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Colorado pastor faces multiple charges for role in Jan. 6 US Capitol breach

Docs: Man posted on social media, "Don't be afraid of what they sentence you with. I'm not."
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Posted at 5:13 PM, Jul 08, 2022

DENVER – A pastor who graduated from Charis Bible College in Woodland Park and traveled to the East Coast for the Jan. 6 rally and riot from Denver was arrested Friday in Denver on multiple federal charges for his participation in the riot.

Tyler Earl Ethridge, 33, faces six federal charges and made his first court appearance Friday in the U.S. District Court of Colorado.

He is charged with civil disorder; obstruction of an official proceeding; entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds; disorderly conduct in a Capitol building; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a Capitol building, according to documents unsealed Friday.

According to a statement of facts in the case written by an FBI agent, Ethridge visited friends in Colorado Springs sometime around the 2020 election, and the friend offered him an already-paid-for plane ticket and Airbnb rental to travel to then-President Donald Trump’s rally on Jan. 6, 2021.

On Jan. 4, 2021, he flew with his friend and friend’s son to Philadelphia from Denver on a red-eye flight. The group drove to Washington, D.C. the next morning to meet another person who helped organize the trip, according to the court document.

On Jan. 6, the three of them and the other friend they met in Washington got a ride to the Washington Monument, where the other friend was separated from the group. Ethridge claimed he could not hear Trump’s speech so he, his friend and the friend’s son joined the crowd that was walking to the Capitol building.

He would initially claim, when interviewed by the FBI in Texas, that he did not destroy any barricades that were in place to keep people away from the Capitol, but agents had video that directly contradicted those claims.

He was seen on the video removing fencing from outside the Capitol, breaching those barriers, then getting pepper-sprayed and shot with rubber bullets by police.

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Tyler Earl Ethridge pictured on social media and surveillance video at and inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

He climbed some of the media scaffolding that had been set up outside the Capitol for President Joe Biden’s inauguration before receiving a text from his friend to meet him at a statute outside the Capitol. He went to the statue, but his friend did not show up.

“As he lost patience waiting for Person-1, ETHRIDGE observed people going up the stairs and into the Capitol, so he joined the crowd,” the statement of facts says.

Ethridge entered the Capitol that day at 2:35 p.m., according to surveillance video captured at the Capitol. Surveillance video captured him walking through the Capitol Rotunda and toward the Senate chambers at one point. He filmed and posted to social media videos from inside the Capitol in which he claimed that Christians should be performing such actions, but also that he might lose his job because of what he was doing.

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Tyler Earl Ethridge pictured on social media and surveillance video at and inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

“We stormed the Capitol. […] This is amazing. I hope this doesn’t get me thrown in jail. I’m officially a pastor. This is what pastors need to do,” he said in one of the videos. “Christians, we need to infiltrate every area of society like this. Every area of society like this. Peacefully. But if it takes a little bit of aggression to barge through the walls that Satan separates us from the culture, it’s time for the body of Christ to infiltrate the culture.”

He went on to say, according to court documents: “I’m probably going to loose my job as a pastor after this … I think we’re to a point where talk is cheap. If this makes me lose my reputation, I don’t care.”

Officers were eventually able to turn him and others away from the Senate chambers and back to the Rotunda, where Ethridge stayed for another 10 minutes, according to the documents.

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Tyler Earl Ethridge pictured on social media and surveillance video at and inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

He was in the Capitol building on Jan. 6 for approximately 30 minutes.

Ethridge posted actively on several social media platforms in the days and months after Jan. 6.

The FBI received its first tip about Ethridge and his participation in the storming of the Capitol the next day from someone who said they knew him from the Charis Bible College in Woodland Park. The tipster said Ethridge livestreamed himself inside the Capitol on Jan. 6 and later deleted the videos.

The tipster said Ethridge claimed he was “on scaffolding outside Nancy Pelosi’s office and inside the chamber.”

“He was on Facebook telling everyone about it,” the tipster told the FBI, according to the documents.

A little more than two weeks later, on Jan. 22, FBI agents interviewed Ethridge in Abilene, Texas, about an hour and a half from where he grew up in Richland Springs. Ethridge and his six-man football career, turn to drugs, and then to bible school and being a pastor, were detailed in a 2019 article in a San Angelo, Texas, newspaper. KRDO and the Gazette also previously reported on Ethridge and his involvement in Jan. 6.

Ethridge had an attorney present and agreed to speak with the FBI. He admitted several things about his involvement in the riots to the FBI and even drew a map of his movements inside the Capitol for them, according to the statement of facts.

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Tyler Earl Ethridge pictured on social media and surveillance video at and inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

He also gave them access to his social media profiles and email account, which showed even more detail about his involvement in the Jan. 6 events. The accounts showed him readily admitting to being inside the Capitol.

“It’s hard for anyone who wasn’t personally there to understand the movement. It truly felt like a peaceful revolution. I stand by my stance and believe we should have stormed the Capitol to peaceably protest. Read it how you want,” he posted to Facebook on Jan. 7, along with a false claim that, “We’ve been awakened over the past four years to a communist insurgence.”

In June 2021, more than six months after Jan. 6, he posted a meme to twitter that said, “We must take action, both as Christians and as patriots.”

And in September 2021, he sent further tweets that the federal government is using to show his lack of remorse about his actions:

“They want the peaceful protesters of #January6 to be afraid and ashamed of what we did that day. They want us to fear our sentencing for going into the Capitol. They want us to feel like what we did that day made things worse and served no purpose,” he wrote in a thread. “…So my message to all who were involved in that day is this: Don’t be ashamed. Don’t fear. We will be vindicated. The truth will come out. Don’t be afraid of what they sentence you with. I’m not. I’m ready for whatever I’ll be charged with. America is still primed and ready.”

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Ethridge received a personal recognizance bond at his hearing Friday in Denver. He will have to report to Washington D.C Pretrial Services where he faces the charges, surrender his passport, and will not be able to travel out of the U.S. without court approval. He will also have to stay away from Washington, D.C. unless it is for court or to talk to his attorney. He will also not be able to possess a firearm or other weapons.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section is prosecuting the case, with assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the District of Colorado and the Middle District of Florida. It was investigated by FBI officers in Denver, Colorado Springs, Dallas, Abilene and Washington, D.C.

Ethridge is one of more than a dozen Coloradans or people who traveled from Colorado to Washington who face federal charges tied to the Jan. 6 riots.