Topeka man blocked officers, tried to break into Pelosi’s office during attack on U.S. Capitol

By: - March 2, 2021 9:58 am

Will Pope, seen in a confrontation with Trinity Carpenter during an Aug. 25, 2020, demonstration at City Hall in Topeka, was indicted by a grand jury in D.C. on federal charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on democracy. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Will Pope left an impression on the U.S. Capitol Police officer who tried to restrain the Topeka man inside the Capitol building during the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The officer told federal investigators that he encountered Pope inside the Senate doors on the east side of the Capitol. Pope was memorable, the officer said, because of his “large size and his passive resistance.”

Pope blocked law enforcement officers from closing the doors to prevent other rioters from entering, according to evidence presented to a grand jury in Washington, D.C.

“The USCP officer stated he gave William Pope repeated verbal orders to leave the building and attempted to physically grab and push William Pope from the building, but that William Pope resisted by tensing up and refusing to move,” FBI Special Agent Clay Chase wrote in an investigative report.

Videos from surveillance cameras show Will Pope, circled in blue, and his brother, Michael Pope, circled in red, throughout the U.S. Capitol building. (Evidence provided by FBI to grand jury)

Surveillance cameras inside the U.S. Capitol show Pope throughout the building — his backpack, blue and red coat, and U.S. flag on a pole make him easy to spot. At one point during the attack on democracy, Pope appears in the hallway outside House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office.

“Pope appears to strike one of the office doors several times with the bottom of his flag pole and then attempts to force the door open by lunging into the door with his shoulder,” the special agent said in his report.

The grand jury indicted Pope and his brother on eight federal charges related to disruptive conduct inside the U.S. Capitol building, including interfering with a law enforcement officer, impeding passage inside the building, obstructing congressional proceedings, and unlawfully entering a restricted area.

On Monday, Pope appeared by video in federal court in Topeka. Instead of conducting the scheduled preliminary hearing, prosecutors explained that they would drop charges previously filed in Kansas and pursue convictions based on the grand jury finding instead. As a procedural matter, Pope would have to be re-arrested.

That also means a district judge in D.C. will be assigned the case. In Kansas, U.S. District Judge Angel Mitchell, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2019, was set to handle the case.

The evidence presented to the grand jury was based on surveillance cameras inside the U.S. Capitol, national TV news coverage, Pope’s social media posts, two witnesses who stepped forward, the Kansas Reflector’s Jan. 11 report on Pope’s involvement in the insurrection, and interviews with Pope and law enforcement officers.

MSNBC news coverage of the Jan. 6 insurrection shows Will Pope moving through Statuary Hall inside the U.S. Capitol. (Evidence provided by FBI to grand jury)

Two witnesses contacted the FBI on Jan. 8 to alert them to images of Pope. One of the witnesses provided a Facebook Live video Pope had published as he marched with his brother toward the U.S. Capitol. The second witness identified Pope in an MSNBC video that showed him walking in Statuary Hall during the riot.

The Kansas Reflector story included a screen capture from a YouTube video that showed Pope being restrained by a U.S. Capitol Police officer. The FBI on Jan. 22 interviewed the officer, who remembered Pope’s behavior.

Pope told the Kansas Reflector that he had turned himself in to the FBI. The special agent’s report, however, indicates that Pope turned himself in a day after the Kansas Reflector published the story.

After Kansas Reflector published this image with a story on Jan. 11, the FBI interviewed the U.S. Capitol Police officer seen restraining Will Pope. The officer remembered Pope for his large size and passive resistance to orders. (Screen capture from Jayden X video on YouTube)

“I would like to turn myself in,” Pope said in a Jan. 12 message on the FBI’s online tip system. “I was in the Capitol on January 6. I did not damage any property or engage in any violence. I am loyal to the United States and was only there to exercise my freedom of speech. I left the building voluntarily.”

Pope volunteered for an interview with the FBI on Jan. 21. He said he rented a car and drove from Topeka to Philadelphia, where he picked up his brother from the airport, before arriving in D.C. They had planned to make a vacation of the trip and camp at park along the way. After “seeing the gravity of the situation,” they changed their plans and decided to return home as quickly as possible.

During the interview, Pope said he witnessed other rioters fighting and battering police officers and damaging the Capitol building.

Police officers prevent Will (blue circle) and Michael (red circle) Pope from using an elevator inside the U.S. Capitol. (Evidence provided by FBI to grand jury)

In addition to trying to break into Pelosi’s office, video from the surveillance cameras show Pope and his brother, Michael, of Sandpoint, Idaho, slipping past distracted police officers and attempting to get on an elevator. Police officers physically removed Michael Pope from the elevator.

The riot coincided with Congress meeting to certify the results of the presidential election. Demonstrators refused to acknowledge the lawful, certified results, despite court rulings across the country that rejected every claim of inappropriate activity.

“William Pope stated that their purpose for entering the building was to express their concern about the direction of the nation,” the special agent said in his report. “Specifically, William Pope explained that questionable things happened during the election and that citizens deserved a full election audit.”

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Sherman Smith
Sherman Smith

Sherman Smith is the 2021 and 2022 Kansas Press Association’s journalist of the year. He has written award-winning news stories about the instability of the Kansas foster care system, misconduct by government officials, sexual abuse, technology, education, and the Legislature. He previously spent 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal. He is a lifelong Kansan.