TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A retired Marine Corps officer was one of five people prosecutors have linked to a Kansas City metro chapter of the Proud Boys who were arrested Thursday on federal charges for their alleged roles in the deadly Jan. 6 breach at the U.S. Capitol.
A probable cause affidavit filed in the case alleges they conspired to impede certification of the Electoral College vote.
William Norman Chrestman and Christopher Charles Kuehn, both of Olathe, Kansas, and Louis Enrique Colon, of Blue Springs, Missouri, were charged with conspiracy, civil disorder and obstruction of an official proceeding, among other charges. Chrestman also separately faces an additional charge of threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer.
A probable cause affidavit alleges the three men wore tactical-style gear, including helmets and gloves. Chrestman also arrived with a respirator and a wooden club or axe handle disguised as a flag, and they had a piece of orange tape affixed to a backpack or headgear to distinguish them in the crowd.
Kuehne’s father, Charles Kuehne, said his son was a 22-year Marine Corps veteran who was deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq and retired four or five years ago as a captain. He moved to Olathe to take a railroad management job but was laid off in May 2020.
“That added a lot of stress to his life,” the elder Kuehne said.
He said he and his son never talked about politics before they and his mother had a disagreement in May 2020 about a family matter. They have not spoken since that disagreement, and Kuehne said he was shocked to hear of his son’s arrest from an Associated Press reporter, adding, “I’m in tears right now.”
“I can’t believe he went to DC,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Also arrested on similar charges in Arizona were a brother and sister, Felicia and Cory Konold, who prosecutors contend conspired with the Kansas City chapter of the Proud Boys. The siblings, who live in the Tucson area, are accused of conspiring with Chrestman, Kuehne and Colon to interfere with police during the riot.
It’s unclear whether any of the suspects have attorneys. Messages left at telephone numbers for Colon and Kuehne were not immediately returned.
Army veteran Jessica Watkins tended bar and recruited members for a local militia group affiliated with the Oath Keepers, federal authorities allege.
Video footage captured Chrestman at one point turning to the crowd unlawfully assembled on the Capitol grounds, and shouting: “Whose house is this?” The crowd responded “Our house!” Chrestman shouted, “Do you want your house back?” After the crowd responded, “Yes,” Chrestman shouted back: “Take it!”
The affidavit alleges Chrestman, and the Konold siblings were at or near the front of the crowd at the police barrier after the metal barricades were toppled. They also moved to the front of the crowd after the next police line was overwhelmed.
At one point Chrestman removed the black helmet he was wearing and put on what appears to be a respirator, according to the affidavit. Felicia Konold then helped her brother put on Chrestman’s helmet.
Authorities say Cory and Felicia Konold and Chrestman used their hands to dismantle barriers officers were using to try to control the crowd.
Once the five entered the Capitol, Felicia Konold, Chrestman, Kuehne and Colon allegedly took turns preventing metal security barriers in tunnels under the Capitol from closing.
Investigators say Felicia Konold later bragged about the attack in a Snapchat video, saying she had been recruited into the Kansas City chapter. In the post she claimed that even though she was not from Kansas City, she was “with them now.” During a video post, she displayed a two-sided “challenge coin” that appears to have markings that designate it as belonging to the Kansas City Proud Boys, according to the affidavit
The FBI said cellphone data shows the suspects were in and around the Capitol during the insurrection. They say the Konold siblings at one point were seen walking with a group led by organizers of the Proud Boys.
The FBI and U.S. Marshals Service in Arizona didn’t immediately respond to a request for information about the arrests in Arizona. The FBI office in Kansas City said the three suspects arrested in their district were all taken into custody without incident.
Five people died in the insurrection, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, a former staff sergeant with the New Jersey Air National Guard. Sicknick died Jan. 7 from injuries sustained while responding to the attack at the Capitol a day earlier. U.S. Capitol Police officials said he was hit in the head by a fire extinguisher tossed by a rioter.
The arrest of Kuehn follows that of another Marine veteran and Proud Boys member connected to the insurrection last month.
Dominic Pezzola, a former Marine who authorities say was seen on video smashing a Capitol window with a stolen Capitol Police riot shield, and William Pepe, who authorities said was photographed inside the building, were arrested in January on federal charges that included illegally entering a restricted building. The two, both from New York state, have now been indicted in Washington on charges that newly include conspiracy.
Both men iwere dentified as members of the Proud Boys.
“The object of the conspiracy was to obstruct, influence, impede and interfere with law enforcement officers engaged in their official duties in protecting the U.S. Capitol and its grounds,” the indictment says, accusing Pezzola, Pepe and unnamed others of leading a group of Proud Boys and others to the Capitol and moving police barricades there.
Pezzola went on to snatch an officer’s shield and use it to break the window, according to the indictment, which was filed in court last month.
Pezzola’s lawyer Michael Scibetta said Jan. 30 he was researching the charges but hadn’t been able yet to discuss the indictment with his client, who is being held without bail. A lawyer for Pepe, Shelli Peterson, declined to comment.
The Justice Department said both Pepe and Pezzola have gone to Proud Boys gatherings and have tactical vests emblazoned with the group’s logo.
The group is known for violent confrontations with antifascists and other ideological opponents at protests. In a notable moment on the campaign trail last year, Trump told the group to “stand back and stand by” when asked at a September debate whether he would condemn white supremacist and militia groups that showed up at some protests last summer.
Shortly before the Capitol riot, the Proud Boys’ leader, Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, was arrested in Washington and ordered to stay out of the city after being accused of vandalizing a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic Black church in December.