DENVER — All eyes were on the U.S. Capitol as a sea of rioters scaled and stormed the building Wednesday. Several people were arrested and many more could face serious charges.
Former Colorado Attorney General Cynthia Coffman watched the chaos unfold on television and online.
“There is no excuse, there is no freedom of speech,” Coffman said. “What these folks did today — it was terrorism.”
Coffman said Capitol security showed enormous restraint.
“They had a right to fire on the folks who entered the Capitol,” Coffman said.
A woman was shot in the chest and later died. According to the Associated Press, the woman was part of a crowd that was breaking down the doors to a barricaded room and was shot by Capitol police. She was identified as Ashli Babbitt of San Diego.
Coffman tallied a series of federal crimes captured by network news cameras and newspaper photojournalists. She said they range from trespassing to vandalism and federal felonies.
“They were threatening the lives of public officials when they committed the acts that they did,” Coffman said. “Those are potentially punishable by life in prison.”
D.C. Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Contee said they made 52 arrests. Of those, 26 were made on Capitol grounds. He added that 14 officers were injured as a result of the protests.
Coffman said footage captured by news crews and surveillance cameras throughout the Capitol building will make it easy for law enforcement to identify people who committed crimes.
“They have actually made it fairly easy for a prosecutor,” Coffman said. “If they think that somehow they are going to elude identification or prosecution they could not be more wrong.”
The FBI has issued a bulletin and posted a webpage seeking information about anyone who may have been involved in criminal activity at the U.S. Capitol.
Legal analyst David Beller witnessed federal misdemeanor and federal felony crimes captured on tape and photos.
“Breaching a federal building, a secure federal building, is a misdemeanor offense and each one of the individuals that entered the building can receive up to a year in custody,” Beller said.
He said he believes it will take law officials about a week to go through footage captured.
Acting Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen will be the one to bring forth charges, but President Donald Trump can step in and protect his supporters.
“Trump has two more weeks in order to pardon every one of these individuals if in fact he chooses to do so,” Beller said.
If the Trump Administration does not act, President-Elect Joe Biden’s administration can step in and bring forth charges to anyone who committed a crime at the U.S. Capitol, but it’s not required.
“It is absolutely legal for law enforcement and a prosecutor to look the other way and choose to not bring any charges and choose to not make an arrest,” Beller said.
In a tweet, Vice President Mike Pence wrote: “Peaceful protest is the right of every American but this attack on our Capitol will not be tolerated and those involved will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser also released a statement that called on accountability for those who encouraged the behavior at the Capitol.
“No one should be able to get away with this type of crime against our country or against our elected officials,” Coffman said.