Jonathan Rockholt, a 38-year-old Palm Coast resident who described himself as a member of the Three Percenters militia, was arrested on three federal charges in connection with the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, where he confronted and attempted to overcome police. He made his first court appearance in a Middle District of Florida courtroom today.
Rockholt, who was armed at the Capitol, was one of five Floridians arrested today in three states for breaching the grounds of the Capitol following a speech by then-President Trump who fueled the attack that followed. Rioters were attempting to halt the House and Senate’s certification of Joe Biden as president, had erected a gallows, and came within 40 feet of then-Vice President Pence, one of their targets.
Three Percenters were among those who disrupted Flagler County School Board meetings last year, and who faced off against local students and faculty demonstrating against the banning of books. Three Percenters and others attempted to drown out the demonstration and directed obscenities and slurs at the students. An attempt by the school board to denounce hate groups failed, because of opposition by Board members Jill Woolbright and Janet McDonald, who claimed the participants in hate groups were not Flagler-based.
Rockholt’s arrest and identification as a Three Percenter suggests otherwise. (The Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes the Three Percenters as “a sub-ideology or common belief that falls within the larger antigovernment militia movement.”)
There have been other documented local connections to the Jan. 6 pro-Trump demonstration–itself premised on the false and discredited claim that the election was fraudulent–but not necessarily the insurrection that followed.
Shortly before the Jan. 6 insurrection, Commissioner Joe Mullins sponsored busloads of participants who took part in the Jan. 6 protest just before the insurrection. It’s never been established whether any of those participants took part in the breach, or whether Rockholt was part of the group bused to Washington, where Mullins joined the group after flying there.
Before the Palm Coast and Flagler participants boarded buses at the county fairgrounds, they received a set of pointers from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Mike Lutz, with an approving Mullins standing by:
Rockholt, along with Benjamin Cole, 38, of Leesburg, John Edward Crowley, 50, of Windermere, and Brian Preller, 33, of Mount Dora, are charged with the felony offense of interfering with a law enforcement officer during a civil disorder. They are also charged with misdemeanor offenses of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, as is Tyler Bensch, 20, of Casselberry.
According to a Department of Justice release and court documents, the five men self-identified as members of the “B Squad,” a subgroup of a militia-style, Florida based organization known as the “Guardians of Freedom,” which adheres to the ideology of the “Three Percenters.”
They traveled to Washington, D.C., with others in the “B Squad”–the release does not specify what means of transportation they used–and stayed at a hotel on Jan. 5, 2021. On Jan. 6, the five were among those illegally gathered on the Capitol grounds. Cole wore a tactical vest. Preller wore a tactical vest with a chemical irritant spray attached to the front, as well as large goggles and a green helmet with the word “monster” on the back. He also carried a long black walking stick and wore a shirt that read “waterboarding instructor.”
Rockholt wore a tactical vest and carried what appeared to be a knife in his front right pocket; he also wore a baseball helmet. Bensch wore a tactical vest, as well as a military-style helmet with goggles and a black gas mask. He also carried a chemical irritant in front of the vest.
They were all part of a group that “wore riot gear—including tactical vests and helmets—and possessed expandable metal batons, chemical irritants, knives, and walking sticks,” according to court papers. “Those with walking sticks appeared to intend to use them as impact weapons, as opposed to being mere walking aids. None of the individuals who carried the long wooden poles are known to have a condition that requires the use of a walking stick.”
About Rockholt, court papers specify that on Jan. 6, 2021, he was
pictured wearing the following items while on restricted Capitol grounds:
1. an olive-green quilted jacket, blue jeans, and black gloves;
2. a tactical vest with a patch associated with the “Three Percenters” movement (i.e., “III”);
3. a drab neck gaiter and sunglasses;
4. a grayish baseball helmet with a red, white, and blue skull on the back, yellow Gadsden
flag3 symbols on the sides, what appears to be, the logo for “GoF” (described below) and
a U.S. flag on the front; and
5. what appears to be a knife in his front right pocket.
The following are images of Rockholt obtained from open-source videos and/or images taken from within the restricted Capitol Grounds:
Cole, Crowley, Preller and Rockholt were in a group that engaged in a confrontation with law enforcement officers in the tunnel area of the Capitol’s Lower West Terrace, the release continues. Bensch remained just outside. While inside the tunnel, Cole, Preller, Crowley and Rockholt confronted and assisted the crowd in confronting the officers that were preventing the tunnel and Capitol from being breached. They added their force, momentum, bodies, and efforts to the other rioters in a “heave-ho” effort that put pressure on the police line. As a direct result of the actions of the rioters in the tunnel at that time, the mob penetrated deeper, pushing the police line back.
According to the case’s statement of facts (see below), each of the five individuals joined the group of rioters who were attempting to force their way past the officers responsible for securing The Tunnel, an entry to the Capitol that provides immediate and unobstructed access to sensitive areas and offices used by Members of Congress.
The following images depict B SQUAD members Cole, Preller, Crowley, and Rockholt preparing to enter and then entering The Tunnel. In the top left image below, Bensch is using a digital device in a manner consistent with taking pictures or recording video of the area, of the crowd, and of The Tunnel.
During the siege of The Tunnel that stretched from 2:41 p.m. for more than two hours, the Statement of Facts states, rioters pushed into The Tunnel and were repelled in a constant back-and-forth of heave-ho efforts by the rioters and resistance by the officers. Some members of Congress were sheltering in place near that entrance. The effort ultimately failed.
Once officers finally were able to repel Cole, Preller, Crowley, Rockholt, and others from the tunnel, Rockholt picked up a clear riot shield with a Capitol Police seal before leaving the area. Bensch, meanwhile, used one of his chemical irritants to spray the face of an individual who was an unknown member of the crowd, even though that person posed no threat to him.
This case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section, and investigated by the FBI’s Washington, Jacksonville, Tampa, Boston, and Albany Field Offices, with assistance from the U.S. Capitol Police and the Metropolitan Police Department.
In the 19 months since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 860 individuals have been arrested in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including over 260 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement. The investigation remains ongoing.
Anyone with tips can call 1-800-CALL-FBI (800-225-5324) or visit tips.fbi.gov.cole_et_al_-_statement_of_facts_redacted_0 (1)