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FBI charges Warren man in Capitol unrest

Charged in Jan. 6 unrest at Capitol

A Warren man is among three Ohioans charged with illegally entering the U.S. Capitol with a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump Jan. 6, the day the joint session of Congress was interrupted during the Electoral College vote count when protesters stormed the U.S. Capitol.

Stephen M. Ayres, 38, of Warren, was arrested Monday, after tips, including at least one from Ayres’ family member, led FBI agents to social media posts in which investigators said he and another man had identified themselves by his first and last names. The other man, who was not identified in the affidavit, stated that he and Ayres “walked right into the Capitol building” after antifa “breached the door” so it was left open. The video was recorded later in the day Jan. 6, reportedly in a D.C. hotel room.

Ayres was arrested on preliminary charges of obstruction of justice, illegally entering the capital and violent and disorderly conduct on Capitol Grounds. A message was left with his attorney seeking comment; attempts to reach Ayres on Monday night also were unsuccessful.

Details of the investigation into Ayres’ involvement were released Monday in an affidavit prepared by FBI Special Agent Austin Price. The United States Attorney did not release details about his capture. Ayres waived his preliminary hearing set for Monday afternoon in federal court in Washington, D.C.

The FBI on Jan. 10 reviewed the almost 8 minute-long video that depicted three individuals, including Ayres, describing their experiences inside the Capitol. The same video was posted to YouTube on Jan. 7 to an account listed to “Johnny Anonymous” and labeled “It was all ANTIFA breaking into the Capitol 1-6-2021.”

The other man in the video stated the video was being made “back at the hotel,” the affidavit states, where they were “safe,” but they had been “all at the Capitol Building” and they wanted to “share what really happened today.” He added that Antifa breached the building and were the ones who were violent and breaking doors and windows. The man also stated the police “escorted” them from one end of the building to the other, according to the video.

Ayres added in the video, “they walked us, yep, yep,” saying that the police “basically let everyone walk in,” according to the affidavit.

Ayres also stated in the video the “fake news” would not accurately report on what happened at the Capitol, but that they had “seen it all” and they “got footage all over the place on the Capitol” and they would “probably share some of it here and there,” according to the affidavit.

The FBI interviewed a witness on Jan. 16 who had told them about Ayres’ presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6. That witness was one of Ayres’ family members, according to the affidavit. The witness had told the FBI he had watched Ayres’ streaming live video on Jan. 6, and in it, the witness said Ayres was acting “like he was at war” and there was a lot of “yelling and screaming going on.”

At one point during the live stream video, the witness stated that Ayres said the Jan. 6 incident was “just the beginning” and there was “more to come next week.”

The witness also provided the FBI screenshots of the following posts taken from Ayres’ Facebook page:

• Dec. 26, Ayres stated, “If the [DS] robs president Trump!!! Civil War will ensue!”

• Dec. 27, Ayres stated he “and a handful of other people are headed to D.C. for the Trump rally on the 6th!! … So hopefully we are going to hear about [how] all the DS are being tried for treason!!” In the comment section of the same post, Ayres added it was “time for us to start standing up to tyranny! History is happening as we speak! … It’s time for us partiers to stand up and act! Before it’s too late!!”

• Dec. 28, Ayres shared a President Trump tweet advising his supporters not to miss the Jan. 6 rally with Ayres commenting: “Where will you be on January 6th? Chilling at home? HOPING this country isn’t going to hell in a hand basket? Or are you willing to start fighting for the American Dream! Again!?!?”

• Jan. 1, Ayres shared a picture and link to an article that purports to show the vandalism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s home. Ayres added a caption “This is just the beginning! The governors, senators, representatives, etc… Really don’t have a clue what is coming!!”

Other Facebook posts made by Ayres from Jan. 2 to 5 show probable cause of the charges against him, the affidavit states. On Jan. 19, U.S. District Magistrate Judge Robin Merriweather authorized a search warrant for Ayres’ Facebook account.

The affidavit also states law enforcement reviewed surveillance footage from within the Capitol of the civil unrest and found Ayres and another man move together outside in the crowd and then together inside the Capitol building.

The federal court set Ayres’ bond at $20,000 and ordered his release following the initial appearance in Cleveland. He is set for a court video conference 1 p.m. Feb. 8 in the United States District Court, District of Columbia, where future court proceedings will be held.

As part of his bond release, Ayres is prohibited from leaving Northern Ohio, unless for a court hearing in the case.

In central Ohio, Dustin Thompson and Robert Lyon also face preliminary charges of illegally entering the Capitol and violent and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Thompson is also accused of stealing the coat rack.

After the riot, two Capitol police officers came across Thompson, who was wearing a Trump 2020 hat and a bullet proof vest, and Lyon, who had a Trump 2020 flag, according to the FBI.

Thompson ran away but Lyon stayed and cooperated, a federal document states. The FBI interviewed Lyon at his house in Columbus on Jan. 11.

Authorities have charged several other Ohioans with breaching the Capitol, among them Donovan Crowl and Jessica Watkins of Champaign County and Cleveland school occupational therapist Christine Priola.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

gvogrin@tribtoday.com

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