CHICAGO (AP) — A Chicago police officer charged with breaching the U.S. Capitol and entering a senator’s office during the Jan. 6 insurrection texted photos of himself inside the building while wearing a police department sweatshirt after telling someone he was going to Washington “to save the nation.”
Karol Chwiesiuk, 29, was arrested Friday and faces five misdemeanor counts, including entering a restricted building, disrupting government business and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds with the intent to impede a congressional proceeding.
Prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that Chwiesiuk was among a mob of people who broke into and damaged the office of Sen. Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat. They also say that days before he traveled to Washington to attend a rally supporting then-President Donald Trump, Chwiesiuk said in a text to a friend that he was going “to save the nation” and was “Busy planning how to (expletive) up commies.” He later sent photos of himself inside the Capitol, according to prosecutors.
Chwiesiuk was on medical leave from the Chicago Police Department when he traveled to Washington for the attack, the complaint states. Along with text messages, he also sent photos of himself inside and outside the Capitol. In them, Chwiesiuk is grinning and wearing a sweatshirt with a Chicago Police Department emblem underneath an unzipped coat.
“We inside the capital lmfao,” he texted, using an abbreviation indicating he thought it was funny, according to the complaint.
Chwiesiuk appeared via telephone in federal court in Chicago on Friday. His attorney, Tim Grace, said Chwiesiuk has been a Chicago police officer since 2018 and that he previously served as a Cook County sheriff’s deputy. He was stripped of his police powers this week and is on desk duty, Grace said.
Police Superintendent David Brown said during a news availability Friday that Chwiesiuk had his police powers stripped on June 2 after the department learned of his participation in the attack.
Brown said that if the allegations are true, it is “a betrayal of everything we stand for.”
“What happened in D.C. on Jan. 6 was an absolute disgrace,” he said. “The fact that a Chicago police officer has been charged in that attack on American democracy makes my blood boil.”
“We have a zero tolerance for hate and extremism of any kind within the Chicago Police Department,” Brown said. “And if you harbor such ignorance in your heart, you should take off your star now and find another line of work, or I’ll do it for you.”
Five people, including a Capitol police officer, died in the attack and hundreds of people were injured. Two other officers killed themselves afterward. More than 450 people from throughout the country have been criminally charged.
Chwiesiuk was arrested Friday morning at his parents’ Chicago home, where he lives, the Chicago Tribune reported. U.S. Magistrate Judge Gabriel Fuentes ordered him released on bond. Chwiesiuk was ordered to surrender any firearms and his firearm owner’s identification card. He spoke only once, answering “Yes I do” when the judge asked if he understood the conditions of his bond.