Athol man charged with using riot shield on police during January 6 Capitol uprising

An Athol man was arrested on Friday and charged with using a police riot shield to attack officers trying to stop rioters from entering the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Congress s was preparing to confirm the election of Joe Biden as the next president.

Vincent J. Gillespie was arrested in Athol by FBI agents and is due to appear in U.S. District Court for the first time on Friday afternoon. He faces charges of assaulting, resisting or obstructing officers, civil disturbance and physical violence in a building or restricted area, according to the US Department of Justice.

The 60-year-old was identified by video and photographs of the intense fight between police and supporters of former President Donald J. Trump as they tried to stop or delay the counting of electoral votes by the House and Senate, prosecutors alleged. .

“From at least 4:11 p.m. to at least 4:25 p.m., Gillespie was among the Capitol’s Lower West Terrance rioters who engaged in pushing, shoving, shouting and fighting with law enforcement. He fought his way through the crowd, eventually maneuvering through the rioters to the line of police defending the exterior gate of the Lower West Terrace,” federal prosecutors said in the statement Friday.

“At one point he took control of a police shield as he approached the officers. Gillespie used the shield to ram into law enforcement, continuing to shout ‘traitor’ and ‘treason’ at police,” prosecutors wrote. Gillespie also allegedly “grabbed a law enforcement officer by the arm and tried to drag him into the crowd.”

Gillespie is one of more than 750 people arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the Jan. 6 breach, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, which is leading the nationwide investigation into the Capitol breach. . .

In September, the FBI released a photo of the uprising which allegedly depicted Gillespie and said at the time that he was “photographed wearing a black hoodie with the logo of a Pittsfield fitness club called Berkshire Nautilus .

An FBI affidavit filed in Gillespie’s case said several tips from the public helped identify him. One of them said that an individual wearing such a sweatshirt was involved in the riot. Further advice came from a former neighbor of Gillespie; an employee of an American Automobile Association site in Massachusetts who recognized him during visits to that office; as well as three witnesses who work for the town of Athol, where Gillespie “frequently attends meetings and pays his tax bills at City Hall.”

The affidavit says witnesses “independently, positively” identified Gillespie in the footage of the insurrection.

Joseph R. Bonavolonta, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Boston division, said in September that his team was working hard on the case.

“We are working closely with our law enforcement and private sector partners to identify those who have attempted to use violence and destruction to intimidate, coerce or affect the conduct of our government,” Bonavolonta said. “We ask the public to take a close look at these photos and contact us if you know who this man is. We believe he was involved in a violent assault on federal agents and no information is too small or irrelevant.

Gillespie was reportedly among the legions of Trump supporters who marched to the Capitol and swarmed outnumbered Capitol police forces outside, raping property, ransacking offices, stealing items, assaulting officers and forcing members of Congress to evacuate. Lawmakers returned to the Capitol late at night and certified Biden’s victory early the next morning.

Among those who died in the violent clashes was Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick.

Although Sicknick, 42, was seriously injured while clashing with rioters during the insurgency, the Washington, D.C. medical examiner’s office ruled in April 2021 that he ultimately suffered a stroke. and that he died of natural causes.

Capitol Police said in response that the agency accepted the medical examiner’s findings, but stressed that the decision did not change the fact that Sicknick died in the line of duty, “courageously defending Congress and the Capitol”.

Associated Press material was used in this report.

John R. Ellement can be contacted at Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.

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