As he faces federal charges, the former Rocky Mount officer says the 34 guns he bought were “antiques” and not covered by court order.
ROCKY MOUNT- The 34 guns Thomas Robertson ordered hadn’t arrived by the time FBI agents searched his house. As a result, his lawyers argue the former Rocky Mount police officer didn’t technically violate a federal judge’s order.
Robertson and Jacob Fracker both face federal charges, accused of taking part in the Jan. 6 attack on the US Capitol. In order to stay free until their trial, Judge Christopher Cooper outlined three rules they had to follow. First, both former Rocky Mount officers had to turn over their passports and stay within the Western District of Virginia. Second, they couldn’t join any type of public assembly or protest. Finally, they couldn’t possess any firearms or explosives. According to court documents, it’s that last part proving problematic.
In June, FBI agents executed a search warrant on Robertson’s email and found he purchased 14 guns between April 12 and May 15. On June 29, a similar search warrant found Robertson has 34 guns at Tactical Operations Inc. in Roanoke, waiting to be picked up. After collecting this evidence, along with explosive material found at his house that same day, federal prosecutors filed a motion. They asked Judge Cooper to revoke Robertson’s release and send him back to jail until trial. However, Robertson’s lawyers from the Washington, DC firm of Rollins and Chan argued that their client technically didn’t break the rules with those alleged purchases.
“The Government states that Mr. Robertson ordered guns on the internet,” wrote Robertson’s attorney Mike Rollins in the defense’s response. “Ordering guns does not equate to possession. The Government must offer sufficient evidence that he could exercise control over it.”
Rollins also pointed out the FBI didn’t find any of the purchased guns at Robertson’s home, so there’s no evidence he violated the rules.
Lawyer Offers Explanations
On June 29, FBI agents did find several other items at Robertson’s home. That included a loaded M4 rifle, two boxes of 7.62 ammunition, a couple cans of ammunition and a pipe bomb, which court records said was partially assembled. In their July 4 response, Robertson’s lawyers offered explanations for each of the items found.
First, they said the rifle, which was found on the former Rocky Mount officer’s bed, belonged to his son. Robertson’s son had been at the home on June 29 to retrieve ammunition, as he planned to go shooting later that day.
“His son heard the dogs barking, put the rifle on the bed and approached the FBI agents,” Rollins wrote.
The lawyer also went into detail about the explosive device. The “pipe bomb” had a label saying “ALERRT kit, props, and booby trap sims.” Robertson was a level II instructor for ALERRT (Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training). This was one of his props for the class and had been on the property back in January when FBI agents first searched Robertson’s home.
“On January 19, 2021, the FBI confiscated what they believed to be firearms or destructive devices but left this box with the pipe,” Rollins pointed out.
Robertson himself wasn’t home at the time agents arrived June 29, as he had been required to go meet with his pretrial case manager. When FBI agents served Robertson with the warrant, he acknowledged buying guns online but said he hadn’t picked them up.
“He made statements to the FBI on June 29 stating he ordered but had not possessed because he believed this was in compliance with the Court’s order,” Rollins claimed.
Basically, the attorney argued Robertson believed he could buy whatever he wanted, as long as he didn’t actually take possession.
Social Messages Present FBI’s Case
Warrants and documents from the FBI detail multiple times where both men claimed to have taken part in the attack. In one message to a friend on Facebook, Fracker said “it was f****** amazing. Flash bangs going off, CS gas, rubber bullets flying by. Felt so good to be back in the s*** hahaha. I was like 8th person inside the building. S*** was f****** LIT.”
In another message, Fracker tells a friend “I haven’t been that hyped up since f****** Nowzad hahaha.”
Nowzad is a town within Nawzad District, Helmand Province in Afghanistan. Fracker previously spent time in Afghanistan while in the military.
Robertson also made multiple comments on Facebook that FBI agents and Capitol Police pulled. On Dec. 19, 2020, he stated “I won’t be disenfranchised. I’ll follow the path our founders gave us. Redress of grievances (already done) civil disobedience (here now) and then open armed rebellion. I’ve spent the last 10 years fighting an insurgency in Iraq and then Afghanistan. I’m prepared to start one here and know a bunch of like minded and trained individuals.”
Then on Jan. 8, he wrote “The next revolution started in DC 1/6/21. The only voice these people will now listen to is VIOLENCE. So, respectfully. Buckle armor or just stay at home.”
Robertson Now Tells a Different Story
In Robertson’s statements to the media and Rollins’ July 4 filing, they tell a different story. They claim the two men were told they could go into the Capitol building by Capitol Police, given bottles of water and allowed to look around. In the government’s statement of facts, Vincent Velez, special agent with the Capitol Police, pointed out several contradictions in that argument.
Robertson and Fracker couldn’t enter the Capitol legally, Veloz pointed out.
“At that time and date, the United States Capitol was on lockdown,” Veloz wrote. “The defendants’ presence inside was without lawful authority.”
Veloz also referred to Robertson’s social media posts, specifically one left after the attack.
“CNN and the Left are just mad because we actually attacked the government who is the problem and not some random small business,” Robertson wrote. “The Left rioted all Summer and just burned their own neighborhoods, assaulted numerous civilians, and destroyed and looted small family owned stores. The Right IN ONE DAY (without weapons) took the f***ing US Capitol. Keep poking us.”
Veloz questioned how Robertson could both claim to be attacking the government and visiting the Capitol legally.
“Robertson made these claims notwithstanding his previous posts that he had “attacked the government” and “took the f****** Capitol,” Veloz wrote.
Former Rocky Mount Officers Face Four Charges
Robertson previously served as an Army infantryman before joining the Rocky Mount Police Department. Fracker meanwhile was still an active duty National Guard member on Jan. 6. After a town investigation, both men were terminated in January by Rocky Mount.
A federal grand jury indicted both men on four charges in February. That includes one count each of entering and remaining in a restricted building, along with disorderly conduct in the Capitol. Also, obstruction of an official proceeding, along with disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building.
Both Robertson and Fracker return to court for a hearing next month.
Brian Carlton is Dogwood’s managing editor. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.