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Man charged with pushing Capitol Police officer over ledge on Jan. 6

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2021
                                Violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS / 2021

    Violent protesters, loyal to President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington.

A New York man was arrested Wednesday and charged with shoving a Capitol Police officer over a ledge on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Donald Trump supporters disrupted Congress as it was certifying the 2020 election results, prosecutors said.

The FBI said that it had identified the man, Ralph Joseph Celentano III of Broad Channel, Queens, from a photo on Facebook and Instagram that showed him attending a fundraiser for a sea turtle foundation in March 2018.

Witnesses identified him in a group of about 20 people in the photo and told investigators that Celentano had attended the fundraiser for the Jenny Albert Sea Turtle Foundation with his on-again, off-again girlfriend, court documents said.

Celentano, 54, was arrested in Broad Channel and charged with assaulting, resisting or impeding officers; civil disorder; engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds; and related offenses, prosecutors said.

After an initial appearance in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, he was released on a $50,000 bond and ordered to stay away from Washington unless he is going to court, a spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York said.

Celentanto’s lawyer, Marissa Sherman, declined to comment on the charges Thursday.

More than 775 people have been arrested in connection with the riot on Jan. 6, 2021, on charges that range from trespassing to seditious conspiracy. More than 200 have pleaded guilty.

On Tuesday, a federal jury convicted the first person accused in the riot to go on trial, finding Guy Wesley Reffitt, an oil field worker from Wylie, Texas, guilty on five counts, including entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds with a firearm.

On Jan. 6, 2021, security cameras and videos captured images of Celentano participating in the riot, with longer hair, a two-toned jacket, a flag and a folding chair affixed to his backpack that made him “distinctive in the crowd,” court papers said.

One video showed him on the west terrace of the Capitol, where he approached a uniformed Capitol Police officer from behind and pushed the officer, causing him to fall over a ledge onto a terrace below, court papers said.

The officer, who was identified in court papers only as K.E., later recalled being “blindsided” from behind in a “football-type tackle,” prosecutors said. The officer said that after he fell, his main concern was standing up so he would not be “stomped on.”

An Iraq War veteran, he recalled thinking, “I didn’t survive a war to go out like this,” prosecutors said.

The officer told investigators that he was probably injured during the fall but that he had “so much adrenaline at that time that he could not be sure,” court papers said. Although he found bumps and bruises on his body, he did not seek medical attention.

Body camera videos from the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington showed Celentano engaging in several other “physical altercations” with officers on the grounds of the Capitol, court papers said.

In an effort to identify the person who had shoved the officer, the FBI released a photo from the riot.

The bureau said it then received information that helped investigators identify the man who was in that photo as the same man who was in a photo on Instagram and Facebook taken at the fundraiser for the sea turtle foundation on March 31, 2018, in Broad Channel.

Investigators then collected E-ZPass information and New York license plate reader data from Celentano’s female companion, which showed that her car had left Broad Channel at about 3 a.m. on Jan. 6, 2021, and returned the next evening at about 7:30 p.m., prosecutors said.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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