Former Topeka City Council candidate faces federal charges from violence at U.S. Capitol

By: - February 12, 2021 1:15 pm

Will Pope, in red, holds a flag inside the Senate Carriage Entrance on the east side of the U.S. Capitol during Wednesday’s riot. Pope ran for the Topeka City Council in 2018. (Screen capture from Jayden X video on YouTube)

TOPEKA — Federal agents on Friday arrested Will Pope, a former Topeka City Council candidate, for federal charges related to the Jan. 6 violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

A graphic video shows Pope draped in a flag and standing in a doorway on the east side of the Capitol as police struggle to gain control of an angry mob. Officers can be seen reaching past Pope to spray tear gas, and Pope’s stars-and-stripes hat is knocked to the ground in the chaos.

In a now-deleted Facebook post from after the breach, Pope wrote: “The people wanted their house back, so they took it.”

Will Pope was booked Friday morning into Shawnee County Jail for a federal warrant. (Shawnee County Jail)

In an exchange of text messages after the video surfaced, Pope said he remains loyal to his country. He couldn’t be reached for comment Friday because he remains behind bars.

Pope was taken into custody without incident and booked into Shawnee County Jail on federal charges of obstruction or impeding any official proceeding; civil disorder; 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; impeding passage through the capitol grounds of buildings; and parading, demonstrating, or picketing in a capitol building.

FBI agents and Topeka police arrested Pope Friday morning on a warrant issued by the U.S. court in D.C. His brother, Michael Pope, of Sandpoint, Idaho, also was arrested Friday by FBI agents in Salt Lake City and faces the same charges.

Pope ran for the 2nd District seat on the Topeka City Council in 2019, losing to Christina Valdivia-Alcala. Last year, he became a prominent member of the Blue Shield Facebook group, which opposes police reforms proposed by Black Lives Matter. After Kansas Reflector reported on Pope’s involvement in the insurrection, the retired Topeka police officer who leads the group said he kicked Pope out.

Pope is now a graduate teaching assistant at Kansas State University in the Department of Communications Studies. Michelle Geering, a spokeswoman for K-State, said the university condemns the Jan. 6 insurrection.

“A graduate assistant at K-State has been charged with federal crimes in conjunction with this event,” Geering said. “The university is conducting an internal review and will not comment on future personnel actions.”

Kansas Rep. John Alcala, a Democrat from Topeka who is married to the councilwoman, said FBI agents questioned him about Pope twice in recent weeks. He said the agents had additional photos and video of Pope inside the U.S. Capitol.

Pope is known for his aggressive comments on social media, but Alcala said Pope is quiet in person.

“I’ve had no association with him other than I’ve seen him at events on the campaign trail,” Alcala said. “We had small talk. He was more of a keyboard warrior than he was a face-to-face confrontation guy.”

On Thursday, FBI agents arrested two men in Olathe for their role in the insurrection. William Chrestman and Christopher Kuehn face federal charges of conspiracy, civil disorder, obstruction of an official proceeding,  knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds without lawful authority and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds. Chrestman faces an additional charge of threatening to assault a federal law enforcement officer.

Other Kansans who attended the Jan. 6 protest include Laura Tawater, 1st District chairwoman for the Kansas Republican Party; members of the Blue Shield Facebook group; and a group of 43 supporters of President Donald Trump who chartered a bus from Wichita.

Tawater complained on her own Facebook page about the “RIGGED ELECTION” and the need to take the country back.

“Will miss the presence of so many freedom-loving Patriots from coast to coast that joined together to support President Trump and stand against election fraud,” Tawater wrote when she returned from D.C. “We didn’t riot or hurt anyone like the fake news would have you believe. It’s a lie! We prayed together, served one another, and made our voices heard.”

Glen Burdue, a semi-retired Belle Plaine resident who organized the bus trip, described the group as loyal and patriotic in an interview with Kansas Reflector.

“We are the majority,” Burdue said. “We are mostly God-fearing, hardworking Americans who love each other and who oppose corruption. We will eventually be victorious in taking our country back.”

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the editor in chief of Kansas Reflector. He writes about things that powerful people don't want you to know. A two-time Kansas Press Association journalist of the year, his award-winning reporting includes stories about education, technology, foster care, voting, COVID-19, sex abuse, and access to reproductive health care. Before founding Kansas Reflector in 2020, he spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He graduated from Emporia State University in 2004, back when the school still valued English and journalism. He was raised in the country at the end of a dead end road in Lyon County.