A former Salt Lake City police officer was arrested after federal law enforcement discovered he allegedly sent text messages admitting he “stormed” the US Capitol on 6 January and posed for a photograph next to a bust of Abraham Lincoln, according to federal filings.
Michael Lee Hardin joined a crowd of people who breached the Capitol during a joint session of Congress, texted his location to friends and family, and claimed former president Donald Trump “is the rightful president”, according to federal prosecutors.
Mr Hardin, a 20-year officer who retired from the force in 2017, appeared in a virtual federal hearing on Friday.
He has been charged with unlawful entry, disorderly and disruptive conduct, and disorderly conduct and “parading, demonstrating or picketing” inside the Capitol building, according to a criminal complaint filed on 1 April.
According to Justice Department filings relying on tips from two people connected to him, Mr Hardin texted several messages after joining the Capitol mob:
“We stormed the Capitol, I am in here now!”
“I know you don’t like Trump, but He is the rightful President!”
“We will return until we win!”
He also sent out a photo of himself smiling while standing next to a bust of former president Lincoln inside the Capitol Crypt, documents show.
Federal authorities also obtained his location data through a search warrant served on Google, revealing that a mobile device associated with his email address was present at the Capitol on 6 January, records show.
The FBI and Utah State Bureau of Investigations coordinated his arrest.
He is among more than a dozen current and former law enforcement officers who were arrested and charged in connection with the Capitol insurrection, fuelled by the former president’s big lie of a “stolen” election in an attempt to threaten lawmakers and prevent certification of the votes for Joe Biden.