Newly released text messages between two East Texas men charged in the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol show the pair were preparing for a “war zone.”
U.S. attorneys argue in court documents that Alex Kirk Harkrider, 34, of Carthage should not be released pending trial despite his recent request to revoke his detention order and modify his bond.
Harkrider and Ryan Taylor Nichols, 30, of Longview, are in federal custody awaiting trial on charges related to the Washington, D.C., riots.
“Defendant Harkrider’s travel to Washington, D.C., was part of a pre-planned, coordinated act, in which he and his co-defendant, Ryan Nichols, prepared for violence, transported and carried weapons, and discussed going to the Capitol on January 6, 2021,” according to court documents. “The evidence demonstrates that Defendant Harkrider’s actions were not those of a mere follower nor a peaceful protester.”
In his pretrial release request, Harkrider’s attorney claimed that he “did not engage in prior planning.” However, text messages between Harkrider and Nichols released by the government in court documents show the pair expressed excitement for the possibly of participating in an “actual battle” on Jan. 6.
These texts were dated Jan. 3:
Nichols: Dad and I are building a gun container in the truck today
Nichols: Just know I have intel that Washington will be a war zone
Nichols: Big possibility that actual battle goes down
Harkrider: I’m looking forward to it
Nichols: I know how to get guns legally into DC now
Nichols: It’s called transporting
Harkrider: I’ll bring every freedom blaster I own then
Nichols: Do you have any 10 round mags for an AR?
“Freedom blaster” is slang for firearms, according to court documents.
“Having arrived in Arlington, Virginia by January 5, 2021, Defendant Harkrider and Codefendant Nichols did not settle in for the evening to rest up for a ‘peaceful protest’ the next day,” court documents said. “Rather, they headed into downtown Washington, D.C., looking for a confrontation.”
Nichols and others took video of from the night of Jan. 5, showing him and Harkrider walking with a crowd of people.
“At one point, Co-defendant Nichols yells out, ‘Those people in f---ing Capitol building are our enemy,’ ” court documents said. “In another video, Defendant Harkrider, wearing a sweatshirt that says ‘Marine. Noun. A person who kills sh — you can’t,’ is observed walking with Co-defendant Nichols and the group of people. A voice, believed to be Defendant Harkrider’s, is heard saying ‘there’s gonna be a f---ing war tomorrow.’ ”
Harkrider and Nichols posted images and videos of themselves involved in the Jan. 6 riots to their social media accounts. Investigators found photos, screenshots and videos from the pair depicting them taking part in the riot, according to court documents.
In his pretrial release request, Harkrider claims he was responding to former President Donald Trump’s call to action, documents show.
“The President maintained that the election had been ‘stolen’ and it was the duty of loyal citizens to ‘stop the steal,’ “ according to a filing by Harkrider’s attorney. “Defendant did not act out of criminal intent but out of sense of duty.”
His attorney also claimed Harkrider was pushed into the situation, and he could not navigate in the crowd.
“In a video of January 6, 2021, that was introduced at the preliminary hearing, Defendant Harkrider can be seen pushing his way to the front of the crowd at an entrance to the Capitol where rioters are fighting with law enforcement officers,” court documents said. “Contrary to the defense argument, Defendant Harkrider is not merely standing toward the back of the crowd or getting pushed around, rather Defendant Harkrider marches decidedly forward through the crowd, with Co-defendant Nichols behind him, to the front lines at an entrance of the Capitol.”
At about 6 a.m. Jan. 18, Harkrider was arrested at his home in Carthage. Court documents indicate that a “piece of furniture” from the Capitol was found on his nightstand.
On Jan. 22, a federal judge ruled Harkrider and Nichols would be held without bond, awaiting trial due to “clear and convincing evidence that there are no conditions that would reasonably assure the safety of the community and has shown by a preponderance of the evidence that there is a serious risk that the defendant will flee or not appear in court when required.”
Harkrider is charged with civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, theft of government property, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building with a deadly or dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on capitol grounds or buildings, disorderly conduct in a capitol building, and parading, demonstrating or picketing in a capitol building in the District Court for the District of Columbia.
Nichols is charged with civil disorder obstruction of an official proceeding entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a deadly or dangerous weapon, disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building with a deadly or dangerous weapon, unlawful possession of a dangerous weapon on capitol grounds or buildings, disorderly conduct in a capitol building, assaulting, resisting or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon, and act of physical violence in the capitol grounds or buildings in the District Court for the District of Columbia.
Both men are accused of interfering with law enforcement performing official duties, attempting to impede or obstruct an official proceeding before Congress through civil disorder, and both men are accused of unlawfully entering the Capitol building with deadly or dangerous weapons. According to court documents, Harkrider was armed with a tomahawk ax and Nichols with a crowbar and pepper spray.
“The offenses committed by the defendant illuminate characteristics inconsistent with a person who could follow orders given by this Court, or indeed, any branch of the federal government, and wholly inconsistent with the oath he took as a member of the U.S. military,” court documents said. “Finally, Defendant Harkrider made additional posts on Facebook after January 6 indicating that ‘this is only the beginning,’ intimating intent of future threats and violence.”