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Four Riverside County men found guilty in US Capitol Riot

PHOTO: January 6 capitol riots, Photo Date: 1/6/2021
Bill Bryan / CC BY 2.0
PHOTO: January 6 capitol riots, Photo Date: 1/6/2021

Four Riverside County-based members of an anti-government militia group were convicted of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and other federal charges related to the Jan. 6, 2021, breach of the U.S. Capitol, federal prosecutors announced today.  

The attack on the building disrupted a joint session of the U.S. Congress convened to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.   

Erik Scott Warner, 48, of Menifee; Felipe Antonio Martinez, 50, of Lake Elsinore; Derek Kinnison, 42, also of Lake Elsinore; and Ronald Mele, 54, of Temecula, were all convicted Tuesday in the federal District of Columbia of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding.

Warner and Kinnison were also convicted of tampering with documents o proceedings. In addition to the felony convictions, all four were found guilty of misdemeanor offenses of entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds and disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.   

A sentencing date was not immediately set.   

According to prosecutors, in the months prior to Jan. 6, 2021, the men -- all of whom identify as members of a so-called Three Percenter militia -- coordinated to travel to Washington, D.C., to attend a "Stop the Steal" rally and to protest Congress' certification of the electoral college vote.  

The men used an encrypted chat called The California Patriots-DC Brigade to share information regarding the election, coordinate travel and discuss their intentions, prosecutors contended.

On the day of the rally, the group attended then-President Donald Trump's speech then headed toward the Capitol, prosecutors said. As the four men approached the building at about 2 p.m., Kinnison announced, "This is the storm of the Capitol,'' as they moved through the crowd, evidence showed.

About 10 minutes later, Warner joined rioters ascending the northwest stairs to the Upper West Terrace, at a location police had been defending moments earlier.  At the same time, Martinez, Kinnison, and Mele advanced on a police line on the northwest lawn, prosecutors said. Mele called out for the crowd to push forward as the officers on the lawn were surrounded. At roughly 2:13 p.m., Warner broke into the Capitol building through a smashed window, evidence showed.

When Martinez, Kinnison, and Mele heard by phone that Warner had broken into the Capitol, they all moved together to ascend to the Upper West Terrace to join him. As they ascended the northwest stairs, Mele shot a selfie-style video, in which he proclaimed, "Storm the Capitol," according to prosecutors.

The group stormed the Capitol wearing tactical gear and carrying cans of bear spray, prosecutors said.  

In the days and weeks following the events of Jan. 6, Warner and Kinnison deleted the DC Brigade chat from their phones to conceal their involvement in the riot, according to the DOJ.

In the 34 months since Jan. 6, 2021, more than 1,200 individuals have been charged in nearly all 50 states for crimes related to the breach of the U.S. Capitol, including more than 400 individuals charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement, federal officials said. The investigation remains ongoing.

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