Updated May 7, 2021 at 12:10 PM ET
Editor's note: This story was first published on Feb. 9, 2021. It is regularly updated, and includes explicit language.
The riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 has led to one of the largest criminal investigations in American history. The attack, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation views as an act of domestic terrorism, ended with five people dead, including a U.S. Capitol Police officer. Since that day, the government has brought charges against more than 430 individuals.
The stories of those charged provide clues to key questions surrounding the Capitol breach: Who exactly joined the mob? What did they do? And why?
To try to answer those questions, NPR is examining the criminal cases related to the Capitol riot, drawing on court documents, public records, news accounts and social media.
A group this large defies generalization. The defendants are predominantly white and male, though there were exceptions. Federal prosecutors say a former member of the Latin Kings gang joined the mob, as did two Virginia police officers. A man in a "Camp Auschwitz" sweatshirt allegedly took part, as did a Messianic Rabbi. Far-right militia members decked out in tactical gear allegedly rioted next to a county commissioner, a New York City sanitation worker, and a two-time Olympic gold medalist.
Still, NPR's examination did identify certain commonalities.
There were those with connections to extremist groups or fringe ideas. At least 23 defendants appear to have expressed support for QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy theory.
At least 26 of the defendants appear to have links to the Proud Boys, a far-right group with a history of violent rhetoric and street violence. Their values have been widely described as racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant and hateful against other minority groups.
At least 13 of the defendants have alleged ties to the Oath Keepers, which the Anti-Defamation League calls an "anti-government right-wing fringe organization."
But a large majority of those charged have no known connections to established extremist groups. That has led researchers to raise concerns about how extremist ideologies have moved increasingly into the mainstream.
The presence of current and former law enforcement officers, as well as military service members and veterans, has especially alarmed government officials. NPR found at least 14% of those charged had possible ties to the military or to law enforcement.
An analysis from West Point and George Washington University found that the Capitol riot defendants included current or former service members from every military branch except the Coast Guard. That analysis also found that less than half (44%) of the defendants with military history had deployed overseas.
Experts say there's little evidence that current or former members of the military are more susceptible to radicalization than the general population. Still, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has called combating extremism in the ranks a top priority.
Lawmakers who supported impeaching former President Donald Trump argue that he “incited a violent mob to attack the United States Capitol.” There is some evidence of that in court documents: Some who allegedly stormed the Capitol — at least 11% — explicitly said they were inspired by Trump.
"IF TRUMP TELLS US TO STORM THE F***IN CAPITAL IMA DO THAT THEN!" one defendant wrote. "I thought I was following my President," said yet another.
But, contrary to some expectations, most of those charged in the riot come from areas of the country that are not dominated by Trump supporters. According to an analysis from the Chicago Project on Security & Threats, a majority of the alleged rioters came from counties that President Joe Biden won in the 2020 election.
Most of the people charged in connection with the storming of the Capitol face allegations primarily related to breaching the building. But a smaller number face more serious charges and a greater threat of prison time if convicted.
At least 28 are accused of committing conspiracy, one of the most serious charges brought. At least 82 are accused of committing acts of violence, particularly against police. At least 38 are suspected of causing property damage, like breaking windows or doors to gain entry to the building. At least 27 are accused of theft, like the man photographed carrying House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's lectern or one woman who allegedly took a laptop from Pelosi's office.
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