Federal authorities arrested an active-duty Marine Corps officer Thursday for his alleged role in the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol in which a horde of right-wing supporters of former President Donald Trump disrupted a joint session of Congress to stop the certification of the 2020 election results.
Marine Corps Major Christopher Warnagiris, 40, faces a slew of federal charges for his alleged role in the riot, including “assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers,” “violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds,” and “obstruction of justice/Congress.”
Of the over 400 people arrested on charges related to the insurrection at the Capitol, over 40 have some sort of military affiliation. Warnagiris appears to be the first active-duty service member charged.
A Marine Corps spokesperson told HuffPost that Warnagiris is a field artillery officer currently stationed at Marine Corps Base Quantico, where he works to “improve the warfighting skills of senior commanders and their staffs,” according to an official description of the training program to which he’s assigned.
He joined the Marine Corps in 2002 and has served multiple deployments, including in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has received over a dozen military awards.
Maj. J.A. Hernandez, a Marine Corps spokesperson, said in a statement that “participation with hate or extremist groups of any kind is directly contradictory to the core values of honor, courage, and commitment that we stand for as Marines and isn’t tolerated by the Marine Corps.”
“We are proud of the fact that Marines come from every race, creed, cultural background and walk of life,” Hernandez said. “We expect every Marine to treat their fellow Marines with dignity and respect. Those who can’t value the contributions of others, regardless of background, are destructive to our culture, our warfighting ability, and have no place in our ranks.”
Warnagiris’ arrest comes as the Pentagon struggles to deal with the extremists in the ranks of the U.S. military. In February, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin issued a military-wide stand-down order, requiring commanders to have “needed discussions” about extremism with troops.
Scholars of extremism have long raised alarm about the many far-right extremists serving in the military, where they receive combat training they can then use on civilian targets.
According to a criminal complaint, security camera footage shows Warnagiris — wearing a “dark backpack with bright green zippers, a military green backpack, and black and tan gloves” — violently entering the Capitol on Jan. 6 after pushing past police officers guarding doors into the East Rotunda.
Once inside the building, Warnagiris allegedly pressed his body against the door to keep it open, pulling other rioters inside. The criminal complaint alleges that the security camera footage, along with footage captured by RMG News, shows him pushing back a police officer who tries to shut the door closed.
On March 16, a member of the public contacted the FBI after recognizing Warnagiris in photos the agency had posted of suspects online. FBI agents obtained government photographs of Warnagiris and confirmed the resemblance. The agents then interviewed one of Warnagiris’ co-workers at Quantico, who identified him as the man in the video footage.
Warnagiris, who did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment, appeared in a federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, on Thursday, where he stated that he is seeking an attorney.
He was released on personal recognizance and told not to leave the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area without prior permission from the court.
Jeff Houston, a spokesperson for the Naval Criminal Investigation Services, confirmed the agency is working closely with the FBI on the case but declined to comment further.
Ryan Reilly contributed reporting.