Former NYC cop who swung metal flagpole at D.C. Capitol claims self-defense

Former NYC cop who swung metal flagpole at D.C. Capitol claims self-defense

WASHINGTON - A former New York City police officer who swung a flagpole at and tackled an officer protecting the U.S. Capitol is claiming self-defense, with his lawyer telling jurors that his actions on Jan. 6 were really a show of restraint. Thomas Webster, a Trump supporter who was in D.C. on Jan. 6 in support of Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, is facing six charges including assaulting, resisting or impeding federal officers with a dangerous weapon.

Webster is the fourth defendant in the country to face a jury trial. On January 6, defendants Dustin Thompson, Thomas Robertson, and Guy Reffitt were found guilty on all counts at their jury trials.

Webster is seen pushing a barricade and swinging a metal flagpole at an officer before tackling him to the ground, choking the officer with his gas mask, according to a video played during opening arguments on Tuesday.

But James E. Monroe, an attorney from Goshen, New York, who is representing Webster, told jurors that the officer struck Webster and started the whole thing. Monroe claimed the officer's use of force as a mob pushed against the barricades was inappropriate, and said his client was upset by the force used against members of the mob of thousands who had already passed a barricade and were unlawfully present on the restricted grounds of the U.S. Capitol during a riot.

Monroe alleged that the case was built on the lies of a young officer from the Metropolitan Police Department.

Noah Rathbun, the officer with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department who was tackled by Webster, is expected to testify in the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Hava Arin Levenson Mirell, one of the federal prosecutors on the case, told jurors that Jan. 6 was a day unlike any day this country has ever seen, adding that thousands of rioters had overwhelmed officers.

Our democracy came to a halt, Mirell said. Webster came prepared for battle with a bulletproof vest issued by the New York City Police Department.

Mirell said Webster was rage-filled and that Rathbun tried to disarm Webster after he swung the metal flagpole at him, sending part of the pole flying.

Mirell said Webster's conviction was the only reasonable and logical verdict.

In an unrelated incident months after the Jan. 6 attack, Rathbun fatally shot a man who had allegedly held his ex-girlfriend against her will on May 24, 2021. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia, Rathbun shot the 26-year-old when he took a shot and pointed his rifle at him. Rathbun, who has been on the force since 2015, was not charged in the incident.