Former NYC cop tells jurors he grabbed D.C. police officer’s gas mask

Former NYC cop tells jurors he grabbed D.C. police officer’s gas mask

WASHINGTON - A former New York City cop charged with felony counts for attacking a D.C. policeman during the Jan. 6 riot, told jurors he had grabbed the officer's gas mask to help him see his hands. Thomas Webster, a Marine Corps veteran who retired from the New York City Police Department after a 20-year career in law enforcement, spent several hours on the stand answering questions about how he swung a flagpole at an officer protecting the U.S. Capitol and why he grabbed that officer's gas mask while tackling him.

Webster, 56, told jurors that I wanted him to see my hands, and I pushed against his gas mask.

Noah Rathbun, a D.C. Metropolitan Police officer who Webster attacked, testified this week that he struggled to breathe as Webster grabbed his gas mask, causing the strap to press against Rathbun's throat.

Webster is the fourth defendant in the Jan. 6 case to have their case heard by a jury. Each of the previous defendants — Dustin Thompson, Thomas Robertson and Guy Reffitt — were found guilty on all counts.

A federal defense contractor with a top secret security clearance, who admitted he entered the Capitol on January 6 was acquitted by a federal judge after a two-day bench trial.

More than 250 people have been arrested in connection with Jan. 6, and nearly 800 of them have pleaded guilty. The FBI has hundreds of more cases in the works.

Webster, who supported former President Donald Trump, testified that he was upset about the election results and was aware of inflammatory claims about the election being stolen. He said that he really got fed up by seeing people on the Capitol lawn injured by police projectiles as law enforcement tried to control the pro-Trump mob.

Webster's central claim is that he was incited and taunted by Rathbun. Webster, who had already retired from the police force on January 6, pushed a barricade against Rathbun and told him to take his st off. He also claimed that Rathbun gestured in a way that invited him over the barricades, calling it an obvious taunt. After Webster pushed the barricade at Rathbun, he swung his flagpole at the officer. Webster said he did it out of pure frustration. Webster claimed that he was punched, though videos show Rathbun making open-palmed contact with Webster after he pushes the barricade.

Webster said he thought Rathbun really wants to fight me. Webster said that I almost felt like I was the cop and he was the protester.

Webster downplayed the force he used against Rathbun, claiming that he purposefully struck the metal barrier with a flagpole rather than the officer, and called it a schoolyard fight. He played up the open-palm contact that Rathbun made with his face, saying he felt he had been hit by a freight train and that he was seeing stars after the impact. Webster said it was one of the hardest hits I've had, adding that I'm not exaggerating. Webster said he had a clear conscience when he talked to the FBI about his fight with Rathbun. He was later seen on a video saying send more patriots as rioters tried to take over the Capitol. Webster dismissed those remarks in court, arguing that he only made them because he wanted 15 minutes of fame.

Webster said something silly just to get on the camera. The trial continues on Friday, with more witness testimony followed by closing arguments. The jury could start its deliberations as early as Friday.