FBI releases more details on Novant security guard charged in Capitol attack

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A cellphone is what helped federal agents confirm a Novant Health security guard’s involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol in January, according to unsealed documents.

Six people, including Laura Steele of Thomasville, linked to the far-right Oath Keepers militia group were indicted in February on charges that they planned and coordinated with one another in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, authorities said.

Channel 9 has confirmed that Steele is a registered armed security guard with Novant Health.

A request for a search warrant to obtain Steele’s phone was unsealed Friday and detailed how the device was used to gather evidence of her involvement in the insurrection.

According to documents, Steele was arrested while working at Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center. During the arrest, agents seized her phone, which they said was spotted in pictures taken on the day of the Capitol attack.

Documents said Steele applied for membership to the Oath Keepers chapter in Florida a few days before the attack using a phone number that was later tied to the device.

“I have 13 years of experience in law enforcement in North Carolina. I served as a K-9 officer and SWAT team member,” Steele wrote in her application.

The case against those affiliated with the Oath Keepers is the largest conspiracy case brought by the U.S. Justice Department so far in the Jan. 6 insurrection. The six new people arrested last month are indicted alongside three others who were charged with plotting to undo President Joe Biden’s victory.

Authorities say the defendants prepared for weeks ahead of the attack, attended training sessions and recruited others. They donned tactical vests and helmets, moved in an organized fashion as they advanced on the Capitol and communicated with one another during the siege, prosecutors say. Several defendants formed a “stack” formation used by military infantrymen, marching the Capitol steps with their hand on the shoulder of the person in front of them, authorities said.

A screenshot from a video included in the warrant affidavit shows Steele and several other members of the Oath Keepers walking as a “stack” toward the front doors of the Capitol. They were among the first to breech the doors of the Capitol Rotunda. Another picture shows the group once they were inside the building.

Text messages among the group in the days leading up to the attack paint a picture of their determination.

“It begins for real January 5th and 6th in Washington DC when we mobilize in the streets...this kettle is set to boil”

An audio recordings obtained by the FBI of communications between members of the Oath Keepers show their coordination.

“We have about 30 to 40 of us ... we are sticking together ... and sticking to the plan,” a group member can be heard saying in the recording.

Others facing charges are an Ohio couple, Sandra and Bennie Parker, Graydon Young of Englewood, Florida (Steele’s brother) and Kelly Meggs and his wife Connie Meggs, of Dunnellon, Florida.

Investigators also used phone records as evidence of Steele’s involvement in the insurrection. According to the affidavit, Steele’s phone pinged a cell tower that serviced the area that includes the inside of the Capitol building around the time of the attack on Jan. 6.

According to documents, several photos also showed Steele traveling to DC and walking around the Capitol building with her brother and other members of the militia group prior to the atack.

A spokesperson said, “Novant Health does not comment on personnel matters. We cannot speak to any legal investigation and refer you to the appropriate investigating party for further comment.”

North Carolina Private Protective Services Director Paul Sherwin has signed an order of summary suspension for Steele’s armed guard registration. The suspension went into effect immediately and she cannot work as an armed guard until the suspension is lifted.

Kelly Meggs, who authorities say is the leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, wrote in a Facebook message in December: “Trump said It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! It’s gonna be wild!!!!!!! He wants us to make it WILD that’s what he’s saying. He called us all to the Capitol and wants us to make it wild!!!,” according to court documents.

Later that month, authorities say Young reached out to a company that does firearms and combat training about a rifle class for four people, according to the indictment.

Authorities say Bennie Parker was in contact with an Oath Keepers member who was arrested last month, Jessica Watkins, leading up to the trip to Washington, discussing things like the uniforms and gear they would bring on Jan. 6. Authorities say Sandra Parker entered the Capitol while her husband stayed in contact outside.

On Jan. 9, Watkins told Bennie Parker by text she thought the FBI was only interested in people “who destroyed things,” according to the complaint.

“I’m sure they’re not on us see some pics but no militia,” Bennie Parker responded.

Another man charged last month in the case, Thomas Caldwell, suggested getting a boat to ferry “heavy weapons” across the Potomac River, authorities have said. Caldwell’s lawyer has called the indictment “imaginative.”

To date, federal charges have been filed in more than 200 cases involving the attack by a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump, including many with ties to far right groups like the Oath Keepers. Several members of the Proud Boys, a far-right, male-chauvinist extremist group that seized on the Trump administration’s policies, have also been charged with conspiracy and accused of working together during the siege.

*The Associated Press contributed to this article

NC man was key member of Proud Boys that helped breach Capitol, investigators say

Investigators said a Kernersville man was a key member of the Proud Boys that helped crowds breach the Capitol earlier this year.

In a video, you can see Charles Donohue and another man carrying a riot shield.

Moments later, the other man who was helping carry the shield uses it to smash in windows of the Capitol.

Channel 9 obtained indictments that said Donohoe not only took part in the attacks, but also conspired with other Proud Boys leaders leading up to the insurrection.

According to the documents, Donohoe was afraid the group could face charges before the attacks even took place.

Documents said on Jan. 4, he tried to destroy an encrypted communication channel and told other members “everything is compromised and we can be looking at gang charges.”