Retired NYPD cop and Queens 'Republican Messiah' arrested in Capitol riot probe

Key Points
  • Federal authorities have arrested two New York men on charges related to their alleged roles in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
  • Former New York Police Department officer Thomas Webster is accused of using a pipe to attack a Capitol Police officer, NBC New York reported Tuesday.
  • Philip Grillo, 46, was identified by two tipsters as one of the mob that invaded the Capitol. He is a GOP leader in a Queens Assembly District and calls himself "The Republican Messiah" on his Facebook page.
Rioters clash with police trying to enter Capitol building through the front doors, January 6, 2021.
Lev Radin | Pacific Press | LightRocket | Getty Images

Federal authorities have arrested two New Yorkers — a former New York City police officer and a Republican Party official from Queens — on charges related to their alleged roles in the deadly Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Ex-New York Police Department officer Thomas Webster, who is a former Marine, is accused of attacking a Capitol Police officer with an aluminum pole while holding a Marine Corps flag, NBC New York reported Tuesday.

A prosecutor said Tuesday that Webster, a married father of three, looked enraged on the video, which shows that he "goes after that cop like a junkyard dog -- teeth clenched and fists clenched," according to NBC.

"These videos shock the conscience," the prosecutor said at a bail hearing in federal court in White Plains, New York. "We believe he had a gun at the Capitol and thank God he didn't fire a shot then."

A judge ordered Webster detained without bail because of his potential danger to the public.

Webster who as a cop had duties that included guarding the perimeter of City Hall and Gracie Mansion, the official residence of New York's mayors, surrendered Monday at the FBI's Hudson Valley office, according to NBC.

Webster's lawyer said he was at the Capitol to protest the election of Joe Bide at the behest of then-President Donald Trump, according to NBC.

The lawyer, James Monroe, said the Capitol Police officer that Webster is accused of assaulting struck Webster first.

Webster was seen on a "seeking information" poster that was tweeted by the FBI in late January.

The Police Benevolent Association, the union which represents New York City police officers, in a statement on Webster said: "This was a disgusting assault on our Capitol Police brothers & sisters, on our government and on everything that NYC police officers stand for. Even worse: the suspect once wore our uniform. Justice must be swift and severe."

The other defendant, Philip Grillo, 46, was arrested Monday afternoon at the residence of his girlfriend in Queens, New York. Grillo calls himself "The Republican Messiah" on his Facebook page.

Grillo was identified by two tipsters as one of the mob that invaded the Capitol; they recognized him by a Knights of Columbus jacket he was wearing, among other things, according to a statement of facts signed by an FBI agent.

"I saw him twice in CNN in two separate incidents," one witness told the FBI, noting that they knew Grillo from growing up with him in the Glen Oaks section of Queens.

Grillo, whom the FBI confirmed was a member of a Queens Knights of Columbus council, is listed as being the GOP leader of the 24th Assembly District in Queens by that county's Republican Party group.

In late 2020, he was blocked from being confirmed as a place-holder candidate in a special Feb. 2 election for a seat on the New York City Council.

Grillo's effort to get on the ballot and swap in another man as the actual candidate in the races — a tactic that is legal — failed after a Democratic former council member who sought that seat challenged the petition signatures he submitted.

His Facebook page notes that he is a state GOP committeeman in "President Trumps Hometown District."

"I'm truly upset," Grillo's mother told CNBC when asked for comment on his arrest.

Image included in Statement of Facts filed with the arrest warrant.

The FBI said in the statement of facts that a cell phone number registered to the name of Grillo's mother, who is in her early 70s, was used in and around the Capitol building on the day of the riot. She has not been charged in the case.

Grillo is expected to appear in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn later Tuesday.

The statement of facts says he was among thousands of rioters who swarmed in and around the Capitol on Jan. 6 after a rally by Trump, who asked his supporters to help him fight against the confirmation of Joe Biden as the winner of the presidential election. A joint session of Congress was meeting that day to confirm Biden's victory.

The statement of facts says video footage from inside the Capitol shows Grillo climbing through a broken window at about 2:30 p.m. that day and then is seen holding a megaphone.

Other surveillance video shows Grillo in the Rotunda, and among rioters trying to enter a room that contained doors leading outside, "where more protestors were gathered."

Those doors were ultimately opened by other members of the crowd, who pushed against Capitol Police officers who tried to keep the doors closed, the document says.

In YouTube footage taken just outside the Capitol, Grillo was seen among a crowd that was shouting "Fight for Trump."

"This crowd was engaged in a physical confrontation with uniformed officers at the entryway," the document said. "Grillo was near the front of the crowd. The crowd, including Grillo, was eventually driven back from the door when officers employed a chemical irritant."

The document notes that on Nov. 11, Grillo posted a brief video from the Facebook page of "Donald J. Trump" on his own page.

"Trump's post was captioned with "WE WILL WIN!" and a brief video saying to believe in the impossible," the document says.