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Magistrate denies new hearing for local businessman charged in US Capitol riot

A frame grab from a video included as part of an arrest warrant affidavit that shows Chris...
A frame grab from a video included as part of an arrest warrant affidavit that shows Chris Grider inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 with a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag around his neck.(FBI)
Published: Jan. 27, 2021 at 3:33 PM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KWTX) - U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Hightower Thursday denied a motion seeking to reopen a detention hearing for Waco area businessman Christopher Grider of Chilton, who was indicted Tuesday on charges stemming from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, saying there’s strong evidence he “participated at the forefront in the events.”

Grider’s attorney, T. Brent Mayr of Houston, filed the motion after Hightower denied bond for Grider Wednesday and ordered him transferred to Washington, D. C., where he’ll be held pending further proceedings.

In her ruling Thursday, Hightower wrote, “whether or not he led or encouraged others in the alleged commission of the offenses charged, there is extremely strong evidence that Mr. Grider participated at the forefront in the events that led to the fatal shooting inside the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.”

Grider was named in a seven-count federal indictment Tuesday charging destruction of government property and aiding and abetting; entering and remaining in a restricted building; disorderly and disruptive conflict in a restricted building or grounds; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; disorderly conduct in a Capitol Building; impeding passage through the Capitol grounds or buildings, and act of physical violence in the Capitol grounds or buildings.

Grider surrendered on to FBI agents on Jan. 21 in Austin after he was named in a warrant signed on Jan. 20 by a U.S. magistrate judge in Washington, D.C., that charged knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority; violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds, alleging damage to government property, entering a restricted building and engaging in disorderly conduct “with the intent to impede, disrupt or disturb the orderly conduct of government business.

He was initially assigned a public defender, but Hightower granted a motion on Jan. 25 to allow Grider to substitute attorney T. Brent Mayr of Houston for the attorney the court appointed.

“After hearing very little evidence from the government, but an overwhelming amount of evidence that we presented, it wasn’t enough,” Mayr said after Grider’s detention hearing Wednesday.

“She nevertheless found that Chris should be detained, and unfortunately, despite a lifelong history of being a good, loving, caring peaceful person dedicated to this country and his community and his church, the judge made a decision based on what occurred on the Capitol that tragic day in the span of a few seconds was enough to declare that he is a danger somehow to the community and to others.”

“Right now he doesn’t care about politics, all he cares about is getting back to his family, his church, his community and his business because that’s really what matters the most to him,” said Mayr.

Grider was in the Capitol when Ashli Babbitt, a U.S. Air Force veteran from the San Diego area, was struck by a shot fired through a glass door on the second floor of the building as protesters were forcing their way into the Speaker’s chambers.

Babbitt died.

The Capitol Police officer who shot her was placed on administrative leave.

Grider, a Trump supporter from Chilton and former teacher and military veteran, told KWTX on Jan. 6 he went to Washington, D.C. to take part in the rally to support Mr. Trump’s claims of election fraud.

“Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t, but what troubles me is the ‘nothing to see here’ attitude,” Grider told KWTX.

“The president asked people to come and show their support, I feel like it’s the least that we could do, it’s kind of why I came from Central Texas and went all the way to D.C., he’s done a lot for the country and he asked this and I figured that’s something that I could do, so that’s why I went and showed up and showed support,” Grider told KWTX in a story that aired on the night of Jan. 6.

“After the video aired, law enforcement gathered several videos from open sources, which corroborated Grider’s admission that he was inside the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021,” an arrest warrant affidavit says.

The videos showed Grider, who was wearing a black puffy jacket and blue jeans and had a blue mask over his mouth and a yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flag around his neck, outside of the Capitol before the building was breached.

“Before making his way inside the Capitol, Grider was seen on video in what appears to be the southwest side standing on a marble landing near scaffolding. He was seen holding his phone and moving it around likely taking videos or pictures of the crowd. Grider was then observed walking on the railing beside the stairs and was moving with the initial crowd that later made their way forcefully through that entrance to the Capitol,” the affidavit says.

“Once inside the Capitol, Grider was observed in the rotunda, the hallway to the House of Representatives, and several other areas before eventually arriving outside the Speaker’s Lobby where the shooting occurred. Prior to arriving outside the lobby, Grider was holding a black helmet in the air,” the affidavit says.

Video then shows Grider in front of the glass doors leading to the Speaker’s Lobby as another man attempted “to break the glass window separating the mob from the House chambers,” the affidavit says.

“Grider is then observed handing a black helmet to this individual, then speaking to him as Grider appears to knock on the top of the helmet, signifying that it is a hard instrument,” the affidavit says.

The other man took the helmet and “proceeded to use it to strike the glass doors…breaking the glass that Babbitt eventually attempted to jump through” before she was shot, the affidavit says.

“Video footage also captured how Grider attempted to push open the doors and then kick the doors in an attempt to breach the entrance leading to House Chamber where members of Congress were located,” the affidavit says.

Grider, however, maintains he was trying to exit the building after the woman was shot.

The video shows Grider backing away from the door as others in the crowd screamed “gun” as the Capitol officer fired a single shot at Babbitt, the affidavit says.

After the injured woman was carried out of the building, “Grider remained and could be seen minutes after the shooting leaning over the railing to get a better glimpse of Babbitt bleeding on the floor. Grider was holding his phone over the stairway appearing to capture a video or pictures of Babbitt,” the affidavit says.

Mayr claims there’s more video that hasn’t been admitted in court that needs to be seen to give the judge a full picture of what happened.

He filed a motion to reopen the detention hearing later Wednesday asking the judge to review the additional video to prove Grider was not a “leading participant.”

“The government gave the judge little pieces of the puzzle, just enough to make it appear as though Chris was some violent, dangerous person: he’s not screaming, he’s not yelling, he’s not threatening violence, several times you can see him be polite and try to cooperate with the capitol officers,” said Mayr. “He’s not directing anyone to do anything, he’s not leading anything, he’s not causing the damage.”

“‘Let’s make an example out of him’ seems to be a resounding theme,” he said. “Chris was caught in the crossfire and has now been detained indefinitely just because of his mere presence there.”

The affidavit estimates damage to the door at more than $1,000.

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