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OC Sheriff Department Investigates Employee for Capitol Riot Involvement

The Orange County Sheriff’s Department (OCSD) is conducting an investigation into one of their employees who may have attended the Jan. 6 Trump rally or participated in the nearby Capitol riot. 

The OCSD employee, whose identity has not been confirmed, was on extended leave prior to the events at the Capitol and is not a deputy, department spokesperson Carrie Braun said. Little information has been made public regarding the employee’s exact whereabouts or involvement in either the rally or the insurrection. 

The investigation began after a report claimed the OCSD employee, who has been compliant, attended the Capitol on Jan. 6. No memo was sent out within the department seeking officers and employees who attended the Capitol to come forward, Braun said. Few public statements have been made about the investigation. 

The only public statement made by the sheriff’s department referencing the Capitol riot was posted on Twitter and Instagram five days after the incident. “The Orange County Sheriff’s Department respects the first amendment rights of all individuals,” the collective departmental statement said. 

This investigation comes as the LA County Sheriff’s Department continues its administrative inquiry into a deputy who also allegedly attended the Capitol rally in early January.

LA Police Chief Michel Moore confirmed that at least one employee of the police department was present at the rally, but did not participate in the storming of the Capitol. Two additional LAPD officers were also reportedly in attendance, according to the Associated Press.

Moore has ordered any officers present at the rally to come forward for witness purposes and explanations. “Anyone we’ve identified that has traveled [to the Capitol] will be ordered and directed to provide an interview with the FBI as they are interested in witnesses,” Moore said in a statement.

“I am very concerned one of my deputies may have been involved in wrongdoing at the U.S. Capitol,” LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a statement. “Upon learning, I contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation and briefed them.”

Villanueva said his department is “not in a position of concealing anything.” The identity of the deputy under investigation, however, has not been made public. 

No statement has been made by the LAPD regarding the other two officers who were also reportedly in attendance at the Capitol.

This reckoning within police departments has been seen in many cities across the country. Several police officers have been arrested or now face criminal charges for their actions at the Capitol, according to the Associated Press

Around 31 officers nationwide are now facing repercussions after attending the Capitol rally, with some departments openly criticizing their actions.

Rocky Mount, Virginia Officer Thomas Robertson posted photos of himself at the Capitol to Facebook following his attendance at the insurrection. “CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business … The right IN ONE DAY took the f***** U.S. Capitol. Keep poking us,” he said.

Robertson, along with Rocky Mount Police Department Officer Jacob Fracker, were fired by their department and arrested and charged in federal court with one count of entering a restricted building and one count of violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Houston Police Department (HPD) Officer Tam Pham was also charged and placed on administrative leave for entering the Capitol building during the riot. The charges against him include two federal misdemeanors for violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds. Images show him posing by various statues and art pieces. 

Pham has since resigned from the HPD. His lawyer, Nicole DeBorde, says that he “deeply regrets” his participation and is “very remorseful.”

Five more officers from Seattle are suspected of having attended the Capitol siege; three of them remain on the force while two were put on administrative leave. Nine officers from a Pennsylvania police department are also suspected to have been involved in the insurrection. 

Five people died from the Capitol attack, including Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick. Two officers who were at the Capitol have committed suicide following the event and at least 65 officers were injured. 

“We don’t care what your profession is, who you are, who you’re affiliated with, if you were conducting or engaged in criminal activity, we will charge you and you will be arrested,” Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Washington D.C. Michael Sherwin said in a Department of Justice news conference

Kallen Hittner is a City News Intern for the 2021 winter quarter. He can be reached at khittner@uci.edu.