Three Kansas City-area Proud Boys were arrested Thursday for their role in what federal prosecutors allege was part of a conspiracy to invade the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, according to a criminal complaint.
William “Billy” Chrestman and Christopher Charles Kuehne of Olathe and Louis Enrique Colon of Blue Springs were arrested on charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding, knowingly entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds without lawful authority, and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.
Chrestman also was charged with threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer and using and carrying a dangerous weapon during the commission of the offense.
The three, along with siblings Felicia and Cory Konold of Arizona, are accused of conspiring to “corruptly obstruct, influence or impede an official proceeding before Congress” and “to obstruct, impede or interfere with a law enforcement officer during the commission of a civil disorder.”
All three Kansas City-area defendants were arrested without incident by FBI special agents and members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force, according to FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton.
Chrestman and Kuehne were booked into the Wyandotte County Detention Center.
Colon was taken into custody in Missouri and was being held by the U.S. Marshal’s Western District of Missouri pending his initial appearance, Patton said.
The three did not yet have attorneys listed in public court records who could be reached for comment. A lawyer representing Colon in a Jackson County civil matter declined to comment.
Chrestman, 47, could be seen on numerous videos alongside other Proud Boys during the insurrection, dressed in tactical gear, leading chants and wielding an ax handle inside the Capitol.
Many watchdogs and some of Chrestman’s former California classmates started sending information to the FBI within days of the riot identifying him as one of the Proud Boys who invaded the Capitol.
The Star, which published a story a week ago about Chrestman’s involvement in the riot, spoke to him on the phone three times since Jan. 24. He repeatedly responded, “I’ve got no comment at this time” when asked about the Capitol invasion and declined to say whether he was involved with the Proud Boys.
The Proud Boys is a far-right group of all-male, self-described “Western chauvinists” known for street-level violence and confrontations with anti-fascists and others who disagree with their ideology.
Devin Burghart, executive director of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, which has tracked extremist groups for decades, said Kansas City has a large contingent of Proud Boys.
“IREHR has documented more than 40 members of the Kansas City area Proud Boys chapter,” Burghart said.
According to the probable cause affidavit, Chrestman, Kuehne, Colon and the Konolds advanced together as they unlawfully entered the Capitol grounds. The group then proceeded “to act in concert to prevent law enforcement officers from controlling the crowd by obstructing metal barriers that had been deployed to prevent the crowd’s further advancement into other areas of the Capitol building.”
The group appeared to gesture and communicate with one another to coordinate efforts, the affidavit says, and Kuehne carried rolls of fluorescent orange tape. Similar strips of orange tape were worn by each of the group as well as others in the crowd, it says.
“As further evidence of the subjects’ coordination and planning, Chrestman, Kuehne, and Colon wore tactical style gear, including helmets and gloves, and Chrestman arrived at the Capitol with a respirator and wooden club or axe handle disguised as a flag.”
According to the affidavit, Proud Boys organizers began communicating as early as December, encouraging members to attend the Jan. 6 protest in Washington, D.C. Those communications included messages from Proud Boys chairman Enrique Tarrio, it says.
Tarrio posted a message on the social media site Parler saying the Proud Boys would “turn out in record numbers on Jan. 6th but this time with a twist…We will not be wearing our traditional Black and Yellow. We will be incognito and we will be spread across downtown DC in smaller teams. And who knows…we might dress in all BLACK for the occasion.”
The affidavit says dressing in all black was likely a reference to dressing like Antifa, whom the Proud Boys see as their enemy and are frequently seen wearing black clothing.
On Jan. 6, the affidavit says, a large group of Proud Boys was captured on video marching toward the Capitol. The group was led by Proud Boys organizers Joseph Biggs and Ethan Nordean, who have both been charged in connection with the riot.
Chrestman and Felicia Konold were seen with that group, the affidavit says. Chrestman also can be seen on video interacting with several members of the Proud Boys near the Capitol before it was invaded, it says. The same group was later captured on video moving toward the pedestrian entrance to the Capitol grounds.
Around 1 p.m., Chrestman and the Konolds moved to the front of the crowd during the initial confrontation with police, the affidavit says. Chrestman appeared to have a black helmet with a strip of orange tape hanging from his backpack. The tape was similar to the kind that was on the headwear of the Konolds, Kuehne and Colon.
Within minutes, the affidavit says, the crowd overwhelmed U.S. Capitol Police, toppling metal barricades and advancing toward the Capitol. Chrestman and the Konolds went past the barrier to be at or near the front of the crowd at the next police barrier.
“Chrestman then stood directly in front of Capitol Police officers who were attempting to guard the Capitol,” the affidavit says. “Chrestman yelled at the Capitol Police officers, ‘You shoot and I’ll take your f—— ass out!’”
At another point, the affidavit says, Chrestman encouraged others in the crowd to stop police from arresting another protester. During that time, Chrestman’s ax handle could be seen wrapped in a blue flag, it says.
As the crowd continued to advance, Chrestman put on the black helmet with orange tape, according to the affidavit. The flag had been stripped from the ax handle. Soon after, the affidavit says, Chrestman removed the helmet and donned what appeared to be a respirator. Then Felicia Konold helped Cory Konold put on the helmet.
Video footage showed Chrestman addressing the crowd, the affidavit says.
“At one point, Chrestman turned to face the crowd and shouted: ‘Whose house is this?’ The crowd responded, ‘Our house!’ Chrestman shouted, ‘Do you want your house back?’ The crowd responded, ‘Yes!’ Chrestman shouted back, ‘Take it!’”
At another point outside the Capitol, the affidavit says, Chrestman and the Konolds used their hands and bodies to try to disrupt or dismantle the metal crowd-control barriers.
All five then entered the Capitol, taking deliberate steps to prevent the drop-down barriers from sealing off the pathway, and appeared at various locations inside, according to the affidavit. Chrestman, it says, used his ax handle to obstruct the barriers.
Chrestman, Kuehne and Colon can be seen close together on surveillance video inside the Capitol, gesturing and calling out to one another, the affidavit says. At one point, Kuehne grabbed what appeared to be a podium and placed it in the way of a barrier to keep it from closing. And after Kuehne used the podium to obstruct a doorway, Colon put a chair in the path of another barrier.
The affidavit says many in the crowd were wearing orange clothing or orange tape on their caps or helmets.
“Based on my training and experience, your affiant believes the use of orange tape by multiple members in the crowd was a mark that was intended to identify persons for a particular purpose,” the affidavit says. “The intent and purpose of this identifying tape remains under investigation.”
The affidavit says law enforcement agencies received many tips from the public after the insurrection, including one regarding a Snapchat account whose user posted videos bragging about the attack.
The name on the account was traced to Felicia Konold, the affidavit says. In one video, a woman said that she had just been “recruited into a f—— chapter from Kansas City,” it says. “In the post, the woman claimed that she had been told that even though she was not from Kansas City, she was ‘with them now,’” it says. “During the video post, the speaker displayed a two-sided ‘challenge coin’ that appears to have markings that designate it as belonging to the Kansas City Proud Boys.”
More persons may be involved in the conspiracy, the affidavit says, and the investigation is ongoing.
To date, federal prosecutors have charged more than 200 people from 41 states in connection with the riot, and authorities continue to make arrests. More than a dozen Proud Boys have been among those charged, many of them accused of conspiracy, including Florida organizer Joseph Biggs; Nick Ochs, founder of the group’s Hawaii chapter; and Dominic “Spaz” Pezzola and William Pepe of New York.
Pezzola also is charged with assaulting an officer. The 11-count indictment alleges that Pezzola stole a riot shield from police and used it to smash open a window of the Capitol. In a court document arguing that he remain in jail pending trial, prosecutors said a search of his home turned up a thumb drive that contained information on how to make guns and explosives.
Soon after the Capitol videos began to circulate, stories spread on social media saying the man who later was identified as Chrestman was Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. But McInnes denied that he was at the Capitol or that he was the man in the videos. As “proof,” McInnes tweeted one of the watchdog posts that said the man was Chrestman.
A Facebook profile photo of Chrestman shows him wearing a cap and glasses that appear to be identical to those worn by the man in the Capitol videos. The Facebook account was deleted sometime last summer, watchdogs said. The photo shows Chrestman’s face inside the Proud Boys logo along with a large “Q,” the symbol for QAnon.
Another photo making the rounds on Twitter, purported to be from Chrestman’s Facebook page, is of an AR-15 rifle. The rifle has the initials “POYB” on it, which stands for “Proud of Your Boy,” and also the Proud Boys’ phrase, “The West is the Best.” The person in the photo is wearing a black T-shirt with the initials “KC” inside a Proud Boys symbol.
The cap Chrestman was wearing has the words “Support Los Punk Rods” on it, referring to a nonprofit car club in Kansas City that holds an annual punk rock car show called “Greaserama” as a fundraiser for local charities.
Los Punk Rods board members confirmed that the cap was one that the group sells. And they said the cap Chrestman is wearing in his Facebook profile photo appears to be the same one seen on the Proud Boy in the Capitol riot videos. But they said Chrestman was not a member of the group, and they want nothing to do with him.
Chrestman’s LinkedIn page says he is a Journeyman Sheet Metal Worker at U.S. Engineering Co., a commercial contractor. A union official told The Star that Chrestman had been a member of the union but wasn’t any longer.
And an official at U.S. Engineering said Chrestman worked for the company for about a year, from the end of 2018 to November 2019.
— to www.kansascity.com