2 North Carolina residents allegedly connected to Oath Keepers and Proud Boys at center of Capitol riot investigation

State - Regional

CHARLOTTE (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – One year after an angry mob stormed the U.S. Capitol to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 Presidential election results, two North Carolina residents have found themselves at the epicenter of the largest FBI investigation in history.

In the 365 days since the attack on the Capitol, more than 700 people have been charged in connection to the insurrection.

That figure includes 16 North Carolina residents.

Two of them, Laura Steele, a former High Point police officer, and Charles Donohoe of Kernersville, were recently named in a federal lawsuit.

The suit claims the two, along with their alleged organizations, “coordinated a domestic terrorism act.”

The lawsuit, which was filed by the District of Columbia, alleges Steele and Donohoe are members of extremist groups, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, respectively.

Video released by the Department of Justice shows Donohoe, the alleged leader of the North Carolina Chapter of the Proud Boys, carrying a riot shield that he had allegedly taken from a Capitol Police Officer.

A few minutes later, alleged New York Proud Boy Dominic Pezzola is seen on camera using the same shield to shatter the windows of the Capitol.

He was one of the first rioters to breach the building.

Around the same time, cameras captured members of the Oath Keepers using a military “stack” formation to snake their way through the crowd and up the stairs of the Capitol.

The members, all of them wearing military-style fatigues, walked one-by-one up the stairs, with each person holding onto the person in front of them.

The FBI’s two largest cases involve investigations into the two extremist groups.

“They have used January 6th to recruit and to be a sort of calling point,” said Dr. Shannon Reid, a professor of Criminology at UNC Charlotte.

The Proud Boys are a far-right, exclusively male organization, whose leaders promote political violence.

According to Reid, “we should treat the Proud Boys as a gang.”

The Oath Keepers are a paramilitary organization that often recruits former military and law enforcement.

According to the FBI, Steele was recruited to join the Oath Keepers by her brother.

Investigators say a busload of more than 40 Oath Keepers rode from North Carolina to the Capitol.

Since Jan. 6, Congress has looked into extremism in the military after seeing the number of active-duty members, veterans, and members of law enforcement that were part of the riots.

Donohoe, for instance, is a Marine veteran.

Retired Lt. Col. Joseph Plenzler said extremist groups “specifically target the isolated, the impoverished veterans who are frustrated and confused. And those who are struggling to adapt to the civilian world.”

Donohoe has remained behind bars ever since his arrest. A federal judge has denied him bond multiple times.

Steele has been allowed to return to North Carolina.

Ironically, her own brother, who originally recruited her to join the Oath Keepers, has pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against her and the other members of the organization.

The Oath Keepers go on trial in April.

Donohoe and the Proud Boys are set to face a judge in May.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

What People Are Reading on wbtw.com