An Arkansan accused of being the man who was caught on video using an American flag to beat a police officer during the U.S. Capitol riot was charged Thursday in federal court in the District of Columbia, according to court documents.
Peter Francis Stager, 41, of Conway faces one count of obstructing a police officer from his duties during a civil disorder, according to the complaint.
"Stager climbed the stairs while holding a flagpole with a United States flag affixed to it and used the pole to repeatedly strike [the officer]," who was facedown on the steps of the U.S. Capitol building, according to a "statement of facts" filed in the case.
Stager was arrested Thursday by the FBI and Conway police at the office of a lawyer, said Ryan Kennedy, a supervisory special agent with the FBI in Little Rock. Afterward, agents searched Stager's home.
Jessica Franklin, a spokeswoman for the FBI's Little Rock office. said she couldn't reveal where Stager is in custody.
Stager is charged over a mob attack on an officer from the Washington, D.C., Metropolitan Police Department.
The officer, identified only as B.M. in the statement of facts, was posted in an archway outside the Capitol building.
"From this archway, alongside other uniformed law enforcement officers, B.M. observed hundreds of individuals gathered outside," wrote FBI Special Agent Jason T. Coe in the statement of facts.
"Some of these individuals were throwing and swinging various objects at the group of law enforcement officers," wrote Coe. "While standing in the archway to prevent the group of individuals from breaching the U.S. Capitol building, and while wearing his official MPD uniform, some of these individuals grabbed B.M. and dragged him down the stairs of the Capitol building. These individuals forced B.M. into a prone position on the stairs and proceeded to forcibly and repeatedly strike B.M. in the head and body with various objects."
On Tuesday, the FBI received a tip that Stager was the assailant who used a flagpole to beat the officer. The confidential source recognized Stager from two videos posted on Twitter.
In the second video, a man identified as Stager was recorded stating, "Everybody in there is a treasonous traitor. Death is the only remedy for what's in that building."
Coe wrote that he believed Stager was referring to the Capitol building and to the members of Congress who were inside at the time.
Agents interviewed a second confidential source who identified Stager as the suspect in the videos.
"Referencing video 2, Stager told [confidential source 2] that he was 'wired up' from being either pepper-sprayed or tear-gassed and that was why he made the comments he did on camera," wrote Coe.
Stager told the confidential source that he planned to surrender to law enforcement officials but had yet to do so, according to the statement of facts.
Stager told the source that he didn't know the man he was striking on the ground with the flagpole was a police officer and that he thought the person he was striking was "antifa," according to the statement of facts.
Photographs showed B.M. facedown on the Capitol steps.
"Clearly present on B.M.'s uniform, across his back, are the words 'METROPOLITAN POLICE,'" wrote Coe. "Also visible in the photo is Stager, holding a flagpole, with an American flag attached, with what appears to be a clear view of B.M. in uniform, lying on the stairs."
"The officer was injured but he is recovering and doing well," said Hugh Carew, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police Department.
Stager is charged with violating 18 U.S.C. 231(a)(3), which makes it unlawful to "commit or attempt to commit any act to obstruct, impede or interfere with any fireman or law enforcement officer lawfully engaged in the lawful performance of his official duties incident to and during the commission of a civil disorder which in any way or degree obstructs, delays, or adversely affects commerce or the movement of any article or commodity in commerce or the conduct or performance of any federally protected function," wrote Coe.
The "federally protected function" was the joint session of Congress where the Senate and House count Electoral College votes, he wrote.
Prosecutors have been filing complaints as soon as possible so people can be arrested. Then those initial complaints are often amended to include additional charges.
"As we are publishing those seeking-information posters, we're really asking for the public to take a look at those because a lot of what we are able to do is coming from tips from the public," Kennedy said Thursday.
Any information relevant to FBI investigations into the melee at the U.S. Capitol can call (800) 225-5324, he said.
"If there were people from Arkansas that were at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, that committed a crime, they should be expecting the FBI knocking on their door at some point," said Kennedy. "This isn't about politics for us. This is about the fact that people broke federal law."
An online search of Arkansas court cases revealed only one for Stager: driving a vehicle with defective equipment in Faulkner County in 2018. Stager pleaded no contest and was sentenced to two days of community service with the Department of Sanitation.
Another Arkansan, Richard "Bigo" Barnett, 60, of Gravette has been charged by federal authorities over the storming of the Capitol. Barnett, who posed for pictures with his feet on a desk in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office, faces a maximum 10-year sentence if he is convicted of taking a dangerous weapon, a "stun gun," into the Capitol, along with two lesser charges. Barnett self-reported to the FBI in Bentonville on Jan. 8 and has remained in the Washington County jail in Fayetteville since then. He has a detention hearing scheduled for today.
A Capitol Police officer was killed during the rioting, as was a woman who had entered the building. Three other people died of natural causes during the riot, according to reports.