The Rocky Mount, Virginia Police Department has placed two of its officers on administrative leave after they attended a pro-Trump rally that turned violent in Washington, D.C. on January 6. Screenshots of a selfie posted on Facebook allegedly show the two officers inside the Capitol building, but one of them told The Roanoke Times that Capitol police allowed them in the building.
“We were escorted in by the Capitol Police, shown around and told, ‘As long as you stay here, you’re fine,'” Sergeant T.J. Robertson told The Times.
“I walked through an open door guarded by two Capitol police officers, was handed a bottle of water by them and asked to stay within a roped area, which we did,” Robertson told WSLS.
The department did not name the officers. “The Rocky Mount Police Department is aware that two off-duty officers were present at an event in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, January 6, 2021. The Town of Rocky Mount fully supports all lawful expressions of freedom of speech and assembly by its employees but does not condone the unlawful acts that occurred that day,” the department said in a press release.
Robertson told The Times that he does not support violence and said that he and another officer, Jacob Fracker, didn’t engage in violence or criminal behavior at the Capitol. He said he first sent the photo to colleagues in the police department and was surprised when it appeared online in a different context. “I wasn’t trying to keep it a secret,” Robertson said.
Protesters held a Black Lives Matter [BLM] protest on Sunday in response, according to The Times. The officers had peacefully participated in BLM protests over the summer, according to a Facebook post by Tracy Black.
“Lol to anyone who’s possibly concerned about the picture of me going around… Sorry I hate freedom? Not like I did anything illegal, way too much to lost to go there, but y’all do what you feel you need to do,” Fracker said on Facebook, according to screenshots obtained by WSLS. “I can protest for what I believe in and still support your protest for what you believe in.”
In a screenshot of one of Robertson’s Facebook posts, he said he was proud of the selfie. “It shows 2 men willing to actually put skin in the game and stand up for their rights. If you are too much of a coward to risk arrest, being fired, and actual gunfire to secure your rights, you have no words to speak I value.”
The department would not provide additional details to The Virginia Star about the type of leave nor confirm that Robertson and Fracker are the officers placed on leave.
“Based on the available information, the Police Department has notified federal authorities and the individuals that were present at the event are on administrative leave pending review,” the Rocky Mount press release states.
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