The FBI has arrested Brett Alan Rotella, the man believed to have been one of the first two people to enter the tunnel into the U.S. Capitol during the violent attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021. Photo courtesy of U.S. Justice Department
Aug. 30 (UPI) -- The FBI has arrested the man believed to have first entered the tunnel into the U.S. Capitol during the violent attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election on Jan. 6, 2021.
Brett Alan Rotella, a 34-year-old from North Carolina who goes by the name Brett Ostrander, was arrested Tuesday and charged with felony offenses including obstruction of law enforcement during civil disorder and assaulting, resisting or impeding officers, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.
Rotella was expected to make his initial appearance in a Western District of North Carolina courthouse on Wednesday, prosecutors said.
In the criminal complaint against him, a special agent with the FBI wrote that Rotella was caught on surveillance camera footage and police body-worn camera footage at the Capitol.
"Law enforcement identified an individual who confronted police officers, led other rioters in advancing toward retreating police, grabbed police riot shields and repeatedly pushed against police in an effort to gain entrance to the U.S. Capitol," the special agent wrote in the criminal complaint.
The FBI subsequently shared with the public a photo of the suspect, who was later identified as Rotella. The video footage shows Rotella wearing a red skull cap, a black sleeveless puffy vest over a red sleeveless shirt, white or gray long shorts with a black stripe and black tennis shoes. He also was pictured with a long flagpole throughout the day.
Around 2:26 p.m. on the day of the riot, Rotella allegedly approached a metal police barricade and pushed it toward officers and begged law enforcement to tear gas him.
"We just want things to be right," Rotella allegedly said. "Something has to happen or we're all [expletive]."
When police retreated from the escalating violence, Rotella allegedly led "numerous other rioters" to follow the police up the southwest stairs from the West Plaza of the Capitol, according to the complaint.
"Hold!" he called out to his fellow rioters when they reached the top of the stairs.
When police left the area, Rotella led the rioters toward the U.S. Capitol building and followed police into the building around 2:40 p.m. that day, the FBI alleged in the 22-page court documents.
Police fired rubber bullets at his feet in an attempt to stop Rotella from advancing, according to the complaint. Rotella continued to advance, walking backward into the tunnel.
Law enforcement retreated farther into the tunnel and locked the first of two sets of double doors into the building.
Rotella is seen in body-worn camera footage holding the flagpole as he stares down the officers inside the building.
Eventually, rioters smashed the glass in the doors, and Rotella allegedly reached in and opened the door handle. Another rioter entered first and began to physically fight the police with Rotella following them in.
During the ensuing scuffle, Rotella allegedly grabbed a police riot shield and left the tunnel around 2:55 p.m. when he was pepper sprayed.
About an hour later, Rotella was still in the area and led other rioters in pushing against a police line outside the Capitol.
The FBI has arrested about 1,100 people in connection with the Capitol attack and efforts to track down participants in the violence continue, though the statute of limitations on most crimes related to the riot expire in 2026.