A Florida videographer captured an exchange between an Oath Keeper and Metro Police officer that evidences helping authorities, not rioting.
Retired New York police sergeant Michael Nichols told U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Tarik Khalid Johnson he could help, on January 6, 2021. He and other Oath Keepers entered the Capitol, found trapped Metro PD officers and extracted them, according to a report in The Epoch Times.
The Epoch Times further reported:
“I can help.”
Amid the bedlam of 10,000 voices chanting, singing, and shouting on the east terrace of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, those three words cut through the haze like a lighthouse beam.
The target of the message was U.S. Capitol Police Lt. Tarik Khalid Johnson, 46, who scanned the crowd for someone to help with an urgent mission. The speaker was retired New York police sergeant Michael Joseph Nichols, 46, an Oath Keeper who knew all about riots and making decisions under fire.
Their mission’s success depended on a partnership of exhausted, besieged Capitol police and a group of Oath Keepers, a patriot organization that would soon be the target of an unrelenting war on alleged “domestic terror” by the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI.
Nichols and his wife Whitney, 33, had no intention of being at the Capitol on the afternoon of Jan. 6.
After hearing President Donald Trump’s speech at the Ellipse, they wanted to return to their Virginia hotel. But blocked streets and the “herding” of crowds by police put them at the bottom of the east steps of the Capitol at around 3 p.m.
Before the afternoon was over, Nichols, an Oath Keeper named Steve, and others would go into the Capitol at the request of a desperate lieutenant and rescue 15 riot-gear-clad officers and one uniformed officer trapped inside.
It was a good deed, to be sure. Unbeknownst to the participants, however, it would later punch a hole in the government’s narrative that the Oath Keepers’ purpose that day was to violently overthrow the U.S. government and forcibly keep Trump in office at any cost.
Lt. Johnson and Nichols approached each other by chance at the ground level not far from the east steps.
“I went right up to him and said, ‘How can I help you get control of this situation? It doesn’t look good over here,’” Nichols told The Epoch Times during a series of interviews.
“If you can help me move aside these people, I’d appreciate it,” Johnson said on the video, pulling on his COVID mask. “…I just need to get these other officers out.”
Nichols’ and Steve’s facial expressions instantly changed when they heard police officers were in need of assistance.
“Oh, they’re trying to get out?” asked Steve, a retired medevac helicopter pilot and Army veteran.
“I can do that,” Nichols said. “I’ll go with you. I can help.”
Nichols started heading for the steps, then turned around and flashed his gold retired-sergeant’s shield and reiterated, “I can help.”
Johnson handed him a bullhorn and the group moved out for the steps.
What was about to take place would have been largely lost to history if Rico La Starza, 30, a Florida-based videographer, had not approached at just the right time.
“I happen to look over … and I see a Capitol Police officer with a Trump hat on and I go, ‘Well, that’s interesting,’” La Starza told The Epoch Times. “Let’s go figure out what’s going on there.”
As the men began climbing the stairs to the giant Columbus Doors, the crowd was treated to the suspicious droning of the still-unidentified and never-indicted masked man who researchers dub the “Scaffold Commander,” who stood unmolested for hours high above the crowd, bellowing that “patriots” should go into the Capitol.
Johnson grabbed Nichols’ left hand with his right and they started working through the crowd. Steve kept his right hand on Johnson’s back. “I’m with you brother,” La Starza said to Steve as he brought up the rear.
La Starza trailed the trio with his camera and kept a watchful eye on Lt. Johnson’s holstered service weapon.
“I realize nobody’s even watching this guy’s gun,” La Starza said. “So my plan is I’ll just fall back a little bit, hang back like a foot or so. If any of these guys try to grab his gun, I can do something about it.”
A short time before Nichols and Steve approached the Columbus Doors, Oath Keepers members Roberto Minuta, 38, and Joshua James, 35, were asked by a different Capitol Police official if they would help get officers who wanted to leave out of the building.
“He said we can have this area, they’re trying to get their guys out,” Minuta told The Epoch Times.
“We followed behind law enforcement into the foyer through the Columbus Doors,” he said. “So our intention was to help get the cops out. They said they wanted out.
“As Oath Keepers, we work alongside law enforcement,” Minuta said. “I mean, a lot of [members] are law enforcement. So it’s not uncommon for us to interact with them and offer help or ask if they need anything.”
As Nichols, Lt. Johnson, and Steve reached the 17-foot-high bronze Columbus Doors at the Capitol on Jan. 6, the crowd reluctantly moved aside.
“We’re Oath Keepers,” Steve said as they walked past.
Nichols said he noticed some of the people around the entrance were loud and extremely aggressive—nothing like the crowds he had been in the rest of the day. He worried about bringing a group of officers out through these doors with such hostile agitators.
The inner set of doors opened long enough for the trio to enter. Nichols was pulled inside and before he could get his bearings, he saw a police officer with a closed fist ready to throw a haymaker at him.
“Blue! Blue! Blue!” he shouted, a code to identify himself as a police officer. Lieutenant Johnson confirmed, “He’s with me,” Nichols said.
To the right side of the entrance, Nichols saw a group of Capitol Police in riot gear. Some were bent over and seemed sick to their stomachs, he said, likely from pepper spray used on police and spectators outside the Columbus Doors. Others looked almost terrified, Nichols said.
Using the bullhorn handed to him by Lt. Johnson, Nichols told the group they were going to link up and leave the Capitol. He told them to stay connected to the person in front and don’t stop until the group cleared the bottom of the stairs.
Nichols noted that the doors into the Great Rotunda were closed and locked. All he saw in the foyer were police, so the fear he observed did not make sense. Why was everyone so afraid? They were dressed as if members of the “hard squad,” wearing heavy protective tactical gear. He looked into their eyes and said he came to believe they were exhausted.
“I asked what the plan was and if we were going to take the stairs back,” Nichols said. “Johnson said he just needed to get his guys out. I said, ‘Ok everyone leaving get behind me and hold onto the guy in front of you. Don’t let go, and don’t stop moving until we get through this crowd.’
“We made sure everyone that was leaving was ready and then moved out.”
The same agitators outside the Columbus Doors were screaming obscenities. Nichols shouted back, “Make a hole!” A woman took the bullhorn mic and told the protesters not to interfere.
“We don’t do this [expletive],” she said, prompting one of the agitators to reply, “[Expletive] you!”
As the officers passed by, the woman gave each of them a hug. A man in the crowd shouted, “The cops are leaving! Let them go!” He then told the officers, “Thank you. God bless.”
As Nichols, Lt. Johnson, Steve, and the police officers began the slow parade down the east steps, more Oath Keepers emerged from the crowd to help clear the way.
Brian Ulrich, 44, of Guyton, Georgia, got out in front of Nichols by a few steps and signaled for protesters to stand aside.
Ulrich is one of six Oath Keepers to take a deal from prosecutors, pleading guilty earlier this year to seditious conspiracy. He was joined on the steps by Oath Keeper Ricky Jackson of Georgia, who does not face any Jan. 6 charges.
Minuta, who had been on the patio outside the Columbus Doors after abandoning his rescue effort, hustled down the steps to lend assistance. Minuta faces a late November trial with three other defendants on charges of seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, and other counts.
Just to the right of him was Jonathan Walden, of Birmingham, Alabama, and his 82-pound security K-9, “Warrior.” Walden is charged with two Jan. 6-related crimes.
A young man in a MAGA cap near the bottom of the steps put his hand on the shoulder of each police officer and said, “Thank you,” according to a video shot by journalist Stephen Horn.
Whitney Nichols said she views her husband, Steve, and the other Oath Keepers on the steps as a true “quick-reaction force” (QRF) because they “were trying to extract people from the building.”
That’s a stark contrast to how prosecutors view the Oath Keepers QRFs that were standing by in Virginia on Jan. 6.
Prosecutors trying five Oath Keepers defendants in Washington said the QRFs were there to attack the Capitol by force to keep Trump in office.
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