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Man accused of assaulting police in Jan. 6 Capitol riot is arrested in Rapid City

 The FBI says the man on the left in the red hat, sunglasses and long hair is James Haffner
Public record
The FBI says the man on the left in the red hat, sunglasses and long hair is James Haffner

A man arrested in Rapid City is facing four federal charges after being accused of scaling a wall, dismantling barricades and assaulting police officers with aerosol spray during the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

James Haffner, 53, lived near Seattle at the time of the riot but now lives in South Dakota, according to an affidavit written by an FBI agent.

Defense lawyer John Rusch said his client resides in Rapid City and was arrested there.

Haffner is charged in Washington, D.C., federal court but had his initial appearance Wednesday at the federal courthouse in Rapid City, court records show. The proceeding was closed to the public because the case was sealed at the time, but it's since been opened.

Haffner is charged with:

  • Assaulting, resisting or impeding law enforcement.
  • Violent and unlawful entry of restricted buildings.
  • Obstructing law enforcement during a civil disorder.
  • Entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds.

Haffner was released pre-trial but is not allowed to possess firearms or travel to D.C. unless it's related to his criminal case, court records show.

He is scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Rapid City on Dec. 22. If there is probable cause to continue the case, it will be transferred to the D.C. court, Rusch said.

Haffner is the first person residing in South Dakota to be charged in relation to the Capitol riot, according to the Capitol Hill Siege Tracker at the Program on Extremism at George Washington University. He is one of 680 people to be charged so far.

The 24-page affidavit is filled with photos and video stills of a man participating in the riot and spraying police officers. The FBI says that man is Haffner.

The FBI says this photo shows James Haffner spraying police officers guarding a door at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot.
Public record/PACER
The FBI says this photo shows James Haffner spraying police officers guarding a door at the U.S. Capitol during the Jan. 6 riot.

The affidavit says Haffner was seen marching toward the Capitol with a group led by Ethan Nordean, a leader of the far-right and sometimes violent Proud Boys. Nordean is facing conspiracy and other charges in relation to the riot.

The document says Haffner climbed up a concrete wall at the Capitol and helped others scale it. Rioters then toppled a fence guarded by officers, and Haffner was allegedly among the first of thousands to rush through to the West Plaza of the Capitol.

Officers in riot gear formed a line between the rioters and building, and Haffner allegedly made his way to the front of the line.

Haffner is then accused of making his way to the east side of the Capitol where he helped dismantle police barricades.

"Haffner joined in moving and ultimately stacking police barricades, helping to allow other rioters access to the Capitol's east front," the affidavit said.

Haffner and others headed to a door of the Capitol that was being guarded by a few officers. He made his way to the front of the door, which is adjacent to the Rotunda where lawmakers were hiding, the affidavit says.

"Haffner raised up his hand and sprayed an aerosol substance at USCP officers who stood a few rows ahead of them, trying to guard the Columbus doors," the affidavit says, referencing the U.S. Capitol Police. "Shortly after Haffner sprayed at the officers as depicted in the below images, the rioters breached the Columbus Doors and entered the Capitol."

This video posted to YouTube by journalist Michael Nigro shows multiple people assaulting officers at a door on the east side of the Capitol. The affidavit relies on footage from Nigro and other public sources.

Photos captured Haffner carrying the aerosol spray can inside the Capitol, the affidavit says.

The document also outlines how the FBI identified Haffner.

Cell phone records allegedly show that a cell phone connected to Haffner was in contact with Ronald Loehrke, who is also charged in relation to the riot. The two men were seen together throughout Jan. 6

Loehrke in turn was in contact with Ethan Nordean, the Proud Boys leader.

Nordean texted Loehrke on Dec. 27, 2020, that he wanted him "on the front line" with him in D.C., the affidavit says. "Sounds good man," Loehrke allegedly responded, adding that he would bring others with him.

Airplane and hotel records show Haffner flew from Seattle to D.C. on Jan. 5 and stayed at a D.C. hotel before returning on Jan. 7. Photos from the man's South Dakota driver's license and Facebook account appear to match photos of him at the riot. The FBI also received a tip about the man that included his Facebook page.

The affidavit includes a photo of a man the FBI says is Haffner. It says the photo was found on the Facebook account belonging to Haffner's wife.

Public record/PACER
The FBI says this photo shows James Haffner posing with election conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell. This photo is from the affidavit but the Facebook version of it says it was taken during the Sturgis rally.

SDPB found an identical photograph on Facebook from an account of a woman with the last name Haffner whose own Facebook page says she is married to Jim Haffner.

The photograph shows a man — who the FBI says is James Haffner — and a woman posing with election conspiracy theorist Sidney Powell. The photo uses the #SturgisRally hashtag. The man is wearing a Trump muscle shirt that says "Make America Great Again" and a red hat that says "Re-elect that (expletive)."

Powell held multiple events around the Black Hills during the motorcycle rally.

Arielle Zionts, rural health care correspondent, is based in South Dakota. She primarily covers South Dakota and its neighboring states and tribal nations. Arielle previously worked at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, where she reported on business and economic development.