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The Seditionists Next Door: A Roundup of Western Pennsylvanians Who Took Part in the January 6 Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol

By February 16, 2021 No Comments

By Jody DiPerna
Pittsburgh Current Senior Contributor
jody@pittsburghcurrent.com

As most people across the state prepared to welcome or at least live with a new presidential administration, some Pennsylvanians, from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and all the spots in between, planned a road trip to the District of Columbia to take part in what turned into a deadly insurrection at the Capitol Building on January 6. 

Emboldened by the “Big Lie” that the election was fraudulent, they grabbed their MAGA hats, Trump flags and QAnon gear. Others, we now know from multiple court records and hearings attended by the Pittsburgh Current, also packed bear spray, baseball bats, tactical gear, and bug-out bags. 

Most attended a rally where Donald Trump told the crowd to fight. In the rioting that ensued, five people died. More than 140 law enforcement officials were injured; officers were bashed with fire extinguishers, struck with flag poles, sprayed with mace, and stabbed at with fence stakes. Many sustained head injuries and concussions. Both the New York Times and Washington Post have reported that two officers who were involved in the battle to protect the Capitol that day died by suicide in the days afterwards.

When the rioters returned to their Western Pennsylvania homes, some said they had fun.  Others continued to boast and post about their actions inside the Capitol on their social media feeds, as well as broadcasting fraudulent and unfounded conspiracy theories about the election. 

Then, the arrests started.

What follows is a breakdown of the six individuals from Western Pennsylvania who have been arrested and charged for their alleged actions that day. Also included is a brief listing of the dozen Pennsylvanians from the Middle and Eastern parts of the state who have also been arrested. Details come from court records and court proceedings attended by the Current.

Jorden Mink

Jorden Mink, Oakdale, Allegheny County Arrested January 19. 

Charges:  Unlawful Entry on Restricted Building or Grounds While Using or Carrying a Deadly or Dangerous Weapon; Unlawful Injury to Property on Capitol Grounds; Violent Entry, Disorderly Conduct, Physical Violence on Capitol Grounds; Destruction of government property valued at over $1,000; Theft of Government Property; Aiding and Abetting

Background:  The 27-year-old Oakdale resident and aspiring rapper was arrested at the storage unit he uses as a recording studio. On the day of the Capitol riot, Mink was videotaped  spitting at law enforcement officers. Officials allege he brandished a flagpole at officers. He was photographed breaking windows of the Capitol Building with a baseball bat. He then entered the building through that window and removed property from inside, as he and other looters ransacked the building and handed chairs, lamps, and desk drawers out through the breached windows. 

On Mink’s now defunct Instagram account, there were many posts which included photos and videos of him posing with or firing guns — most notably an election day photo with his “I Voted” sticker affixed to a large automatic weapon. The post was tagged:  “‘The ballot is stronger than the bullet.’ — Abraham Lincoln. Well… my magazines will be fully loaded just in case it’s not! #ivoted #2ndamendment #proudtobeanamerican #redwave #trump2020 #fuckjoebiden.” 

Three days after the rioting and insurrection, Mink attempted to purchase a new firearm, but was denied purchase, according to court testimony. 

More information on Jorden Mink here and here

Where he is now:  Detained in the Butler County Jail.

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Matthew Perna

Matthew Perna, Sharon, Mercer County Arrested January 19. 

Charges: Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority; Disorderly Conduct on Capitol Grounds

Background:  According to the FBI charging documents, on January 6, Matthew Perna, 36, posted a video to his social media in which he said “Steve and I, we walked right into the Capitol building.” He was videotaped among the throngs of rioters inside the Capitol Building.

When he was first interviewed by FBI agents, he said he was inside the Capitol building, but only for about five or ten minutes. 

A witness told the law enforcement that Perna constantly posted QAnon conspiracy theories and baseless pro-Trump “Big Lie” claims about the election to his Facebook account. About a week after the riots, Perna posted a 12-minute video to his Instagram account in which he asked Donald Trump to give some indication that he would remain in office. He also made the risible claim that Antifa started the riots.  

Where he is now:  Released from custody by a federal judge. 

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Kenneth Grayson

Kenneth Grayson, Bridgeville, Allegheny County — Arrested on January 26.

Charges: Knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds; Disorderly conduct which impedes the conduct of government business; Disruptive Conduct in the Capitol Buildings; Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in the Capitol Buildings; Obstructing or Impeding Any Official Proceeding. 

Background:  Fifty-one year Kenneth Grayson has deactivated his Facebook account, but leading up to and through the deadly January 6 riots, Grayson was quite active on the social media site posting all about his support for Donald Trump, his willingness to engage in violence, and his reliance on internet conspiracy theories. In the days before the insurrection, he posted flyers promoting the event. The FBI obtained messages sent through FB messenger, including communications he had with several family members and friends, stating his plans to travel to Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Capitol for the pro-Trump rally. 

He live-streamed on Facebook several times that day and he was photographed inside the area of the Capitol building known as the Crypt. He sent photos of himself at the Capitol wearing a Q jacket for Q’Anon, the discredited, preposterous conspiracy theory that first found life on image boards like 4chan and 8chan [later 8kun] but sprawled out to infect more populous areas of the internet.

The FBI obtained other records from Facebook in which it appears that Grayson went to DC on multiple occasions prior to January 6, all in support of Donald Trump. It is very likely that one of those trips included the Proud Boys Million MAGA March on November 14 that was rife with violence. A few days after that event, Grayson allegedly sent several private messages to one of his contacts regarding violent actions he took while in the DC: 

“We were smashing bro..went to the van I rented and geared up..had to leave at 7 p.m. though, it wasn’t really bad yet..I was beating commies with a flag pole I picked up and looked like it wasn’t going to be that bad Proud Boys were everywhere..cops weren’t doing a fukin thing watching old people get fucked with, it was sickening.”

He sent a second message on the same day:  “I left one unconscious so I did my little part and got the fuck out before I got arrested.”

More reporting on Kenneth Grayson is forthcoming. 

Where he is now:  Released from custody by a federal judge. 

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Rachel Marie Powell, Sandy Lake, Mercer County — Arrested on February 4 at the FBI field office in New Castle.

Charges:  Obstruction; Depredation of Government Property; Restricted Building or Grounds with a Dangerous Weapon; Restricted Building or Grounds; Violent Entry or Disorderly Conduct

Background:  The 40-year-old mother of eight quickly became known as Pink Hat Lady or Bullhorn Lady for her actions during the insurrection and riots at the Capitol on January 6. She was photographed and videotaped picking up a large, industrial-looking pipe and bashing it repeatedly into one of the windows of the Capitol Building. She volunteered that she had operative knowledge of the Capitol and used a bullhorn to shout instructions to her fellow rioters on how to strategically “take” the building. From June 30 until the night of February 4 when she turned herself into the FBI, her whereabouts were unknown. 

When Powell was released from the Butler County Jail, her only comment to a television news crew was that people could donate to her legal fund, an entreaty she repeated three times. 

More detailed information about Rachel Powell can be found here and here.  

Where she is now:  Released from custody by a federal judge. 

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Peter Schwartz

Peter Schwartz, Uniontown, Fayette County — Arrested on February 4.

Charges:  Forcibly Assaulting, Resisting, or Impeding Certain Officers or Employees; Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds Without Lawful Authority; Violent Entry and Disorderly Conduct on Capitol Grounds

Background:  During the January 6 riots, Schwartz is alleged to have taken mace canisters from law enforcement officers and then turned them on the police. He was also seen wielding a wooden baton near the tunnel arch. 

In text messages from Schwartz’ phone obtained by the FBI, he texted to a friend, “I threw the first chair at the cops… then when everybody charged, I grabbed their duffel bags full of mace. I kept some and passed them out to the crowd… lol. They are more mace than we did!” 

He texted to another unknown friend, “I started that! I the (sic) first chair at the cops… stole their shit and used it on them!” 

He sent other texts which would indicate both that he understood his actions to be dangerous and criminal and which also suggest his belief in conspiracy theories:  “I should likely be in federal prison for the patriot acts we committed… but… nothing? We led the charges, and were pictured in NONE of the videos? Is sooooooo confusing to me… God protected us… but there’s something even deeper, and more evil than we suspected!” 

The 47-year old Schwartz works as a traveling welder and was living and working in Uniontown at the time of his arrest. On January 29, the government filed their complaint against Schwartz, although they weren’t able to find him and arrest him until February 4. 

He’s got a rap sheet dating back at least as far as 2006 when he was convicted of assaulting a government official; in 2007, he was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon and inflicting serious injury. More recently, he was convicted of third-degree terroristic threats and possessions of a firearm by a convicted felon, stemming from a 2019 incident in Owensboro, Kentucky in which a woman told police that her boyfriend (Schwartz) made “verbal threats to kill her and kill her son” while intoxicated. He was released from prison in April of 2020 due to COVID-19 and was on probation. 

Where he is now:  Detained at the Butler County Jail. 

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Russell Peterson, center

Russell James Peterson, Rochester, Beaver County — Arrested on February 11.

Charges:  Knowingly Entering or Remaining in any Restricted Building or Grounds; Disorderly Conduct Which Impedes the Conduct of Government Business; Disruptive Conduct in the Capitol Buildings; Parading, Demonstrating, or Picketing in the Capitol Buildings

Background:  Thirty-four year old Russell Peterson traveled to DC for ex-President Trump’s January 6 rally with his wife, Elizabeth Peterson and his mother, Shelley Peterson. He live-streamed from inside the Capitol. His mom, Shelly, posted photos of the three of them on her Facebook account. She said that her son Russell had “sat in Pelosi’s chair.” 

Peterson’s preliminary hearing will take place this Thursday, February 18 via videoconference.

More reporting on Peterson here. 

Where he is now:  Released from custody by Court Order.  

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Pennsylvania Arrests outside Western Pennsylvania

Riley June Williams, Middle District of Pennsylvania (MDPA); arrested on January 18; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Brian Gundersen, MDPA; arrested on January 27; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Andrew Wrigley, MDPA; arrested on January 15; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Barton Wade Shively, MDPA; arrested on January 19; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Tammy Bronsburg, MDPA; arrested on February 4; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Mark Aungst, MDPA; arrested on February 4; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Tammy Brown, MDPA; arrested on January 11; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Zachary Alum, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (EDPA); arrested on January 30; currently in custody at an unknown facility.

Dawn Bancroft, EDPA; arrested on January 29; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Diana Santos-Smith, EDPA; arrested on January 29; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Craig Bingert, EDPA; arrested on January 18; at home, released from custody by Court Order. 

Robert Sanford, EDPA; arrested on January 14; currently in custody at an unknown facility. 

Ryan Samsel, EDPA; arrested on January 30; currently in custody at an unknown facility.

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