The Daily Beast
‘I Can Bring My Gun?’: Oath Keeper Retirees Charged With Conspiracy in Capitol Riots
Criminal ComplaintA retired Ohio couple who joined the Oath Keepers have been charged with conspiracy for allegedly plotting for months with other members of the far-right militia group to storm the U.S. Capitol.Sandra Parker, 60, and her husband, Bennie Parker, 70, have been charged with several federal crimes, including conspiracy, destruction of government property, and aiding and abetting, for their plan to disrupt the Jan. 6 congressional session to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s electoral victory, prosecutors said.A criminal complaint alleges that Sandra Parker, dressed in “camouflaged-combat attire,” breached the government building with other Oath Keepers while her husband assisted the group elsewhere on the Capitol grounds.The couple are among several members of the far-right paramilitary group to be charged with conspiring to storm the Capitol, including 38-year-old Army veteran Jessica Watkins, Thomas Edward Caldwell, the 65-year-old apparent leader of the Oath Keepers, and Donovan Crowl, a 50-year-old former U.S. Marine.Oath Keepers Planned to Deploy Armed Force to Capitol Riot: DocsThe FBI describes the Oath Keepers as a “large but loosely organized collection of the militia who believe the federal government has been corrupted by a shadowy conspiracy that is trying to strip American citizens of their rights.”As previously reported by The Daily Beast, prosecutors allege Watkins spent at least two months coordinating election-related attacks, including training recruits to get them in “fighting shape” for another attack at the inauguration and vetting people interested in the Jan. 6 riot. Among those recruits, according to the complaint, was Bennie Parker, who began texting with Watkins in November.“I may have to see what it takes to join your militia, our [sic] is about gone,” Parker texted Watkins on Dec. 27, adding that they are “like minded.”Prosecutors state that Watkins and Parker exchanged “numerous text messages” related to preparations for the Jan. 6 trip to the nation’s capital, including travel arrangements. In one December exchange, after asking if Watkins or “any of your members” were planning to go to D.C., Parker stated: “Sandi and I want to go but would like to possibly meet with you and go with you guys. Safety and parking issues to name a few.”After Watkins insisted that “parking is no issue, if you roll with the militia, we have a guarded Rally point,” Parker said he would let his wife know and asked her to keep him posted on any updates.Days later, on Dec. 29, prosecutors state Watkins and Parker texted again—this time to discuss Oath Keeper membership and how to meet before the Jan. 6 siege.“Great we need to get together and find out what we need to do to become member, we are retired so we can meet anytime. Also let me know what you all are doing on the 6th,” Bennie Parker wrote.Oath Keeper Charged in Capitol Riots Was ‘Preparing for Literal War,’ Feds SayWatkins offered to meet the couple at the bar where she works. According to BuzzFeed News, Watkins and her boyfriend owned and ran the Jolly Roger, a rural bar in Woodstock, Ohio, where they also lived in an upstairs apartment. The complaint suggests the Parkers ultimately met Watkins at the bar.Three days before the insurrection, Bennie Parker and Watkins exchanged messages again, this time discussing the “uniforms, gear, and weapons they would wear… on January 6, 2021,” the complaint states. During the conversation, Watkins said the group did not plan to bring firearms because a QRF—or “quick reaction force”—with “law enforcement members of Oath Keepers” would be attending.Prosecutors have previously argued that the QRF, which Watkins helped coordinate with Caldwell, was an armed group that was ready to bring guns to Oath Keepers if things got “bad” or if former President Donald Trump somehow ordered them to storm the city.Watkins, however, changed course in another text message later that day, telling the Ohio couple, “Weapons are ok now as well. Sorry for the confusion.” She also asked the couple to “pack khaki/tan pants.”“We don’t have any khakis. We have jeans and our b d u’s. So I can bring my gun?” Bennie Parker responded, in an apparent reference to the military’s “Battle Dress Uniform,” or camouflage.Prosecutors state the Parkers arrived at the Comfort Inn in Ballston, Virginia, on Jan. 5. Early the next morning, Watkins texted the 70-year-old asking if he was up and getting ready, before stating she was “grabbing gear and heading to van.” Surveillance video from the hotel shows the couple wearing camouflage and meeting with Watkins and Crowl in the lobby around 5 a.m. before heading out.As thousands of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol, the Oath Keepers were clearly visible in photos and videos, marching closely together up the steps of the east side of the Capitol in their combat outfits. The group was also wearing clothing with Oath Keeper paraphernalia.‘I Am Such an Instigator’: Oath Keeper Leader Charged With Conspiracy in Capitol RiotsWhile photos and videos of the riot show both Parkers marching alongside several Oath Keepers, it seems only Sandra Parker breached the Capitol, along with a “stack” of militia members who were seen inside the Rotunda with their hands on each other’s backs, prosecutors said. The complaint states that investigators believe the 30 Oath Keepers in that group wanted to make citizen arrests.After the riots, Watkins and Bennie Parker kept in communication about the “ensuing federal investigation” into the siege.“I’ve been following FBI wanted list, seems they’re only interested in people who destroyed things. I wouldn’t worry about them coming after us,” Watkins texted on Jan. 9, to which Parker responded: “I’m sure they’re not on us see some pics but no militia.”Five days later, Bennie Parker texted Watkins: “Hay, I got to ask did you put Sandi out there in the Capital [sic]?” On Jan. 17, Watkins and Crowl were arrested.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.