal in Orlando.
The DOJ specifically released a document, obtained by Fox News, that outlines in dramatic detail how some of the arrests were made amid the chaos.
For example, Branden Michael Wolfe, 23, was spotted on June 3 “wearing body armor and a law enforcement duty belt and carrying a baton” as he tried to enter a home improvement store in St. Paul, Minnesota. Wolfe had previously worked as a security guard at the store, but was “fired earlier that day after referring to social media posts about stealing items from the Third Precinct,” the DOJ said.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey had ordered the Third Precinct evacuated, drawing a rebuke from the president; Frey was later booed away by protesters for not agreeing to defund the police entirely.
Upon his arrest, Wolfe was allegedly wearing multiple items stolen from the Third Precinct, including “body armor, a police-issue duty belt with handcuffs, an earphone piece, baton, and knife” — and Wolfe’s name was “handwritten in duct tape on the back of the body armor.”
Authorities later recovered a “riot helmet, 9mm pistol magazine, police radio, and police issue overdose kit” from Wolfe. He allegedly confessed to throwing a barrel into the fire at the police station.