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Md. police officer, hired a year after Jan. 6, now accused of taking part in it

A Montgomery County police officer was arrested Thursday and accused of taking part in the mob violence against D.C. police guarding the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, before he joined the force.

Justin Lee, 25, of Rockville, Md., was indicted on seven charges, including assaulting a D.C. police officer and impeding police during a civil disorder — both felonies. He applied to join the Montgomery County department in July 2021, police spokeswoman Shiera D. Goff said, and was hired in January 2022. He was suspended without pay after the arrest and the department is moving to fire him, Goff added.

Lee was already on administrative leave, with pay, because of a shooting that is still under investigation. In July, Lee fatally shot a 19-year-old man suspected of stabbing multiple people in and around a shopping center in Aspen Hill, Md., according to police. Body-camera footage shows the man running toward Lee with a knife before the officer fired. That same month the police department was informed that Lee was under investigation by the FBI, Goff said in a statement.

She added that the department “conducts a thorough background investigation as part of its standard hiring process” but had no information from the Justice Department identifying Lee as a participant in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The police department is reviewing its background-check process in response to Lee’s arrest “to determine whether adjustments need to be made,” she said.

The indictment unsealed Wednesday does not give any details about Lee’s alleged conduct at the Capitol, beyond saying he engaged in physical violence and assaulted, impeded or resisted a D.C. officer. Lee is represented by attorney Terrell N. Roberts III, who often represents people suing Maryland police departments over alleged acts of brutality. Roberts did not immediately return a request for comment.

Montgomery County riot officers were deployed to the Capitol during the attack on Jan. 6, helping guard the east side of the building when Capitol Police and D.C. police were overwhelmed. They had been stationed elsewhere in the city in case violence broke out on D.C. streets. Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones said at a County Council meeting in May 2021 that they were one of the first teams able to respond to the Capitol. “I’ve never been so proud of our men and women,” who “without hesitation” helped “keep our democracy and keep that institution … safe,” he said at the time. One officer on the force suffered a concussion that kept him out of work for months, Jones said.

Dozens of former or current law enforcement officers attended Donald Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, and some then joined the violent mob at the Capitol. Thomas Webster, who served as a New York City police officer for decades, tackled a D.C. police officer outside the Capitol and exposed the officer to tear gas. Jacob Fracker and Thomas Robertson were both officers in the small Virginia town of Rocky Mount when they broke through police lines and breached the Capitol building. A California police chief turned yoga instructor was convicted of obstruction of Congress. Last week, a former sheriff’s deputy from rural Tennessee was convicted at trial of assaulting a police officer on the Capitol steps.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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