Ex-Chicago firefighter charged with storming US Capitol with right-wing militia group – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

A retired Chicago Fire Department firefighter has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol with a far-right militia group during the Jan. 6 riot and trying to force his way through a line of police officers to an area where some lawmakers had taken shelter.

Joseph Pavlik, 65, of Chicago, was arrested Tuesday on a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Washington charging him with obstruction of law enforcement, knowingly entering restricted grounds, and disorderly conduct, court records show.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Sunil Harjani ordered Pavlik released on bond pending his appearance in Washington. An attorney for Pavlik was not listed on the court docket.

Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford confirmed Wednesday that Pavlik joined the department in 1981 and served as a firefighter until his retirement in 2013. No further details were immediately available.

Court records show that after his retirement, Pavlik was awarded a state license as a private investigator from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

According to the criminal complaint, Pavlik was affiliated with the militia group the Three Percenters and made numerous right-wing statements in the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack claiming that the election had been stolen from President Donald Trump and calling for violent action.

“These aren’t Americans they are indoctrinated socialists that hate America and hate Americans,” he allegedly posted on Facebook in December 2020. “We need to be much more brutal than punching and kicking. This is not some simple street disagreement.”

On Jan. 6, Pavlik met up with other members of a Three Percenters faction called “Group B” to serve as “security” at Trump’s rally to protest the certification of the electoral college vote by Congress, according to the complaint.

He was later seen in surveillance images and police body-worn camera footage wearing a gas mask and vest with patches depicting anti-government phrases, including, “When tyranny becomes law, rebellion becomes duty,” the complaint alleged.

The charges alleged that Pavlik and five other Group B members joined a throng of rioters trying to force their way past a line of officers defending the building’s west terrace tunnel, which provides “immediate and unobstructed access to sensitive areas and offices used by members of Congress.”

“Some members of Congress were sheltering in place near that entrance,” the complaint alleged.

During the melee, Pavlik’s group led rioters in numerous “heave, ho!” pushes as they tried for hours to force officers back, according to the complaint. The attempt by the rioters to gain access through the tunnel eventually failed.

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The other five alleged members of Pavlik’s group, who are all from Florida, were arrested in August on charges stemming from the same tunnel incident, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

At the time of those arrests, law enforcement agents searched Pavlik’s second home in Leesburg, Indiana, and found a gas mask matching the one he was seen wearing on the Capitol grounds, according to the complaint. In an interview that day, he acknowledged he was at the scene but claimed “he was pushed by the crowd into the police line but had his hands up the entire time so the police knew he was not a threat.”

Pavlik was interviewed a second time by federal agents at his home on Chicago’s Southwest Side, the complaint stated. In that interview, Pavlik said he “got stuck” in the tunnel and “asked a police officer to arrest him so he could get out of the tunnel safely. Instead, he said he was pushed by the crowd and struck and pepper sprayed by a police officer before being “escorted out of danger” by two Capitol police officers and returning to his hotel room.

A witness who was familiar with the Group B members later told investigators that a member the witness knew as “Joe,” a retired firefighter from Chicago, had been pepper sprayed during the melee and disappeared for hours afterward, later surfacing back at the hotel, the complaint alleged.

The complaint also stated that Pavlik’s vehicle has a lien on it through the Chicago Fire Fighters Credit Union.

Pavlik was at least the 37th Illinoisan to be federally charged as part of the ongoing investigation into the Capitol attack, which prosecutors have described as one of the largest criminal investigations in American history.

Nationwide, more than 1,000 people have been arrested in all 50 states and the District of Columbia on charges stemming from the Capitol breach, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

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