WASHINGTON — An Arizona man who became the target of online conspiracy theories after joining protesters outside the Capitol on January 6, 2021, told a House committee he was not secretly working for the government. during the attack and that the campaign against him has destroyed his life.
Ray Epps told the committee on January 6 that the theory that he was working for the FBI never made much sense, since his image appeared on an FBI poster immediately after the attack. He was not working for the CIA, the National Security Agency or the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, he said.
“The only time I was involved with the government was when I was a Marine in the United States Marine Corps,” Epps said.
Epps, who was a supporter of former President Donald Trump, said at the interview made it known Thursday that his grandchildren were being «harassed at school» because of his actions. He has received death threats. His business fell. People have shown up at his house.
«We had a tour bus come through our house and our business with all these crazy people on it,» Epps said. «There are good people who were in Washington. Those are not the people who come to our house. This attracts, when they do this kind of thing, it attracts all the crazy people.»
Epps was seen on video telling other Trump supporters the night before the attack that they needed to go to the Capitol. Epps told the committee that he was under the impression that the building, which was closed to the general public due to Covid restrictions, would be open.
«The Capitol is the home of the people and the rotunda; people can walk into the rotunda and see what’s going on there. My vision was to gather as many people as we can and surround them, be there, let them know that we’re not happy with what happened, and that was it. No violence,» Epps said. «I never intended to break the law. It’s not in my DNA. Never, I’m sure you’ve searched my history. I don’t break the law.»
Epps’s opinion on whether he could enter the building, he said, changed on January 6. body camera video it shows Epps asking law enforcement officers how he can help them, offering to help lead rioters away from the police line and away from the steps. He turns to the members of the crowd and tries to calm them down. Another rioter, one of the first to break through the barricades, also told authorities that Epps told him that “relax“and that the police were just doing their job.
Epps left after helping a man who was having a medical episode, he said. “I just looked around and I was sick. There was a lot of tear gas, a lot of bad things were happening.» He stated that he helped lead the man away from the building and backed him against a tree and that he was about to call 911, but the man waved him away. He said that he left at that time.
“I saw people crawling all over the Capitol, scaling the walls. It made me a little sick to my stomach. … There was no point in going back. It had gone beyond what I wanted it to be,” Epps said.
Epps formerly I speak with The New York Times about what happened on January 6, and the January 6 committee released a statement after the January 21, 2022 interview with Epps, dismissing conspiracy theories raised by other members of Congress.
In his Jan. 6 interview with the committee, Epps explains a text he sent to his nephew at 2:12 p.m. on Jan. 6 saying he was candid and had «orchestrated» things. He says that he didn’t know what was going on. At the time, a rioter was breaking a Capitol window, but Epps said he was no longer in the Capitol complex.
“At the time, I didn’t know they were breaking into the Capitol,” he said. «I didn’t know there was anyone in the Capitol…I was back in my hotel room.»
Even after telling the committee how conspiracy theories had wrecked his life, Epps continued to repeat other unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 election, including that «antifa» infiltrated the mob.
Epps specifically singled out Republican Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Matt Gaetz of Florida, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia as members who spread lies about him.
«I mean, it’s something really crazy, and [Massie] brought those kinds of things to the floor of the Chamber. When that happened, it just blew up. He got very, very bad,” she said. “Him and, oh my gosh, Gaetz and Greene, and, yeah, they’re just blowing this thing up. So it got very, very difficult after that. Crazy people started coming out of nowhere.» Epps didn’t blame Trump to a similar level, who also has spread the conspiracy theory, telling the committee that he believes Trump was receiving misinformation.
“I think they are fooling him right now. I think he’s surrounded by his people, he’s surrounded by some people who don’t have the truth and are trying to push a narrative,” Epps said.